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Autism Violence and an Extreme Example of Neurodiversity Denial

Posted Mar 24 2009 3:15pm
In the Neurodiversity internet world of autism only feel good statements may be made about autism without attracting rancor. Even persons with autism who speak out against this absurd ideology are villified for speaking the truth about autism disorders. Those who adhere to the Neurodiversity ideology refuse to acknowledge any negative aspects particular to autism disorders which in their view are not really disorders at all. In the ND view violent behavior by persons with autism, unlike works of art, science or literature of autistic persons, has nothing to do with autism disorder. One of the more extreme instances of Neurodiversity denial is the recent comment by Kevin Leitch at Opposing Views - A Correlation Between Autism and Murder?

In that article Mr Leitch provides distorted depictions of a comment about two recent murder cases involving autistics that I made on this site and that were made on the Age of Autism site. Mr Leitch clearly did not understand the point of my comment in that specific instance, or generally, about autism associated violence or he intentionally distorts those views. I have never suggested that there is a correlation between autism and murder. In my comment I pointed out that two autistic men were involved in murder charges. I also pointed out that competency hearings would likely be held. What I have stated on several occasions is that some autistic persons, including my severely autistic son, commit acts of violence. I have also stated that they do not necessarily do so with any intent to cause harm.

In the criminal law context of a murder charge, even where the physical acts causing death are found to have been committed by an accused they may have lacked the necessary competency or intent to kill or otherwise cause physical harm. Judging by a study he cites Mr. Leitch appears to be unaware that a crime in most jurisdictions, requires both a prohibited act, an actus reus, and a finding of intent, mens rea, which will, in some cases, require a finding of legal competency. Mr. Leitch cites a study that purportedly showed that:

"the authors looked at rates of criminality amongst those with a Pervasive Developmental Disability (subgrouped to ‘childhood autism’, atypical autism and AS) . In the childhood autism group (which corresponds to severe/kanners/etc) 0.9% had a conviction as adults. In the control group, the rate was 18.9%. For atypical autism the conviction rate was 8.1%. The control group was 14.7%. For AS, the rate was 18.4% and the control group was 19.6%.

So, in each subgroup of PDD the authors looked at, the rate of criminal conviction was lower than controls. For the type of autism that Doherty and AoA are talking about less than 1% had a conviction compared to 18.9%. I think its clear that if this paper is accurate then we’re hardly going to be overrun with autistic killers."

What is interesting is that for the most severely autistic, those with autistic disorder, which (unlike Aspergers Syndrome, "AS", can include people with intellectual or cognitive impairment) only 0.9% had a criminal conviction as adults. That statistic is entirely consistent with what I have always said. While autistic persons can commit acts of violence, including against themselves, they do not always have the intent or capacity to form the intent, to cause harm. Without such capacity to form legal intent criminal convictions would, and should be, extremely rare as the study cited by Mr. Leitch indicates.

In the case of the two recent murder charges involving two severely autistic men I would not be surprised at all if the courts involved find that the young men involved lacked the capacity to form the intent to commit murder. I expect that they will probably be found not criminally responsible or legally competent to stand trial.

Mr. Leitch would have the world believe that because criminal convictions do not ensue that violent acts committed are not associated with the persons autism disorders. He is wrong, simply wrong. I love my son dearly but sometimes he hurts himself by biting himself or banging his head on a wall. Sometimes he pulls his mother's hair or pinches his dad's face. I do not believe for a second that he is trying to cause harm, there is no intent, his behavior most definitely arises from his autistic disorder.

As an autism advocate in New Brunswick, and as a lawyer, I have met parents whose autistic children also acted with some violence without having any intent to cause harm. In today's local newspaper the Fredericton Daily Gleaner is a report of an autistic man and his family's struggle to find services for him which ultimately led to him residing in the Spurwink facility in the State of Maine. The family, who I know personally, could no longer care for their autistic son, who they love dearly, after a violent outburst at home:

The man was placed in a provincial residence on a part-time basis. He later became a permanent, full-time resident after the man's mother was injured during an outburst at his parents' home.

After a couple of months, it was determined the man's needs exceeded the facility's capacity to care for him. In early 2002, he was placed in the Centracare psychiatric facility in Saint John.

When Mr. Leitch says that instances like the two murder cases, or my son's minor physical outbursts, or the outburst of the autistic man in the Daily Gleaner article have nothing to do with their autistic disorders he is misleading the world about some of the negative realities of autism disorders. Whether he does so intentionally or out of unquestioning obedience to the Neurodiversity ideology which he espouses I do not know.

I admit that I have never accused Mr. Leitch of having common sense, being knowledegeable about autism, or of being responsible, fair and accurate in his commentaries about autism. And after reading his latest bit of nonsense I will not now make such accusations against him.

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