Elliot Rodger killing 7 people and wounding 13 others in Isla Vista this past Friday had absolutely nothing to do with his childhood diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome.
It’s also a discussion on how disability and mental health are perceived and managed in our communities.
In the many articles I’ve been reading on Rodger since Saturday, his childhood diagnosis of Asperger’s is subtly linked to the paragraphs about his struggles with depression, his long term therapy with a psychologist, his instability, and tendency towards irrational violence.
What is wrong with linking Asperger’s, mental health, and Rodger?
First of all, Asperger’s is no longer recognized by the DSM V, the fifth edition of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. What was formerly known as Asperger’s is now considered to be on the autism spectrum. So what many journalist are incorrectly referring to, is that Rodger was thought to be on the autism spectrum as a child.
Second, it promotes the idea that people living with autism are dangerous. Which isn’t true. Elliot Rodgers was dangerous. That doesn’t make people with autism dangerous.
Linking autism to violence has been done in the past and it’s very damaging. It adds to the misconceptions people have about autism and what it means to live with it. I have brown hair like Elliot. I don’t think that makes me more likely to shoot people. It’s the same with autism.
My fear in writing this article is that people will think I have sympathy for Elliot Rodgers because I say that autism was not the cause of his attack. I in no way support him, his vendetta, violence, or attacks against women. What I want to do is help combat the misinformation about disability in the media. Individual people are dangerous, not disabilities.