Elliot Rodger was Dangerous.  Autism Isn’t.

photo credit: Jo Naylor via photopin cc

photo credit: Jo Naylor via photopin cc

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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.

After reading Amy Sequenzia’s Autism is Not a Crime flash blog it became clear to me that it’s not only misogyny Elliot Rodger’s killing spree is highlighting.  Or gun control.  Or white privilege.

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.

 

Comments

8
  1. Very powerful article…and labels for all people can be very dangerous!!!

  2. The media needs to recognize the power they have in the language and language structures they use. They are all highly intelligent people and know the power of inference in writing. We also live in a society that creates its identities on generalizations: ‘I am Iraqi therefore I must be a terrorist’ school of thought. I have Mental Health issues therefore I must be dangerous…I applaud the journalists who go out of their way to get the facts and present them in the proper perspective.

  3. Individuals with a disability are as prone as the general population to having a dual diagnosis. The issue is not his autism but that his co-occurring mental health issue did not receive adequate attention to help prevent this event. It could be any one of us who might feel that this action was justified IF we did not find the proper mental health treatments. Unfortunately, Canada is still lagging behind with correctly helping those of us with mental health issues. Just last week, I heard a young man talk about seeking help for his deep depression at a hospital in Winnipeg and only getting the advice of “go home and snap out of it”. This is an issue that demands more public/private/governmental attention in our home communities before something such as this event happen here at home.

    • What an awful experience for your friend. I have several friends who work for Klinic and they’re always talking about the demand for high quality supports in regards to mental health. It’s severely under serviced. I was happy to see the Mental Health Crisis Response Centre open last year. I think services are headed in the right direction, just not fast enough!

  4. The thing that confounds me about this is: he told us why he did what he did. Over and over and over again. He hated women. He felt entitled to them. The discussion to be had is about systemic misogyny.

    • Hi Luna,

      I support the feminist discussion on misogyny by sharing articles on our Twitter feed and on my personal Facebook account in support of women’s rights. I am a strong supporter of #YesAllWomen and #AllMenCan. Misogyny and how it affects our society, both men and women, is a very important topic.

      I chose to write about the concerns in the autistic community because they are under represented in our media. Fear mongering by linking autism and mass shooters has an impact on thousands of people living with autism and there’s barely a whisper about it in major news outlets. My aim was not to undermine the feminist movement that has so bravely shouldered this last attack on the safety of our women, but to include the autistic community’s concerns in the discussion of the many-fold problem that is misogyny in our culture.

      Thanks for commenting Luna, I’m always up for a feminist chat! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have ideas for the blog.

      Cheers,
      Meite

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