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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Casual Mention of Autism in Mass Murder Story

In a report on the mass murder in Norway, the BBC quotes Professor Jeremy Coid, professor of forensic psychiatry at Queen Mary college, on the suspect:

If we are talking about someone who was cut off socially, "this would indicate a more schizoid personality - an highly functioning individual with a form of autism, and an increasing obsession with right-wing ideology.

"I will put my money of him being a deluded and paranoid individual, however.

Anne Dachel writes:

This was one of the most outrageous statements I’ve ever read. Why would anyone speculate that this mass murderer would be autistic because of his anti-social behavior? A generation of children today struggle with autism and the medical community and health officials do little to address their needs.

The BBC is putting the idea in the public’s mind that someone with high functioning autism fits the profile of a murderer.

The professor's casual speculation brings to mind similarly unfounded remarks about the Virginia Tech shooter, who did not have autism, but an entirely different disorder.

It is also odd that Dr. Coid seems to equate autism and schizophrenia, which are different.

People with autism are more likely than neurotypical people to be crime victims, not crime perpetrators. It is unfortunate, then, that the news media speculate about autism as a cause of crime. The entertainment media do something similar by using autism as a plot gimmick. An episode of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent," for instance, featured a killer with Asperger.