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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Shooting

There are press reports that suspect in the Connecticut massacre may have been autistic.  Caution is in order.

1.  First reports are often wrong:  Five years ago, there was similar speculation about the Virginia Tech shooter, and it turned out to be false. In the Connecticut incident today, the initial stories even erred about the the suspect's name.  

2.  The reports of the suspect's purported autism appear to be second- or third-hand accounts of what his brother may have told authorities. At this point, we do not know if these reports are true.

3.  Even if the press is quoting the brother accurately, his language seems to be vague.  It is not clear whether he actually knows about a professional diagnosis or whether he is just using the word "autistic" and "Asperger" in an offhand manner.

4.  Finally, if it does turn out that the suspect actually was on the spectrum -- a very big "if" -- it does not follow that autism is associated with violence.  On the contrary, people on the spectrum are often the victims of crime.