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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Elliot Rodger Was Not Autistic

Some press reports suggested that alleged Isla Vista killer Elliot Rodger had a diagnosis of ASD.  He did not. Emily Willingham writes at Forbes:
Just after the shootings, the family’s attorney made a statement claiming that Rodger had a diagnosis of Asperger’s. However, he backtracked on that a day later, saying instead that Rodger “had not been diagnosed with Asperger’s.”
Very little about what Rodger wrote and did suggests an autism spectrum disorder, including the fact that he had apparently remarkable executive function and social dissembling skills, which he demonstrated in deceiving the deputies dispatched to his apartment in one of the key turning points of this tragedy. While not all autistic people are the same, executive function and an ability to dissemble are more typically areas of deficit–if an inability to dissemble can be considered a deficit, which in many social situations, it probably is.
 I’ve already tweeted and posted about autism and violence extensively. The bottom line is that autistic people are far less likely than non-autistic people to engage in criminal activity of any kind.
Some news outlets reported the attorney’s original assertion but then rewrote their stories to remove it. That is appropriate because reporting second-hand information about any mental health (or in the case of autism, neurobiological) condition is not in keeping with current journalistic guidelines. In fact, the AP updated those guidelines in the wake of the rampant speculation and misreporting about the Sandy Hook shooter in 2012.
 Enrico Gnaulati writes at The Atlantic
Making the case for the inappropriateness of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis in Elliott [sic] Rodger’s case is critically important to address the public misconception that autistic individuals have an unusually high potential for violence. One in 68 children currently has a diagnosis of ASD, so the potential for misplaced fear is great. In fact, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that people afflicted with autism spectrum disorder are less prone to engage in any criminal behavior compared with the general population.ASD individuals do not obsess over Hugo Boss and Armani threads, BMWs, winning the lottery, and insisting that one's mother marry a multi-millionaire.
Nor, for that matter, do autistic individuals typically hyper-focus on their appearance, crave admiration and sex, act as if they are consumed by envy and the need for revenge, desperately try to undo shame and humiliation by shaming and humiliating others, or harbor grandiose fantasies of fame and fortune—all of which percolated in the mind of Rodger. We are squarely in the realm of pathological narcissism here.