Monthly Archives: May 2014

Autism is not a crime.

It seems to have become the done thing to diagnose people with autism or Asperger’s, when there is absolutely no evidence for this.  When this is done in the case of historical figures such as Mozart, it is not harmful – stupid, but not harmful.  But when it is done in the cases of people such as Jeffrey Dahmer, or Harold Shipman it can be potentially dangerous.  It seems like nowadays, every time there is a mass shooting or a school massacre in America, the perpetrators are described as being `potentiallyautistic`.  Apparently, studies done recently show that up to 28 percent of serial killers are `believed` to be autistic, but what does that mean `believed to be?` Does that mean they think they are?  It obviously doesn’t mean they`ve been diagnosed, or they wouldn’t need to say `believed to be`  Also, the fact is this; serial killers are not a new phenomenon – men and women have been killing for fun, sexual pleasure, or just for the thrill of it right back to the beginning of recorded history.  The vast majority of convicted serial killers are from the United States, but they are only the convicted ones.  There are countries that claim never to have had a serial killer, but how do they know that if people have disappeared it is not the work of a serial killer?  The facts with serial killers are always going to be distorted.  Henry Lee Lucas claimed to be responsible for hundreds of murders after he was arrested, simply because he enjoyed the attention, whereas other people, such as Robert Black has only ever been convicted of four murders, although he is a suspect in dozens more.  The fact is, serial killers lie and try to manipulate the people around them, especially after they have been arrested, and therefore have lost the vast majority of the power that they held on the outside.  Another fact is this, let’s say that 28 percent of convicted killers do have autism (they don’t, but let’s just say that they do)  Well there are thousands of unexplained disappearances every year that could be the work of serial killers, and that would completely throw those statistics out of balance.  We also have to think that 28 percent of serial killers being autistic isn’t the real statistic we want to look at – the statistic we want to be concerned with is this; what percentage of people with autism have been convicted of murder?  I have no clue what this is because I can’t seem to find it anywhere on- line, but I doubt it is very high.

The other thing to think about is the fact that some of the most notorious killers of all time: Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, and John Wayne Gacey were charming, and they fitted in to the social scene around them perfectly; they had a brilliant understanding of people which is why they were able to manipulate them so easily, and they could completely adapt to any situation they were put in.  It wasn’t that they didn’t have a good understanding of their own emotions – they knew perfectly well what they wanted, and they went out and got it – the fact was, they simply didn’t care about other people.  This is a stereo-type about autistic people.  But men like that were obviously psychopaths; they cared about nobody but themselves (I am not saying that everybody who is a psychopath is going to turn out to be a killer) Being autistic doesn’t mean that you have any less concern about human life.  A lot of autistic people might not really be able to show this, but the idea of hurting or killing anybody else deliberately is absolutely abhorrent to them.  As for mass murderers, the only thing you can really conclude is that these people suffer from some kind of breakdown, but again, I don’t think somebody with autism would react in that way if they had a breakdown.  There are a lot of people with autism who are now grown-up who may have been humiliated, and rejected their whole lives, but have never even thought about killing somebody.  In fact, there is barely any evidence to suggest that any known serial killers, or mass murderers are autistic.  A lot of them are diagnosed with having something such as schizophrenia – but again, it is important not to stigmatise everybody who has schizophrenia as being dangerous.  A lot of serial killers were violently sexually abused as children, but not everybody who suffers that kind of abuse goes on to dish it out themselves.

 I think that people are fascinated by serial killers for the simple fact that people love a good monster story, and serial killers are the closet thing we have to living monsters.  They exist in every country; you could live and work with one for decades and have no clue.  We have absolutely no understanding of why they feel so compelled to do what they do.  Every time it seems as if somebody has solved this, a new killer appears who doesn’t fit any of the patterns.  So that is why the media chooses to focus on things such as autism; the fear of the unknown is the biggest fear there is.  The fact that we will probably never understand why some people choose to commit these kinds of acts is too much for some people to bear, and they try to pin it on something closer to home, and more understandable – it is the grown-up equivalent of hiding your head under the covers so the monsters can`t get to you.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s, or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS? On Twitter Facebook

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)

The Rain Man Effect

One of the things that annoys autistic people the most, I have found, is when they tell somebody they have autism, and the person responds with `do you mean like Rain Man?` or something along those lines.  I hadn’t seen the film itself until very recently, but after I watched it I thought I`d write this blog.

 I suppose what it`s really about is whether it`s the portrayal of autism in a film which people dislike, or something more than that.  I personally think that it was quite a good film, and I don’t have any real issues with its portrayal of autism.  The fact is that autism affects everybody differently, and there is no reason that Dustin Hoffman`s character would not have acted and behaved in the ways that he did.  You could take argument with some of the generalisations made by the professionals in the film, but it is a film made, and based in the late eighties when people knew much less about autism than they do now – so it is not particularly unrealistic for medical professionals in the film to make sweeping statements.

 What I think most people take issue with is actually nothing to do with the film itself; it`s the fact that people who may have seen the film once, or maybe even have only seen snatches of it, think that they now know everything they need to know about autism.  They think that everybody on the spectrum will behave in that manner.  It is their only real reference point for autism.  It is that lazy attitude that I think people dislike; as if watching one film tells you all you need to know.

Nowadays there are a lot more portrayals of autistic people in the media.  A few years ago all you used to really see was the random autistic characters who were put in to detective shows so that they could conveniently note down car number plates, or remember details from years before.  These seemed to be characters who were created by people with no real knowledge of the condition – simply recycled versions of older characters.  There was a point a while ago when having characters who were supposed to be quite funny, with obvious traits of Asperger’s`, became quite a popular thing.  I don’t find that offensive, as making people laugh is one of the best ways to get through to them, and make things stick in their minds.  Now you have programmes like Derek and The Bridge; with characters who aren’t point-blank called autistic, but blatantly are.  I would recommend these two shows as a good place to start if you want to learn more about autism, because they portray two people who are on the one hand completely different to each other – extreme ends of the spectrum –but in reality deal with a lot of the same issues.  Also, Derek is obviously male, but displays what is normally perceived to be a very female version of autism, whereas the main character in the bridge portrays what is typically thought of as a very masculine profile of autism.; perhaps the reason why, to the best of my knowledge, neither of them has ever been diagnosed with autism on the shows.

Now I am not saying that if you go away and watch these shows you will have a full understanding of autism, because that would be nonsense.  I don’t think you can ever have a full understanding of anything just from films and books – you need to do research.  And more important that any of those things, you need to talk to autistic people in real life.  The Bridge, Derek, and Rain Man, amongst others, are good portrayals of autism, but because the spectrum is so vast, and complex none of them give you a complete picture.

You also get characters like Roy Cropper in Coronation Street, who is almost a mix of male and female profiles of autism,  Again, I don’t think there has ever really been anything said about whether he has autism or not, but it is fairly obvious to see if you know anything about autism, that he does.  I think that as a lot of people do their learning through what they watch on T.V. or the cinema, the more varied and well-acted performances of characters with autism, or autistic traits there are in T.V. and cinema, the better.  Basically, there is nothing wrong with Rain Man; the problems lies with people judging an entire group of individuals on the basis of one movie.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s, or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS? On Twitter Facebook

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)