Archive | July, 2012

Colorado-Autism connection….or not.

25 Jul

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough made a bold leap when he speculated that the Colorado shooter may be on the “autism scale”.

My first reaction:

Oh No You Didn't

Not every person “lacking empathy”, as some say, is autistic! Not every socially isolated person is autistic!!

Don’t take my word for it…let the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) speak for itself!

Mental illnesses with lacking empathy as a symptom:

1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder 301.81

2. Antisocial Personality Disorder 301.7

Mental illnesses with social isolation as a symptom:

1. Schizoid Personality Disorder 301.20

2. Schizotypal Personality Disorder 301.22

3. Avoidant Personality Disorder 301.82

Actual (abridged) criteria for Autistic Disorder:

I. (A) qualitative impairment in social interaction (In the description it gives the following examples: not actively participating in simple social play or games, preferring solitary activities.) <——Notice it does not say “murdering people”

(B) qualitative impairments in communication

(C) restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities

II. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years:

(A) social interaction (B) language as used in social communication (C) symbolic or imaginative play


After actually reading and listening to Scarborough’s statements, my horror has subsided. Do I think it was crazy for him to even use the shooter and autism in the same discussion? Yeah. Totally nuts. Do I think he’s misinformed? Yeah. Do I think he’s done a disservice to the autistic community? Yes, definitely. But, do I think he was outright saying “Holmes is autistic!”…No.

I read his statement and gather that his point was: people suffering from social isolation are more likely to commit crimes. Which, I have to say, I can at least somewhat agree with.

So, I’m not up in arms over what this guy said. I’m not going to demand an apology or sign any petitions for him to retract his statement. But what I will do is suggest he look more carefully at diagnostic criteria for mental illnesses, and to think carefully before speaking. Even as a parent of a kid on the “autism scale” as he called it, he sure doesn’t seem to know what autism actually is or how it manifests. What I think would’ve been a more accurate, and more appropriate, statement for him to make is:

“As soon as I heard about this shooting, I knew [assumed] who it was. I knew [assumed] it was a young, white male, probably from an affluent neighborhood, disconnected from society — it happens time and time again. [I think] Most of it has to do with mental health; you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it happens more often than not suffer from a variety of mental illnesses. People that can walk around in society, they can function on college campuses — they can even excel on college campuses — but are socially disconnected. [So my belief is that people who are isolated are more likely to commit crimes than those people with a strong support system] “

In his later remarks addressing the backlash he faced for his original comment, he said:

“Those suggesting that I was linking all violent behavior to Autism missed my larger point and overlooked the fact that I have a wonderful, loving son with Aspergers”.

Maybe what he should have said is: “I should not have linked violent behavior of the Colorado massacre magnitude to Autism. I’m sorry.”

Elvis and Autism

23 Jul

I was just hanging out at home, relaxing on the couch. The Encore channel was on in the background showing an Elvis and Mary Tyler Moore movie, Change of Habit. When all of a sudden, I heard the key word “autistic”.

Elvis plays a doctor in this movie, with Mary Tyler Moore as his assistant. A little girl is brought in to treat her deafness. After hearing of the little girl’s history of abandonment, Mary’s character suggests the girl is not deaf, but actually autistic. She states: “Sometimes when a child is rejected very early in life they crawl inside themselves and shut out the whole world, as if they’re trying to punish the rest of us, along with themselves.”

After trying to turn the girl’s head towards her, she goes on to say, “You see how she resists any physical contact? It’s typical of autistic frustration.”

Elvis suggests a new treatment, “Rage reduction” while Mary asserts, “I’d rather try patience and love.”

After failing to build compliance with the patient on a shape sorting task, Elvis steps in and performs “rage reduction”; a technique in which he holds the girl while she screams, and cries, and flails to try to get away. He scoops her up and says, “You gotta learn to start lovin’ people. I’m gonna hold you ‘till you get rid of all your hate. Get as mad as you can. You can start to give love and take love.”

As she continues to tantrum, Elvis tells her, “I love you, Amanda. Get as mad as you can get. Show us how mad you can get. Fight! You can do better than that for someone that loves you. That’s a girl! Get mad. We love you.”

After enduring several hours of this procedure, she eventually speaks her first word “mad” and is magically cured!! She becomes compliant, giving perfect eye contact, responds to her name, and even enjoys physical contact with others. Her “hatred” is gone.

So…what to make of all this…

Well for starters, it’s an amazing snapshot of the myths and misconceptions people had about autism in the late 1960s. People were so misinformed, and autism was so misunderstood. The disorder was blamed on neglectful or unloving parents. The treatment revolved around freeing the frustrated child of their hate and anger. And this movie suggests a cure exists. Just hold your child until they can fight no more, and all of the sudden they will be happy and compliant children!

For me, watching it was equally astonishing and interesting, not to mention kind of humorous. (Could people have really believed this stuff?!) How awful for parent’s raising autistic children in this era! It was uncommon and un-researched. How judged parents must have felt. How many ethical dilemmas they must have faced when deciding on treatment for their kids. It’s shocking how we used to think about autism. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in understanding this disorder. While at the same time, I realize how much we still don’t know.


23 Jul

Hey there. Welcome.

Well, for those who know me, you know autism is a huge part of my life. It’s not only part of my career, but also part of my family. Autism has had far reaching effects on pretty much every area of my life, in some way or another. So I decided to start a blog about my experience with it.

See, autism is complex. Some might even say, it has layers…like an onion. In fact, in talking with someone the other week, she used the “autism onion” metaphor. And it hit me…THAT was my blog title! So thanks to that special person; you know who you are. You’ve given my blog a name. 🙂

So, this blog is my space to write silly stories, revelations, complaints, frustrations, heart-aches, and anything else that comes to mind. I’m a big sister… I’m a therapist… I’m a soon-to-be BCBA. And, this is my attempt at peeling back the hundreds of layers of autism.

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