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.”

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