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Violence and Autism

By April 21, 2007

Thanks to all those who have commented on my prior blog regarding autism and the tragic Virginia Tech shooting. Perhaps my points weren't clear; I will try to be a bit more forthright here!

It may well be that Cho was diagnosed with autism. I think that conversation is still in process, but there's no doubt that many of the traits he exhibited could have been a part of an autism spectrum disorder. My points are:

  • Autism, in and of itself, does not lead to violent actions.
  • It is a bad idea to point to autism or ANY mental difference, illness or disability as the unique cause of violent action.
  • In the case of Cho, evidence seems to point to a combination of issues - not to any one unique quality.
The issue that concerns me the most, however, is this: as we search for causes of violent action and believe we have found them in the form of developmental and/or mental differences, delays and illnesses, we further stigmatize people with those differences, delays and illnesses. We also create a culture in which "atypical" behavior is suspect, dangerous, and risky.

For those of us who behave atypically - whether out of choice or necessity - the world after Virginia Tech is becoming smaller and smaller.

April 21, 2007 at 2:20 pm
(1) Sandy says:

This is a long argued issue which affects many races, religion, political, sexual preferences, disabled; the actions of one does not depict the whole. Unfortunately, all it takes is one for society to form those stereotypes.

We are very fortunate to have such forums to help us deal with any tragedy. We all have to keep in mind with any tragedy is we do not know all the facts and the media doesn’t always get things correct. But no matter how we vent here, very little of it is going to change societies stereotyping behaviors. The only people who generally come to these forums are those some how related to autism. The generally public may never know this great forum is here.

That said. autism is considered a neurological disorder and the only area that considers it mental illness would be insurance companies. If autism is classified as mental illness, most insurance companies wont cover it. Insurance companies is a whole other battle, and that’s where the mental illness comes from and as long as people keep terming autism in that manner, the fight for insurances to cover therapies may never happen. The fact is, if it was a mental illness, then mercury injury would not hold true. A genetic cause would be more plausible. Another fact is, since we have no real concrete known causes for autism, we really cant generally say if it is neurological or mental illness. If we are solely considering autism, triggers for it, I would suggest then all of the human population would be at risk of mental illness, not just children.

As for the man who shot all these people, his possible diagnoses. Triggers in life can cause a person to have many issues. He may have been mis-diagnosed as so many are and this was more so back in the 1990′s and prior to that year. many things can cause lack of speech and ‘coldness’. I doubt he ever had a MRI or EGG. He may have. back in those days, so little was mainstream medically for these such things. Above and beyond any diagnoses he may have had, he fit the profile of previous other serial killers. In history, otherwise passive people have killed the ones who bullied them. A father murder’s his whole family and walks away….. past serial killers have also been dissected and maybe never prior diagnosed with anything, were thought they had to have this or that.

If he did have let’s say an autism spectrum disorder, how autism affected this man was individual. Above any diagnoses, he was still a person and many parts of his life from childhood on could have affected his adult life, just as those same things would affect my life, your life and any ones live. The horribly sad thing if you believe everything you read, is the red flags missed. Opportunities for stepping in were not taken and there is a mother and other relatives not only in disbelief their son did this, but that they ‘missed’ something too and I imagine for many close to the situation, this will haunt them.

I choose not to associate this horrible act to my child although it does make me want to pry into his thoughts all the more. I know, you may know and they may know, my child’s autism is his and affects him in ways that does not affect your child. Genetics also plays a large part of personality regardless and I think my son got his horrible temper from his dad! But, my son is not just autism, he is a person. Educating and making the public aware of autism is a difficult task considering it affects all differently. Anyone with media contacts should start up articles about the great art work many can do, how some are just math or reading whizzes, how some now deceased geniuses also had autistic traits and how many of us seem to have a little in us as well. Not all are going to become great, not all are going to become criminals, we have to real way to predict any ones future or future actions, autism or not. Mental illness or not.

Something went horribly wrong with this man. THIS man. he needs to be treated and thought of as an individual, not as a ‘community’ within a possible disorder.

April 21, 2007 at 2:55 pm
(2) Cynthia Whitfield says:

I have done a lot of thinking about this. I understand your concern Lisa, but I also think it makes sense that people are trying to find what might be risk factors for violence. In all of this, one of my fears is that the victims are being forgotten as we continually pore over Cho. I am not happy to hear he may have autism for the same reasons you are — I don’t want my kid looked upon as a possible killer! But in the back of my mind, sometimes I’ve wondered if he might, in a fit of temper, hurt someone seriously. Because of the degree of his mental retardation, he would never be able to buy a gun and figure out how to shoot lots of people — but could he hurt someone sometime? I strongly doubt it — – his temper is much better than it used to be.

However, I know a kid who used to come to my house who scared us. When I last saw him he was a very large 12-year-old. Once he tried to throw a garbage can at Jalen, and another time he ran over to Jalen and screamed at him, shaking and red with rage because Jalen picked up a toy of his. I told his mother she needed to get help for him, but all she did was punish him — so I broke off the relationship. He’d said weird things also — like one day he said he might like to drown a cat in the toilet to see what kinds of sounds it made. Because his mother doesn’t get help for him, he doesn’t have a diagnosis, but an autism consultant observed him at my house and said (what I had already thought) — he seems to have high-functioning autism, but I’m thinking perhaps something else also.

The fact is, Cho was mentally ill, and most people with autism (I think) are not mentally ill. He may have had a dual diagnosis. As I’ve said before, having autism doesn’t protect someone from mental illness. A person can just have mental illness, have mental retardation and mental illness, etc.

It’s really complex, isn’t it?

April 21, 2007 at 7:26 pm
(3) Monica Moshenko says:

I have read that Cho was in deed diagnosed with Autism at eight years of age… but no intervention took place. It wasn’t autism that killed people in Virginia Tech but an individual that had exhibited symptoms of a learning disability at a young age and the people that came in contact with all the years in school did nothing to intervene. Why ..because he was smart, a loner and Korean….. and probably because his own family didn’t accept the diagnosis (this isn’t so unusual is it?)

I think it is wrong to deny that Cho exhibited autism traits… It is not autism that killed people but this individual Cho who never received help or interventions for years……….

This is so important for parents to remember and a lesson for all people who try to deny children services/support or say they are too smart to receive services at all… even though they have a diagnosis. All the years that Cho was in school, all the teachers that had in class didn’t see that he had a disability and did nothing speaks volumes to me. It is not so unusual to hear about kids that are smart, shy, lacking social skills that continue to get pushed through the system for a myriad of reasons……schools don’t want to provide services, parents don’t want to accept the diagnosis, parents don’t know their rights under law for interventions, and some parents have issues that compound getting help for their own child…

If we don’t accept that Cho was diagnosed with autism and learn from this, we are compounding the problem of getting help for thousands of children now and in the future. While I admit that children on the autism spectrum are not usually violent, keep in mind this young man was someone who never had intervention and who knows what it was like for him to deal with day to day issues..which I am certain most people didn’t even know as he didn’t share his feels.. How many kids on the autism spectrum have challenges with sharing their feelings?

Remember this individual Cho does not represent Autism – he was diagnosed with it and no one did anything to intervene.

Can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer when you are eight-years old and then no one does anything for years, even though they suspect something is wrong? Then you “suddenly” do things from rage…because you are dying inside and no one did a thing to help.

I am not trying to justify what Cho did as right, what I am saying is that this individual needed help, was diagnosed with autism and lived without any treatment/therapy for years… not able to have friends, social issues, etc. and then people are surprised this individual like this.

By denying the diagnosis now, people will further contribute to other’s not getting the help they so desperately need.

Monica Moshenko, Parent, Advocate

Host – DisAbility News & Views Radio


Article “Cho Was Autistic: Family”


April 21, 2007 at 7:37 pm
(4) BN says:

Cho might have had Autism,
George Bush might have Dsylexia.
Who killed more poeple?
Who will be remembered 10 years
from now?

April 21, 2007 at 8:24 pm
(5) Sandy says:

Many issues can be considered here. This also shouldn’t be blamed on the school or teachers, but the time period. Autism had just recently been added to IDEA at that time, teachers were much less informed than they are now. They could have more considered his quietness as a result of a culture and language barrier. Also in that time period, there wasn’t a whole lot of mainstream interventions as there is today. His parents may not have fully understood themselves and within many articles, including one posted:

If his family had no real concerns, the public school should have?

Teachers nor autism should be blamed. You also cant go back in time and suggest those teachers should have done more when we really have no idea just what they did or didn’t do to help. There is also no way on earth to know if anything changed could have prevented Cho’s final day. If at all, there were more warning signs while he was in college.

I cant quite imagine either the comparison of doing nothing for cancer and doing something in rage because you’re ‘dying inside’ because nobody did anything. Even with many therapies today, kids with autism are still noticed to be different, lack social friends and are teased. They in fact still have autism. It’s a large assumption to suggest interventions will take all that away. It can take years and years for someone with an autism diagnoses to feel comfortable in any social setting, even without the social stares and teasing.

I also disagree that any ones opinion’s of if Cho had autism or not, and at what level of it’s debilitated affect on him, will affects any one else’s ability to seek services for their own child. Service issues have been an issue long before this horrible tragedy.

April 21, 2007 at 10:00 pm
(6) Sandy says:

the article portion did not show up in my writing #5, this should have been included underneath the first paragraph:

“Cho “didn’t talk much when he was young. He was very quiet, but he didn’t display any peculiarities to suggest he may have problems,” Kim told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday. “We were concerned about him being too quiet and encouraged him to talk more.”

April 22, 2007 at 8:04 pm
(7) Curt says:

I’m going to gently offer that autism in and of itself may not lead to violence, but that it is going to be an increasing potentiality as time goes on.

Autism does not equal violence, but for many autistic children, they grow up in a world of emotions unable to be processed, with frustration, and the reality that they are in a world we they are often perceived as “quirky” by their peer group, if not “weird”. (Please don’t throw stones…my son is autistic and I know what he goes through).

Other factor play in: first of all, our overstimulating society, in which video games, computers, and television make everything instantly colorful, loud, and desensitizing. This can affect any child, disabled or not, but for the autistic child, this has far-reaching consequences. Secondly, the increase in bullying and the desensitization of its effects by those who inflict it. It is amazing that in our politically correct world there are immediate consequences for those who slight those of a minority group, but bullying of those that are weak, different, and particularly, those who are ill-equipped to handle it continue unabated.

These thoughts had already crossed my mind many times long before the Virginia Tech shootings. Early intervention is critical, and with more and more students diagnosed, we’re going to be seeing more and more adults in the world with those difficulties in processing the world around them

Cho didn’t shoot people because he was autistic. But let’s take a lesson from it nonetheless.

April 28, 2007 at 1:01 am
(8) lee says:

I think all stigmas should be banished. I think every human being on the face of this round ball suspended in midair, has some atypical behavior, nuance, eccentricity. It is part of being human. In fact, I believe that people who udge others are the most atypical, in a bad way.

April 28, 2007 at 1:28 am
(9) lea says:

I believe that Cho exhibited antisocial traits (sociopathic). He was not morally conflicted, and his writing showed his pathological interest in violence. Even though sociopaths are not cognizant, therefore not culpable, they are able to maintain sustained interest for short periods. Their egocentric interests are most often, to be the center of attention or to hurt someone emotionally or physically. Metabolism can cause/exacerbate sociopathic behavior. One theory is that there is an imbalance between the T3 and T4, with T3 being too high. Monoamine oxidase enzyme is also slower in sociopaths.

September 16, 2007 at 4:40 am
(10) Michelle says:

As much as you people seem afraid to admit it Autism and violence ARE linked. This has been well known for over 15 years. I’m a child psychologist and I see it daily. As they say “denile is not a river in Egypt”.

March 3, 2008 at 9:54 am
(11) onlychristine says:

The Cho incident makes sense to me. I have an
adult son who is autistic high functioning.
He was diagnosed early but as he grew older became more set in his ways. He has violent outbursts 5 times so far his entire life. He has been picked up at my home by the police because of one his violent tirades talking about killing people and wanting to die. The next day he was repentent and calm and sweet and kind as he is all the rest of the time. Now what? I thought it was just him but now through friends I find out that this is common. We just do not speak openly to others about it fearing putting a mentally unfit label on our kids. Do we institutionalize them all? Behavior counseling does not kick in… I did it. We cannot medicate them forcibly or secretly. its against their rights they say. We want them to have friends and socialize when the opportunity arises because he is alone in his room. He is an intelligent adult quiet so he does not stand out but how many autistic episodes constitutes putting him away. He is not mentally retarded so he knows his condition and laments that he wants to be a real person. They blame parents but there is no definitive answer. Do we immerse him in society after all he can function. He is happy. He is kind. Or do i put him away after 5 incidents in all of his life to protect me and you.

May 11, 2008 at 7:43 pm
(12) bd says:

I am sorry that there are stigmas attached to certain atypical behaviors, and don’t want to see anyone unjustly judged because of a neurological condition. However, for years, I was assured that my stepson, who is autistic among other things, was incapable of violence and nearly everyone he comes in contact with will tell you he is usually quiet, kind, and appears content. However, he has lashed out violently at myself, teachers, a school principal, other children, our dogs, and others numerous times. Each instance is treated as if it is a single anomolous event and no measures have ever been taken by his caregivers to assure those around him don’t mention his outbursts. The dog has had surgery to correct broken ears, I have been bruised and cut, and others have suffered the same…yet everyone seems to choose to ignore his tendencies. Now that he is a teen, his tantrums have become pretty scary, and yet he receives no treatment to alter this behavior and those of us who have experienced it have been given no counsel on how to handle it – not by doctors, counselors, or anyone who has daily contact with him. While I don’t wish him to endure any type of negative judgment from others, either, I believe we all do him and others like him a disservice by pretending the behavior doesn’t exist. Some warning from those who knew/know violence is a factor with a child like him would certainly allow others who deal with him to do so with the proper information. So, stereotyping aside… allowing those who come in contact with him the knowledge that he should be watched for signs that a violent outburst is eminent shouldn’t be too much to share.

May 11, 2008 at 7:52 pm
(13) bd says:

to onlychristine:

I understand completely your comments posted regarding your autistic son who has had only five violent outbursts in his life. As I said in another comment, my teenage stepson has had many, and still his behavior is kept almost “secret”. I personally handle this by not allowing him to spend a minute alone with his step-siblings or pets or anyone unaware of his situation. However, other family members, teachers, doctors, and caregivers do not handle him this way and the results have been ugly. Not expecting the violence because they are unaware it is even a possibility from such a meek, kind, quiet child – some have been taken by surprise and the police have had to become involved. Unfortunately, his network of caring friends and family has dwindled considerably. Had his potential for violence been disclosed in a loving,caring way, I am certain things would have been handled differently and the situations in which he hurt others could have been averted, or at least minimized, by knowing adults who love him. Stereotyping and predjudice become less important concerns once you witness the violence and the affect it has on the autistic teen and those around him.

August 28, 2008 at 10:40 am
(14) karen says:

(After reading what I have written, maybe I should apologise in advance??. I’ve never left a commentinone of these before, and maybe I’m being inappropriate.. I truely hope I’m not, surely not my intention).
For the first time since caring for my daughter – 14 years, I feel as if I just want to give up hope, and have nothing left to give – I don’t know how to help her anymore? And yes, I’m now burdened with the weight of guilt, feeling that I am letting her down. Am I giving up or just accepting that I have lost my wonderful ‘different’ little girl who delighted and stole our hearts at age 4?(before the violence). Now, my 14 year old daughter has left me very battered, bruised, tormented and scared over along period of time and has put her siblings (one older and one younger) through many years of violent situations and trauma. Having the police called, facing the embarrasment and being judged from onlookers and neighbours, and then having her taken in the ambulance and hospitalised, many times – I’ve had enough! I have battled, fought and gone ‘above and beyond’. I’ve jumped through every hoop that each government department has made me jump. And I’ve slammed my head against EVERY brick wall in my way. I have put through lengthy applications and have made endless hours of phone calls and have had intervention and been involved/funded with ‘behavioural programmes’. What now??? I have no idea of the technical terminologies, and at the moment, (I’ll be honest) with a glass or two of red wine, I’ll admit, I”m not coping as well as when I felt ‘hope’. Now I just feel sadness. My daughter receives wonderful nuturing and understanding and a huge amount of love. I have 2 other daughters who are amazing and show me strength and tolerance that overwhelmes and amazes me. I have a partner who I can’t belive is still standing by my side with such a ‘difficult’ family, and I am feeling lost. I will be the first to tell you that I have a huge amount to be grateful for and acknowledge this each and every day, however, this doesn’t help my plight for Natalie, does it? Here I am, desparately seeking answers in the wide world of the web. Yes, I may be sounding sorry for myself,………cause at the moment, for the first time in over a decade, I probably am. I am feeling very sorry for myself, and my other two daughters, and my very tolerant partner, and our families, our friends, and her school teachers, sports coaches and the students at her school and anybody else who has had to deal with her during one of her ‘episodes’. Most of all, I feel sorry for Natalie. My gorgeous wonderful Natalie. I’m emotionally tired, and battle weary from defending, caring, nuturing, adjusting, understanding, supporting a child with ASD. Fed up with doctors only treatment as – ‘change the medication’. – but what other options? My daughter tells me how she thinks only of stabbing herself and visions herself doing this. I am her mother, who loves her unconditionally…… what am I supposed to do with this information??? I don’t know how to help her anymore….. I’ve feel as if there is nothing left. I am left guilty that I’m should be doing more. How can I help her – and what if??. What if she really does something horrible, to not only herself, but to someone else? Which is what this blog is about. I’ve tried everything…….what now?
She hears voices……. is that Autism???

November 9, 2008 at 6:34 pm
(15) vicky says:

Karen ( to the moderator, if this lady does not come on, please on my behalf will you e-mail it to her given e-mail address, thank you)

I am not a doctor, but your daughter is developing a mental health problem for sure. Take her to a specialist, the early it is treated the more chance she has of recovery. Take her in to a mental health unit via your doctor, you can’t deal with that on your own, and love will be supportive but it won’t stop it. Take her in as soon as. I would also suggest you take her out of school as well for the short term and for her own safety and others safety as well. She can either take her work home and do it at home or you can home school, this is probably better. Think positive if you get her back on track and healed, she will still have the rest of her adolescence and still a chance for her qualifications, if you get her the help she needs now she may get better quicker. As for is it autism probably not no, if she had had autism it would have shown up in her from a very young age, however she may have some social problems. You really do need a psychiatric evaluation the support of having a doctor on your side to help will also help your family as well, if they give her meds it will probably help her to calm down the outbursts I imagine she must be having. Do it tomorrow. For her sake, don’t let it fester. Another thing is limit her watching TV and try to keep her focus on ordinary none destructive tasks, cleaning her room, basic tidying, and structure can all lead to calming down and balancing the mind ( a destructive mind can’t be constructive so constructive tasks can help to keep the mind orderly). She may feel highly sexual, or she may feel she needs to go out with boys or become very rebellious, try to steer her away from these things and keep your eye out for drugs. Many young people go crazy at puberty, but today with all the influences around them it can be worse for them, keep her at home if possible and limit her use of TV, try if you can to keep things focused on functional routine and keep the family structure this will help to create a feeling of stability that may help her to calm down. The doctors can tell you more. If she is thinking of cutting, remove all knives, razor blades etc from the house and keep them somewhere only you know, you can leave butter knives out that won’t do much harm but make sure there are no blades in the bathroom, just remove them where she can’t get her hands on them for a start. Another great thing for her is something called Art Therapy, I have mental health problems only I am older, I went on it last year, it really can calm down episodes and it does work, the specialists have so many forms of treatment not all of it is just drugs, so take her in and let them assess her and see what they say, this could provide you with weekly appointments and a crutch. She isn’t a bad person and your neighbors as many in society are afraid of mental illness because they are afraid of getting hurt by the mentally ill, so never mind them, take her to the unit get her treatment and keep whatever you can fuelling these fantasies of killing herself out of harms way, talk with the rest of your family about it and look after each other through this time. That is all I can tell you, I hope you get this message. Good luck, just keep her out of bother, the most important thing to remember with mentally ill people is they have diminished responsability they are usually more a danger to themselves, so bearing that in mind, keep her at home and keep her with the right appointments, this should give you some clarity on the matter and hopefully bring some ease to you, remember this is a mental illness it isn’t her as a person she can get through this and she can get better again, so keep the faith, good luck love, hopefully you will get some relief and help for your family soon.

November 12, 2008 at 5:34 pm
(16) Nina says:

To BD and Karen
Thank you for being so honest in regards to the behaviour, often violent behaviour, of your autistic children. Also thank you for sharing with us how hard you are finding it to cope with these challenging outbursts.
I am a Life Skills Instructor and I work with young people (16-25 yrs) who have complex autism, challenging behaviour and learning difficulties. I strongly believe that there is a kind of collective ‘shroud of silence’ when it comes to obtaining or revealing what we as carers of these young people actually have to go through on a daily basis.
First of all let me clarify that I care very deeply for all the young people in our college. Let me also point out that we operate a low arousal approach in our establishment. I am also really proud of our beautiful fascillities and our professional staff. However the reallity is that, during the course of the day, there will be a high chance that I will be kicked, bitten, scratched,punched, sworn at, shouted at, spat at, will have my hair pulled and clothes torn, will have things thrown at me – including hot liquids-, will be inappropriately touched, will have to deal with sexually inapproriate language and suggestions. There will be a high chance that I have to clean up faeces (often smeared over walls and floors)urine, or vomit. I may have to protect a collague or will have to run out of a unit, or may have to restrain a young person (only ever used as a last resort).
I have been trained in all aspects of care work and have a degree in Social Welfare and Psychology but I am, as you are, at a loss to know why we keep on maintaining an approach of not really challenging this kind of behaviour.
Yes we do apply sanctions etc. but as you have highlighted every incident is treated almost as an anomolous event and for some reason behavioural specialists and staff are reluctant in imposing tougher measures to deal with these outbursts.
If we were to at least acknowledge and talk about these outbursts and explain to our students that staff are NOT cartoon figures that can be punched and then get up again- no harm done. If we can explain that furniture, fixtures and fittings, TVs and crockery all cost money and need to be replaced when broken. All too often, after an incident, things get tidied up and staff are encouraged to have a break or may be removed for the day and then are encouraged to carry on as if nothing has happened. This is the policy of no guilt. Please do not think that our organisation is the only on that has adopted this approach it is common across the social welfare arena. Although I believe that this approach has its merits up to a point ,I now believe that we are denying our young people valuable life lessons by not teaching them that there are natural consequences to aggressive behaviour.
Overall, I feel there is a kind of silence over the whole issue almost a sort of shame.
I think as professionals, we need to get real and be open about the extent of the problems we face which are so neatly hidden away behind the oh so slick and neutral terminology of complex autism, challenging behaviour and learning difficulties.

March 29, 2009 at 7:12 pm
(17) anne says:

my 15 year old son has autism he also has a.d.h.d he was very violent to his younger sister but now his sister does not see her brother because she became so scared of him when myself and their father seperated 2 years ago my son came and lived with me and my new partner a year ago. it all started off fine then he started being violent to my partners younger children.at christmas he grabbed me by the throat and a few times after that last week he scared me when he did this again but this time i was choking and my other children had to get him off of me i ended up with bruises and a very sore neck then again 6 days later in the middle of tescos. i dont know what to do i feel very scared to be near my son because i dont know when he will do it again there is no signs one minute we can be walking along and the next he has me by the throat he is very strong.i know if i was on my own with him i doubt i could stop him from hurting me. i love my son very very much but i just dont know what to do any more. anne

April 22, 2009 at 6:43 pm
(18) diane says:

I have a 17 year old son, supposedly “high functioning” autistic…but I don’t think there’s any competant doctors in Florence, Alabama. Everyone wants to call it “PDD”..probably because they really don’t know WHAT it isAnyway, he is almost 6 feet tall and weighs around 240 pounds. He is way stronger than me, especially in an adrenaline rush of anger. I relate to the story “My Son the Monster” by Anne Bauer.
I can’t talk to my son or reason with him. I don’t ask for much except that he takes his medicine (asthma, allergy, cholesterol, and melatonin to help sleep), takes a bath, and goes to bed early enough to get rest for school. I took him off his OTHER meds, Abilify, Celexa, and Strattera. They made him WAY MORE agressive…imagine that?? He is very unpredictable. He is very destructive. Recently, he sawed our natural GAS line into coming into our house for a wall heater… He doesn’t care if what he destroys is mine, yours, or his. Our “home” looks worse than a dump with Hurricane Katrina blowing through it. My daughter and I are depressed, sad, and have lost any motivation to clean it up due to the fact that it will be messed back up in a matter of minutes/hours with my son here. I cannot watch him 24 hours/7 days a week (although I should). We live on mine and my son’s ss disability ($1300 total monthly). With him placed somewhere else to live, that will be cut in half. My daughter can’t work right NOW, because SS would reduce my SSI, which in turn would cut off my medicaid that pays for my 11 prescriptions and doctor bills. I am 53 going on 90 at the stress level I feel. I don’t have tv, or go anywhere except the monthly doctor visits and the grocery store. My daughter, sadly has no life. Never dated, been anywhere much, worked, or driven a car. I’m sure I’m doing her a big disservice also. If I place my son (which Isee no other alternative) somewhere else to live, SS will take his disability for payment…which will mean my daughter and I will have to do without a cell phone, a computer, and any other non- necessities to “survive”… period. On $1300 a month WITH my son’s disability check, it’s barely getting us by. So, $600 will definitely not do much. Of course, she can try to find some kind of job. She has never worked. I simply can’t work any more. I have too many health and physical problems…Some days I wonder why bother living in this hell…but I love my daughter, and I continue on because I doubt she could handle life without me in it. I love my son too, despite the grief his disability puts me through. I’m sure it’s hell for him too…the very reason I try to do everything I know for him…but I don’t seem to know enough. I feel like I fail him and am turning my back on him by thinking about placing him somewhere else to live. I just can’t handle him any more. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t even know who/where to really go to to ask all these questions. I can’t drive at night, or out of town due to being blind in my right eye. My car probably wouldn’t be dependable either. I hate to focus on SO many negatives, but this IS my life…as it is. Even all my household appliances are “dying” due to the fact that they’re old. I’ve recently lost the stove, washer, a microwave, an air conditioner.. I replaced the microwave, and paid a plumber for plumbing problems, but all the other appliances are about to go out on me regardless… Oh well, such is life. What would YOU do??

April 22, 2009 at 6:47 pm
(19) Diane says:

I feel everyone’s pain… I live it everyday. I wish all here PEACE, and Joy (hopefully). And I wish someone would/could find a CUREor something to help ALL mental illnesses. God Bless, :-) DIANE

April 26, 2009 at 1:36 pm
(20) Andria says:

Immediately after the incident, reports carried speculation by family members in Korea that Cho was autistic.[26] However, no known record exists of Cho ever being diagnosed with autism,[27][28] nor could an autism diagnosis be verified with Cho’s parents. The Virginia Tech Review Panel report dismissed an autism diagnosis[29][30] and experts later doubted the autism claim.

May 25, 2009 at 3:42 pm
(21) William Keeley says:

I’m glad that this link between autistic people and violence has been brought up. I am autistic (not Asperger’s), and I can see where many of these violent tendencies come from. Most of us live lives as outcasts despite our intelligence or hard work. We live in a society that expects us to instinctively know all of the rules while there is no guide for learning them. Because of our social disabilities, we are for the most part unlikely to hold high paying jobs or have our own families. We can be the most responsible and hard working people and yet those who are less responsible or hard working are the ones that get promoted in jobs, etc.

I’ll give one example how many neurologically typical people treat us: I was on okcupid dating website and met another person there. She and I talked about a lot of things and seemed to have much in common. Then one day, she visited my profile and then deleted hers as well as her account. On my profile, I disclosed my autism and gave a brief explanation of what it is. I do this because most people who have known me for any length of time knows that I am different, and many people are afraid of those who are different.

When I was a young man in my late teens and early 20′s, I could have been in the same position as those who commit violent acts. When someone is treated as a monster, it is easy for them to start acting like one. When someone is targeted by the vast majority of people (classmates in school) for teasing and abuse, it is easy to see how the targeted person can grow to hate people. I was bullied in school and was headed down this path until I transfered to another school where I graduated. At the school where I graduated, the vast majority of the students never bullied me, and I was respected for my talents and knowledge.

I can see how people like me (or any other early social outcast) end up committing acts of violence against those they hate or society in general. It is hard enough for a neurologically typical young adult to make it in this society. Imagine how much harder it is for an autistic (even high functioning ones) young adult to make it in a society where they are an outcast and where there are essentially no services in place to help them.

Despite my knowledge, education, and skills, I have spent much of my adult life working for myself or working in entry level positions. My social life consists of my family, congregation, and those in the autism community. As for the rest of society, I am not bitter, hateful, or violent. I don’t hold the rest of society in high esteem either. As far as society in general goes, I will help those in need if I can and keep my distance from the rest.

May 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm
(22) William Keeley says:

(16) Nina, I’m glad that you have brought up the points that you did. Too many parents or caretakers let autistic children act out and not provide appropriate discipline. I’ve seen videos where young (and physically small) autistic children were allowed to destroy things, walk on furniture, or engage in other socially appropriate behavior. In most, but not all cases these children can be taught how to behave appropriately. It is entirely appropriate for an adult to physically restrain a child in order to protect his or her self or things around the house.

It is not ok to excuse violent or destructive behavior simply because a child is autistic. Restraining a violent autistic person until he or she calms down is appropriate. However tying a kid down for hours or locking them in a closet or other romm for such periods of time is not.

Just remember that autistic children will grow up to be autistic adults. Autistic adults are much bigger, stronger, and more experienced in life. People today should decide what kind of autistic adults they want in society. Do they want well behaved and adjusted adults or do they want dangerous ones. The caregivers of autistic children are the ones who get to decide this in most cases.

October 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm
(23) jen says:

Would you ever have an Autistic/Asberger’s Syndrome man working in a school very closely to 4 yrs olds and up in age?

October 27, 2009 at 6:15 pm
(24) William Keeley says:

I would depending upon the person.

June 3, 2010 at 10:15 pm
(25) Kelly Cash says:

I have asperger’s syndrome. I’m a Martian born on the wrong planet. Earthlings are very mean to Martians. They bully them mercilessly because they are different. Earthlings are mad because they can’t get any of their needs satisfied by a Martian. They take their anger out on them. They even lie and say Martians don’t have empathy to justify treating them badly. They call them names like “idiot” and “stupid”.

Earthlings cause Martians to feel overwhelming anxiety. That’s not a good combination when the Martian nervous system is already at peak levels. Martian anxiety has to go somewhere. Cho had a rainy day. He raged. When that happens they call it a narcissitic rage.

“Autism is anxiety looking for a target.” I use mine to inform.

March 31, 2011 at 7:04 pm
(26) Andy says:

The issue of autism and “violence” needs to be raised. It’s unfortunate that the issue is raised in relation to Cho, whose actions don’t look much like an autistic meltdown (for one thing, I’d question if a complex motor action like shooting a gun is likely to be possible in meltdown; for another, the act was premeditated, albeit minimally, and prolonged through time – meltdowns are time-limited). It mainly needs to be raised because NT’s need to swallow their moralism and judgementalism about things other people can’t help. What happened with Cho can easily be explained by reading Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth” – it’s what a certain subset of marginalised people do in a vain attempt to empower themselves. Also look up Matza’s “moods of fatalism”. It’s certainly true that an autistic person might do this, but not because they’re autistic – because they’re marginalised and mistreated.

Meltdown, on the other hand, is specific to autism. As usual, there’s a few people here coming out with the standard disciplinary / acceptability nonsense which they’re getting from various authoritarian ideologies. This is simply NT supremacy speaking. Just because NT people don’t like something, or even if it causes serious harm, does not mean it is a liable action or that it can be stopped by means of punishment or control.

Nina: the “no guilt” policy is exactly right, and your bosses clearly understand autism better than you do. It is completely right to simply absorb whatever happens due to meltdowns and keep going as well as possible – clean up the mess, treat the injuries, take time off for stress if needed, then carry on as if nothing happened. Any other approach is both ineffective and unfair, and would amount to institutional cruelty.

March 31, 2011 at 7:14 pm
(27) Andy2 says:

Thirdly, “restraining” a person who is tactile-defensive amounts to torture. The harm caused by “restraining” someone to prevent, for instance, being pushed or suffering property damage massively outweighs the harm which is prevented. Autistic people’s senses can be many times more acute than the norm, and are heightened further in meltdown. If the person is tactile- or pressure-defensive, a grab feels like a stab, being held down feels like being crushed in a vice. Such actions are nearly guaranteed to give an autistic person PTSD-like symptoms which compound their underlying problems. In addition, if someone tries to ‘restrain’ (assault) a tactile-defensive person who is already in meltdown, this is almost guaranteed to lead to physical resistance. The harm done is increased, not reduced.

Most/all autistic people have meltdowns sometimes. Some high-functioning people will pretty much eliminate meltdowns because they can avert them before they happen, but depending on a person’s sensory makeup, this may not be possible. It’s very rare that they’re seriously dangerous, beyond some noise and reparable damage. Some of them take the form of almost catatonic withdrawal or panicked flight. Of the ones which produce a ‘fight’ response, most will remain at the level of shouting, swearing, door/table banging and/or throwing things around.

March 31, 2011 at 7:31 pm
(28) Andy9 says:

Most/all autistic people have meltdowns sometimes. Some high-functioning people will pretty much eliminate meltdowns because they can avert them before they happen, but depending on a person’s sensory makeup, this may not be possible. It’s very rare that they’re seriously dangerous, beyond some noise and reparable damage. Some of them take the form of almost catatonic withdrawal or panicked flight. Of the ones which produce a ‘fight’ response, most will remain at the level of shouting, swearing, door/table banging and/or throwing things around. But MANY meltdowns of whatever kind WILL escalate to violence against people IF AND ONLY IF the autistic person is physically assaulted (“restrained”, manhandled, etc). They’re caused by sensory input (either external, such as loud noises, or internal, such as massive frustration) which causes the breakdown of neurological processing. They CAN be mechanically induced, either deliberately or through negligence, in a way which makes them very often ‘your fault’ (i.e. the carer, parent, friend, staff, etc). For instance, deliberately setting off a fire alarm next to a sound-defensive person in an enclosed space and preventing them from covering their ears would guarantee a meltdown. They’re made more frequent if a person is anxious or exposed to stress.

March 31, 2011 at 7:14 pm
(29) Andy2 says:

But MANY meltdowns of whatever kind WILL escalate to violence against people IF AND ONLY IF the autistic person is physically assaulted (“restrained”, manhandled, etc). They’re caused by sensory input (either external, such as loud noises, or internal, such as massive frustration) which causes the breakdown of neurological processing. They CAN be mechanically induced, either deliberately or through negligence, in a way which makes them very often ‘your fault’ (see http://www.examiner.com/node/17461561). For instance, deliberately setting off a fire alarm next to a sound-defensive person in an enclosed space and preventing them from covering their ears would guarantee a meltdown. They’re made more frequent if a person is anxious or exposed to stress.

The only ways to prevent or mitigate them are as follows: identify and remove sensory input which causes overload; identify and avoid stressors; identify, or teach the child/adult to identify, pre-meltdown states and to socially/sensorily withdraw prior to meltdown (there’s standard signs: irritability, delayed stimulus-processing, etc); and learn to de-escalate meltdown situations by not antagonising. If this doesn’t work, the best that can be done is to weather the storm and let it burn out, which means avoiding escalating and avoiding confronting the person. Involving police is a very bad idea as they tend to escalate situations. I suspect the most useful therapeutic interventions would target the cause of the meltdown (e.g. handling frustration, finding outlets for anxiety, desensitizing particular triggers) rather than the meltdown itself.

March 31, 2011 at 7:16 pm
(30) Andy3 says:

Finally, it should not be thought that meltdowns make autistic people any more dangerous than other types of people. It’s a “swings and roundabouts” problem: most every type has its own advantages and vulnerabilities. For example, NT people often put others at risk through negligence arising from the excessive use of breakers or the selective suspension of their own normative standards (e.g. most NT people who drive will speed and commit other traffic offences; most autistic people who drive will not). I have seen NT people enraged by things autistic people could take in their stride, and driven to condone wars, crackdowns, harm to others on an unimaginable scale, to stamp out small problems which their overactive medial prefrontal cortexes take exception to. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying NT people should all be locked-up or barred from positions of responsibility. I’m saying people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We shouldn’t be playing “risk-management” with categories of people. We should be trying to minimise the problem as far as possible (without imagining we can eliminate risks) through tolerance and a focus on welfare/needs, and the abolition of the disciplinary frame. Ultimately we need to get rid of moral judgement and replace it with ethical openness to the other.

March 31, 2011 at 7:15 pm
(31) Andy2 says:

Overcoding the whole situation with ideas of “acceptability”, “social appropriateness”, “consequences”, etc etc will simply make meltdowns bigger, longer, more spectacular and more likely to lead to serious harm. I consider this type of discourse to be the greatest single threat to autistic people today. It needs to be recognised that NT people do this because THEY feel a need for control, NOT because it teaches “life skills” (it doesn’t) or protects them from harm (it could easily escalate situations). It’s all about the NT person wanting to satisfy their own desire for order, NOT about doing anything positive for autistic people. It also needs to be recognised that this kind of reaction makes autistic people MORE (not less) likely to harm others when in meltdown, and hence is totally counterproductive.

March 31, 2011 at 7:17 pm
(32) Andy4 says:

Hence, firstly, any punishment is unfair: it is not punishing a conscious action, it is like punishing an epileptic person for fitting (and I’m sure epileptic people have injured others and damaged property in fits). It will be experienced as unfair by the person on the receiving end, meaning it necessarily turns either into self-hatred or hatred of the punishing person. This could be why someone like Cho (if he was autistic) – who was repeatedly disciplined – would be driven to attack, and why other autistic people have committed suicide.

Secondly, it is also repeatedly proven that punishment DOES NOT work in such cases. Worse: the additional stress is likely to make meltdowns more frequent. Also remember the effects of sensory sensitivities: punishments which lead to deprivation of outlets, breaches of routines and so on will create conditions for meltdown. Whenever I hear of extreme cases of recurring meltdowns, with a bit of inquiry, it turns out to be due to the application of disciplinary frames. The people complaining they “don’t know what to do” are consistently doing the wrong things, usually by going on the attack and further traumatising the autistic person (e.g. involving police, physically aggressing against a person and hence turning a meltdown physical), and they’re rarely trying to identify the sensory or situational triggers for the meltdowns or the reasons they’re escalating as badly as they are. Remember that THEY don’t have control over their meltdowns, but YOU have control as to whether you react aggressively.

March 31, 2011 at 7:28 pm
(33) Andy8 says:

It is neurologically proven that autistic people cannot help whatever they do in meltdowns – the part of the brain which would control them is switched-off due to sensory overload. Meltdown isn’t conscious. The person may, when fully aware, be completely conscious both of direct consequences such as hurting someone, and of whatever threats you’ve made. When fully aware, they’re not likely to commit any kind of violence anyway. But when in meltdown, all this awareness if switched-off. It isn’t working because the fight-or-flight reflex has kicked in. Meltdown isn’t a tantrum, a fit of rage or a “behaviour”. It isn’t done for attention. It isn’t done because someone thinks it is or isn’t acceptable. It isn’t done to get what one wants. It has absolutely nothing to do with thinking people are “cartoons who get back up again” or about whether someone “cares” whose “property” something is. It happens for externally-caused reasons, and it’s outside the control of the person it happens to. Meltdowns happen to NT people too, but only in very extreme sensory circumstances (e.g. if subjected to sensory torture). A meltdown isn’t a conscious act. It’s like an epileptic fit or a Tourette’s tic.

June 27, 2011 at 4:05 pm
(34) ASD Mum says:

Andy your comments have heped me immensley. I am going through this at the moment with my 7 yo son. I know its when he doesnt get what he wants that these violent outbursts occur. I had thought it was tantrum as opposed to meltdown so its changed my perspective. And yes it is when I input a consequence for an action the violence occurs. I am about to initiate ABA and neurotherapy – do you have opinion on these therapies and their effect on reducing violence? I myself am ASD and have fortunatley grown into an adult that funcions very well and through lots of counselling as an adult and therotical self learning, do not commit violent acts any more but I certainly did as a child and I received no intervention when I was young, only that which I sought as an adult (in fact I was punished physically and repeatedly as a child) – in this light, I believe I can reprogram my son. I would be very interested in your thoughts on therapy and its effects.

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