Is Asperger syndrome a disorder which, in itself, can lead to criminal activity?
I've been surprised by the responses I've received to an earlier blog on the subject. While I assumed that most people would agree with me that an "Asperger's defense" for the rape and murder of a small child makes no sense and undermines the position of people with AS in general, several readers have taken a very different stance. Here's a recent comment from a reader called Zusia:
A person with AS alone could argue that the following Asperger's criteria is what caused them to act in a morally inappropriate or criminally offensive way:
(1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(2) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
Number 1 covers the most ground because people with AS can indeed have some really bizarre patterns of interest. If a person with AS is intensely focused on trains to the point of engaging in repeated criminal activity, as we've seen in more than one recent news story, another person with AS could be intensely focused on child pornography, say, and unable to control himself sexually, due to the compulsion, when in the presence of a child. A resulting death would most likely be totally accidental as the person comes to grasp with his compulsion and what to do to avoid getting caught.
Number 2 acknowledges ritualistic behavior which, again, speaks to a compulsive nature.
Both the train stalking criminal and the child stalking criminal should be held accountable for breaking the law but the acts themselves can and should be interpreted with Asperger's in mind.
I'm not familiar with the specific cases Zusia mentions, but it disturbs me deeply that members of the autism community are quite comfortable with the idea that Asperger syndrome in and of itself could easily be the cause of violent crimes including the rape and murder of a child.
Granted that AS obviously includes compulsive behaviors, can rape and murder be included among those compulsions? Do people with AS really lack a moral compass to the degree that violent crime is a common symptom?
Please tell me this is not the case, at least in the vast majority of cases - unless AS is accompanied by major mental illness, delusions or other unrelated issues.