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Emerging evidence indicates that children with disabilities in general and with autism in particular are frequent victims of murder-suicide

22 Aug

The title a modified version of a line from a recent study: A Case Study of Paternal Filicide-Suicide: Personality Disorder, Motives, and Victim Choice. This is a topic that many of us, autistics and parents, have been aware of and trying to prevent for years. Parents and caregivers are killing people with disabilities. Not frequently, but far too often. Once is too often.

This study, this story, reminds us of why we speak out. Why when someone downplays the value of an autistic life, we speak out. Why when someone tries to downplay the seriousness of a murder, we speak out.

The study discusses the case of a father who murdered his autistic son. The researchers were able to speak at length with the murderer and report the details behind the murder. This sort of view into a murder is rare.

There were three major factors that fed into the murder. First, the father is mentally ill. He had an undiagnosed schizoid personality disorder.

Some people will jump on this and say, “aha, here’s the reason. It isn’t what we say that caused the murder, it’s because the father was mentally ill.”

For any of you reading this: you are completely missing the point. We don’t downplay murder, we don’t downplay the value of autistic lives specifically to not feed into a murder such as this. You can say, “I won’t judge parents who commit murder and almost every parent out there will not be encouraged to commit murder.

Key word: almost. There are people like this father out there.

And if you don’t understand that statements like this ares harmful and damaging to autistics, that they tell autistics they are less valued than the rest of us in society, please step back and rethink that.

The second factor that played into this father’s decision to commit murder was revenge. He was separated from his wife and felt that she had moved on to new relationships, and he wanted to hurt her.

Instead of hurting her directly, he chose to murder his son. He didn’t consider murdering either of his typical daughters, but only his autistic son.

Oh, and there’s a fourth reason. The second part of the motive (first being revenge). This exemplifies the reason why we don’t feed the narrative that autistic lives are worth less, that their struggles mean they would be somehow better off not alive. This is that the father felt a sense of altruism in murdering is son.

Yes, altruism. We hear that again and again. That somehow the parent is helping the child by ending his or her life.

The authors begin the section on altruism with this discussion:

The offender was convinced that his wife’s effusive preoccupation with their son’s impairment and her support of the educational inclusion project would be detrimental to their son. With his and his son’s death, both of them would be liberated from what he experienced as the mother’s intrusive and overbearing interference. Also, the offender had long been preoccupied with what would become of his son when he reached adulthood. He thought of his child as a nice boy and he believed that his son would be far too good to survive in what the offender considered to be a dog-eat-dog world. He was convinced that, by killing him, he would in fact spare him from a cruel destiny: “He wouldn’t have a future and would only get in trouble, anyway.”

Some people don’t understand why so many of us promote acceptance. Let’s leave aside the obvious (accepting people for who they are is the right thing to do), the message of “non-acceptance” is damaging. It is hurtful. Beyond that, yes, it feeds the murder narrative. Consider this from the study, the discussion of how the father saw his son as “different” and was “not very happy with him”.

Concerning his son, though, there was also another side to his attachment. Although he loved him, the offender admitted that, in fact, he was not very happy with him. He did not like having a son who was “different” and impaired. Although he admitted being ambivalent towards his son, he nevertheless stressed that this would not have been a sufficient reason to kill him.

Also note that the father saw that his son “lived on another planet” and didn’t respond as expected.

To him it appeared that his son “lived on another planet.” Discussing the offence, he emphasized that, contrary to human behavior, mathematically-based computer systems are regarded as “intelligent and reliable.” As the offender explained, the output of a computer is determined by the input: “a computer can only produce a stupid answer if the initial question is stupid.” “Hence intelligent input ineluctably leads to intelligent output.” Although he did his best to feed his son with what he considered to be intelligent input, the output was not as he expected. As has been observed with individuals with schizoid personality disorder, the offender saw the world as being out of line rather than himself not being attuned with the world around him (Esterberg et al., 2010).

If I am somehow not getting the message across–

There are messages that are not only damaging, they lower the bar for those considering murdering autistics (and other people with disabilities).

“My kid is different and I can’t accept that.”

“My kid’s life is harder, so it is less worth living.”

“My life is hard/my family’s life is hard because of my kid.”

“That parent murdered his/her child. I can’t judge that parent because I haven’t walked in his/her shoes.”

Of course this discssion comes shortly after I have spoken out against Polly Tommey for using exactly this language. Language that downplays the seriousness of murders (here and here). She says she “won’t judge” parents who murder their autistic children. Further she says this is because she “hasn’t walked in their shoes”. Saying that means that there may be some reason, some experience from “walking in their shoes”, that could mitigate murder.

There isn’t.

In the past I have also criticized Ms. Tommey’s colleague Andrew Wakefield. He has not just downplayed murder, but has portrayed the murder of autistics by parents as an act of love.

I don’t want to make this discussion about Tommey and Wakefield. They just serve as examples of people who are doing the harm I speak against.

Here is a link to the paper and the abstract:

A Case Study of Paternal Filicide-Suicide: Personality Disorder, Motives, and Victim Choice.

Although evidence with respect to its prevalence is mixed, it is clear that fathers perpetrate a serious proportion of filicide. There also seems to be a consensus that paternal filicide has attracted less research attention than its maternal counterpart and is therefore less well understood. National registries are a very rich source of data, but they generally provide limited information about the perpetrator as psychiatric, psychological and behavioral data are often lacking. This paper presents a fully documented case of a paternal filicide. Noteworthy is that two motives were present: spousal revenge as well as altruism. The choice of the victim was in line with emerging evidence indicating that children with disabilities in general and with autism in particular are frequent victims of filicide-suicide. Finally, a schizoid personality disorder was diagnosed. Although research is quite scarce on that matter, some research outcomes have showed an association between schizoid personality disorder and homicide and violence.


By Matt Carey

Andrew Wakefield. He’s not anti-vaccine. He just thinks “This is a deliberate eugenics program, a deliberate population-control program.”

19 Aug 1471357679-pmx090116-conspiracycruise19

Remember the “ConspiraSea Cruise”? Well another story has come out on it, this time from Popular Mechanics: I Went on a Weeklong Cruise For Conspiracy Theorists. It Ended Poorly.

I feel bad for grabbing one line from the story, as the whole story is quite good. But for now, let’s just take a look at this one paragraph:

“Your bodies are owned by Big Pharma,” he said. “It’s turning into a science-fiction movie.” The audience gasped and shook their heads in disbelief. “This will be the end of the United States of America.” During the Q&A portion, Wakefield added, “This is a deliberate eugenics program, a deliberate population-control program.”

“This is a deliberate eugenics program, a deliberate population-control program.”

I’ve been told this was in response to a question about vaccines possibly being a part of a eugenics program.

This is the sort of statement Mr. Wakefield typically has avoided making public. It’s the sort of statement that plays well on the “ConspiraSea Cruise”, but in more reasoned company is clearly wrong and irresponsible. It’s the sort of statement that goes against the image of Wakefield as the “legitimate scientist who is wronged for ‘just asking questions'”.

I have no idea how Mr. Wakefield defines “anti-vaccine”. Readers here will recognize that I rarely use the term. So, let’s continue in that mode. Let’s not refer to him as “anti-vaccine”. He is strongly, and irresponsibly, and using misinformation, “anti-vaccine-program”. How can someone who believes that vaccines are “a deliberate eugenics program, a deliberate population-control program” be anything else?

1471357679-pmx090116-conspiracycruise19


By Matt Carey

Polly Tommey, she won’t judge autism parents who murder, but judges Fiona O’Leary for just criticism

12 Aug

Readers here may recall this recent article: Polly Tommey won’t judge parents who murder their disabled children. That’s part of the problem. We discussed this video where Polly Tommey tells us about how she won’t judge parents who murder their autistic children.

In a later video she used the “I haven’t walked in their shoes” excuse.

Since then Ms. Tommey, through her film distributor Cinema Libre Studio, has threatened to sue an autism parent. An autistic autism parent. Fiona O’Leary: Cinema Libre Studios and Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed team threaten autistic autism mom.

In a more recent video she has posted she flat out judges Fiona O’Leary.

“She’s a pain, that woman”.

“She claims to be on the spectrum. In that case I feel bad for you.”

“She hasn’t seen the film” (Fact check–Fiona has, indeed, seen Vaxxed.)

Here’s a word for Polly Tommey:

Hypocrisy

hy·poc·ri·sy

The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.

Kill a kid: you will not be judged.

Criticize Polly Tommey: you will be judged.

Someone has her priorities seriously out of order. And it’s not Fiona O’Leary.


By Matt Carey

Deadline is TOMORROW to provide input to the IACC for the Strategic Plan. DO IT NOW!

28 Jul

The IACC (Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee) is revising the Strategic Plan for autism research. This is THE document that they produce that can influence how autism research money is allocated.

Do you need something from autism research (almost certainly the answer is yes). Let the Committee know what specifically you want. Do you want better services and educational plans for minimally verbal students? Better job supports for adults (adults who have high support needs or “just” significant support needs)? Let them know.

This document will shape what we can hope to get in autism research. It is worth spending a few minutes. Go here: https://iacc.hhs.gov/meetings/public-comments/requests-for-information/2016/strategic-plan.shtml. Go now.

Here is the post I wrote about this a few weeks ago:

As many readers here may recall, I spent a few years as a public member to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). The IACC is mandated by the same law that commits the government to funding autism research. The most important thing the IACC does is draft the Strategic Plan. This is the how the autism communities tell the government and other funding agencies what research projects we want performed. That Plan is up for a major revision. Something that hasn’t happened since before I was on the IACC. Now is when the real work of the IACC is going to happen.

And they want your feedback. They need your feedback. There is a website open now to submit feedback: Request for Public Comments – 2016 IACC Strategic Plan. I list the questions below so you can prepare–but go to that website and give feedback. Do it now. Don’t put it off and possibly miss the chance to give feedback.

Maybe you want to give feedback on only one topic. Great. Maybe you want to give a lot of feedback. Great. But do it. Do it now.

Why?

Do you want a major focus on, say, supporting high support adults? Early intervention? Better education supports and strategies for older students?

We aren’t talking small amounts of money. Here’s a figure from the IACC’s Portfolio Analysis from 2012. That’s over $300,000,000.00 spent in one year. Three hundred million plus dollars.

Autism Expenses 2012

Is that the breakdown you want to see? Is that what will make a difference in your life, or the life of someone you care about?

It isn’t what I want or need. Research takes time to impact real life. I want autistic adults–especially those with high support needs–to have a better life. I’d like it NOW, but I need it by the time my kid ages out of school. In the pie chart above, “lifespan issues” account for 1% of the total funding. Lifespan issues is the term for issues involving adults.

1%.

That has to change. And I’ll give that feedback, and more.

You may have other areas, or other specific projects you want to see advances in. Let the IACC know. Let them know NOW. Request for Public Comments – 2016 IACC Strategic Plan

Here are the questions you will see on the website.

Question 1: When Should I Be Concerned? (Diagnosis and Screening)

Please identify what you consider the most important priorities and gaps in research, services and policy for Question 1. Topics include: diagnosis and screening tools, early signs, symptoms, and biomarkers, identification of subgroups, disparities in diagnosis

Question 2: How can I understand what is happening? (Biology of ASD)

Please identify what you consider the most important priorities and gaps in research, services and policy for Question 2. Topics include: molecular biology and neuroscience, developmental biology, cognitive and behavioral biology, genetic syndromes related to ASD, sex differences, immune and metabolic aspects, and co-occurring conditions in ASD

Question 3: What Caused This to Happen and Can it be Prevented? (Risk Factors)

Please identify what you cosnider the most important priorities and gaps in research, services and policy for Question 3. Topics include: genetic and environmental risk factors, gene-environment interactions, and the potential role of epigentics and the microbiome

Question 4: How can I understand what is happeing? (Treatments and Interventions)

Please identify what you consider the most important priorities and gaps in research, services and policy for Question 4. Topics include: behavioral, medical/pharmacologic, educational, techonology-based, and complementary/integrative interventions.

Question 5. Where can I turn for services? (Services)

Please identify what you consider the most important priorities and gaps in research, services and policy for Question 5. Topics include: service access and utilization, service systems, education, family well-being, efficacious and cost-effective service delivery, health and safety issues affecting children, and community inclusion.

Question 6. What does the future hold, especially for adults? (Lifespan Issues).

Please identify what you consider the most important priorities and gaps in research, services and policy for Question 6. Topics include: health and quality of life across the lifespan, aging, transition, and adult services, including eduction, vocational training, employment, housing, financial planning and community integration.

Question 7. What other infrastructure and surveillance needs must be met? (Lifespan Issues)

Please identify what you consider the most important priorities and gaps in research, services and policy for Question 7. Topics include: research infrastructure needs, ASD surveillance research, research workforce development, dissemination of research information, and strengthening collaboration.

Go to the website. Request for Public Comments – 2016 IACC Strategic Plan. Give them feedback. Did I mention you should do it now and not wait?


By Matt Carey

Irish Examiner: US film studio threatens to sue autism-rights advocate

26 Jul

As I wrote about yesterday, Andrew Wakefield’s “Vaxxed” team, led by distributor Philipe Diaz of Cinema Libre Studio, threatened Fiona O’Leary (an autistic adult who is also the parent of autistic children). Well, it looks like the story has been picked up by the Irish Examiner.

The article starts:

A US film studio has threatened to sue an Irish autism-rights advocate if she continues to speak out against its controversial anti-vaccine documentary, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,.

West Cork-based mother, Fiona O’Leary, who wants to block the film’s release in Ireland and Britain, said she was outraged to receive a legal letter from California-based Cinema Libre Studios over the weekend.

Read the rest at US film studio threatens to sue autism-rights advocate


By Matt Carey

Cinema Libre Studios and Andrew Wakefield’s Vaxxed team threaten autistic autism mom

25 Jul

I am hesitant to write this. Not hesitant because I have any doubts that the actions of Cinema Libre Studios and Andrew Wakefield’s team are wrong. No, hesitant because it has all the hallmarks of people trolling for attention and free publicity. I do not like giving people like Andrew Wakefield or Cinema Libre Studio attention.

That said, I can’t let that stop me from speaking out. In this case Cinema Libre Studios, who are distributing the faux documentary “Vaxxed”, have sent a letter to Fiona O’Leary threatening legal action:

Vaxxed-24-Cinema-Libre-threat-to-sue-Fiona-Oleary

As you can read, the letter is not just on behalf of Cinema Libre, it is also on behalf of Andrew Wakefield, Polly Tommey and Del Bigtree (the main voices promoting “Vaxxed” and it’s misinformation).

Philipe Diaz (Cinema Libre Studios CEO) demands that Fiona not only “cease and desist from interfering with distribution of the film” (while giving no examples of actions of her interfering), but also demands that she “cease and desist…from making any statement to any person with regard to the film, Cinema Libre Studio and/or Autism Media Channel, its agents, representatives and/or employees, including Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Del Bigtree and Polly Tommey.”

Apparently Philipe Diaz is not above hypocrisy. Recall that the marketing campaign for Vaxxed relied heavily upon their ouster from the Tribeca Film Festival. They erroneously claimed that Tribeca “censored” Vaxxed and that Vaxxed is “the film they don’t want you to see”.

So, a film festival chooses which films to give laurels to (and which to not give laurels to) and this is “censorship” and bad. But someone criticizes the film and the film makers and this is grounds for legal action.

In case you weren’t aware, Fiona O’Leary is an autistic adult. She is the parent of 5, two of whom are autistic.

What is the most common theme you will hear from Andrew Wakefield? That’s right, “listen to the parents. The parents are right.”

Well, except for the majority of us who disagree with Wakefield. Then we parents are ignored or even threatened, right Andy?

When Vaxxed was rightfully removed from the Tribeca Film Festival and other festivals, Philipe Diaz erroneously called those actions “… a slap in the face to the First Amendment.” But when faced with criticism, Diaz demands silence.

Since you apparently don’t understand free speech, let’s explain this one to you, Mr. Diaz. Tribeca didn’t try to stop you showing your film everywhere. They just said that your film would not get shown at Tribeca and get Tribeca Laurels. Just as if you were responsible enough to have not picked up Vaxxed and not put Cinema Libre’s name on it, that wouldn’t be an infringement of free speech.

Telling someone they can’t even talk about you, your company or your clients…that’s a clear attempt to quash free speech.

Polly Tommey, so you won’t judge parents who murder their autistic children, but you will have your distributor send letters threatening legal action to parents who don’t agree with you?

There’s an example of someone who has their priorities mixed up.

Del Bigtree, song-and-dance man turned pitch-man for bad advocacy and science. You are basically branding “Be Brave” within your little community. Pat yourself on the back, Del, you are so brave. Threatening legal action against an autistic parent of autistic children. Don’t respond to criticism, use lawyers to try to quash it.

OK, Del, be brave. Start discovery now. Send Fiona the financial records for Vaxxed to show her how she could be harming your business. Send her all your group’s communications about Vaxxed and about Fiona so she can see that this isn’t just retaliation. That would be brave.

I don’t think you have the guts. You stand behind your studio and lawyers and send threats and demands. Hell, you didn’t even have the guts to apologize for telling people “now’s the time” for guns.

And to both of you–Bigtree and Tommey–at the end of your nonpology video you thank your followers for stopping an article in the Sunday Times. Really? So the whole “pot calling the kettle black” thing you have going here with faux censorship is a pattern?

You want “be brave”? How about standing up to an unreasonable threat? Because that’s exactly what Fiona did:

Team Wakefield, you could learn a lot from Fiona.


By Matt Carey

Del Bigtree, just admit your mistake and apologize.

20 Jul

I recently wrote about an incredibly irresponsible statement made by a Mr. Del Bigtree (Del Bigtree crosses the line: tells Vaxxed audience “Now’s the time” for guns.)

The problematic statement I focused upon was:

“Anyone who believes in the right to bear arms. To stand up against your government. I don’t know what you were saving that gun for then. I don’t know when you planned on using it if they were going to take control of your own body away.

It’s now. Now’s the time.”

emphasis added.

The statement is clearly bad. And I criticized Del Bigtree for it. Rightly so.

Mr. Bigtree has responded. Full version on his facebook page. As you will see he starts to do the right thing, then he fails. He admits the message is bad, but then tries to defend himself by stating that apparently he was trying to show solidarity for people fighting for gun rights (the statement above has nothing to do with that). He then claims that he was taken out of context and edited (no edits, and one can watch the full video and see the context changes nothing).

Just say it’s a wrong statement and apologize, Mr. Bigtree. It takes courage in being able to admit mistakes and apologize. I greatly appreciate that you distanced yourself from your irresponsible statement, but do it honestly and completely. When people hear you equivocating and making up excuses, it weakens your clarification. It makes it all about you, rather than correcting the message. It makes it easier for people to ignore your clarification.

Let’s address some of the accusation Mr. Bigtree uses to defend himself. Is the Q&A video I took or the statement above taken out of context? Is it edited? No. Mr. Bigtree is just trying to deflect criticism. Want the context? Watch the full video on his Facebook page. Please do–because this is just the worst of a number of really bad statements he made that night. By claiming it is “taken out of context” he is simply attempting to avoid staring his own mistakes head on. As I’ve already said, besides demonstrating a lack of moral fiber there, it weakens Mr. Bigtree’s attempt to distance himself from the message he gave.

And we need his response to be clear and concise.

Since Polly Tommey has difficulty understanding the point I’m making, let’s spell it out. What I did was saying, “I’m judging you Del Bigtree so that people know this isn’t acceptable behavior.”

Which, you have to admit, is far more effective than, “I will sit in the audience and laugh nervously and hope no one takes Mr. Bigtree seriously.” Or, “I will sit next to Mr. Bigtree and look as though I am not even paying attention.” Mr. Bigtree was criticized and he has tried, however poorly, to distance himself from his statement.

As the old saying goes, the first step in getting out of the hole you’ve dug is to stop digging. Del Bigtree just digs and digs. Having rewritten history to make him stand in solidarity with guns rights activists, he then goes on the attack: I am a “troll”.

Del, I’m an autism parent and you know it. I am a scientist and you know it. I have spent more time looking at the facts behind your film than you have. I’m either better at understanding them or more honest than you. I obtained the William Thompson documents from Bill Posey. I gave my analysis–and I gave the documents so that my analysis would be put in context. If context is so important to you now, why hasn’t your team ever released the documents you hold? People can check what I say. You manipulate the situation so that your message can not be challenged.

More to the point, Del, you are being criticized not trolled. This is an important discussion and given the damage you are doing, you should damned well act like an adult. Because right now you are not.

Polly Tommey shows a similar lack of moral fiber by refusing to face head on the criticism levied against her in a different post (Polly Tommey won’t judge parents who murder their disabled children. That’s part of the problem). She defends herself with the statement, “I had a clip of me that made it look like I endorsed murdering children with autism”. It’s a classic straw man argument.

Let’s break this down simply:

There is the act of murder.
There is encouraging the murder.
There is refusing to murderers that they are wrong.

Ms. Tommey, you are in the third category. Let me remind you of your own, unedited, words:

Parents are taking the lives of their children already because they will not leave them in the world as it is today. And I for one will never judge them for what they do.

Why is this statement wrong? Let’s put this in language Mr. Bigtree just used in his attempted defense. A famous poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

People are “coming” for our own. As you say, parents are murdering their autistic children. It isn’t a matter of stopping this before “they come for me”. They are already coming for us as these children (and adults) are our own.

If you will not speak out, your use of that poem is just empty rhetoric.


By Matt Carey

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