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The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide – A Susan Senator Interview

25 Mar

Blogger and autism mom Shannon Des Roches Rosa has an interview up with author and Autism-Hub blogger, Susan Senator.

Did you know that autism parents can choose an identity other than Avenging Warrior or Martyr? That it is reasonable to aim for happy lives for us and our children, despite our kids’ challenges? If this is news to you, then you need to read Susan Senator’s forthcoming The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide, A.S.A.P.

Des Roches Rosa shares a little bit with readers about her own autism mom experience reading Susan’s first book, Making Peace With Autism, and then explores the makings of the new book, The Autism Mom’s Survival Book.

On the question of how to decide which, of a variety topics, to include in her new book, Susan answers:

I looked through my own blog and at many other autism blogs to figure out what was on people’s minds. What were the basic parts of adult life and how were autism parents dealing with those parts? Did they feel successful?  If so, what could they pinpoint that had helped them? What became clear to me was that autism moms and dads did, in fact, find joy and satisfaction in their lives but that they had learned a new way to see their lives, to see success.

From the interview, it’s apparent that the book will touch on many topics in family life, and likely include perspective from dads. I’ll be interested to read more about “parents taking time for themselves”. It seems so important, yet so hard to really put into practice a lot of the time. Des Roches Rosa also points out her own interest in Susan’s honest discussion of residential placements, but there’s a lot more to be learned about Susan and her forthcoming book in the interview.

Please don’t take my short note as coverage of the topic, go read the interview and enjoy another round of apt blogging from Squidalicious.

Interview: Susan Senator and The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide

Older dads contribute to autism

31 Dec

Just a quick one as I haven’t read the whole paper yet but it’ll be of interest to readers of this blog so:

Advancing paternal age is associated with deficits in social and exploratory behaviors in the offspring: a mouse model.

BACKGROUND: Accumulating evidence from epidemiological research has demonstrated an association between advanced paternal age and risk for several psychiatric disorders including autism, schizophrenia and early-onset bipolar disorder. In order to establish causality, this study used an animal model to investigate the effects of advanced paternal age on behavioural deficits in the offspring.

METHODS: C57BL/6J offspring (n = 12 per group) were bred from fathers of two different ages, 2 months (young) and 10 months (old), and mothers aged 2 months (n = 6 breeding pairs per group). Social and exploratory behaviors were examined
in the offspring.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The offspring of older fathers were found to engage in significantly less social (p = 0.02) and exploratory (p = 0.02) behaviors than the offspring of younger fathers. There were no significant differences in measures of motor activity.

CONCLUSIONS: Given the well-controlled nature of this study, this provides the strongest evidence for deleterious effects of advancing paternal age on social and exploratory behavior. De-novo chromosomal changes and/or inherited epigenetic changes are the most plausible explanatory factors.

Bob Wright snubs autistic adults, the same group who live in poverty

23 Nov

The New York Post reported on Autism Speaks founder Bob Wright having a grumpy slap at adult autistic people who were protesting the fact that Autism Speaks still has no autistic representation on its Board.

Bob Wright had harsh words for protesters who tried to muck up the A-list benefit concert he put on at Carnegie Hall on behalf of autistic kids.

“The protesters are lucky,” said Wright. “They’re well off enough, healthy enough, to do it. I wish my grandson were able to join them.”

Wright runs Autism Speaks, which has raised over $200 million for research into a disorder that afflicts mainly children.

That didn’t stop a clutch of sign-carrying adult protesters from descending on Carnegie Hall Tuesday night, trying to disrupt a concert attended by Donald Trump, Howard Stern and Martha Stewart. Protesters complain that there’s not one autistic person on the board of the org, which produced an “offensive” ad suggesting that autism was a fate worse than death.

Wright, whose grandson cannot talk because of autism, said the disorder is exploding among young kids who can’t speak for themselves.

“This is serious business,” he said.

Note how the reporter states that the benefit was for autistic kids and further states that autism affects mainly children. This should give some insight into the silly one dimensional world that the Wrights, and by extension, Autism Speaks inhabit. Of course autism doesn’t affect mainly children. In fact, it would seem that the reverse is true.

I would like to suggest to Bobo that what is serious business is blindly misrepresenting autism either purposefully or (more likely) out of ignorance. I would also like to suggest that its about time Autism Speaks walked the walk and got aome autistic Board level members. I would further suggest that Bobo wakes up and smells the coffee. Young autistic kids definitely find it difficult to talk for themselves. Most kids of his grandsons age might find it difficult to form coherent opinions on high level concepts like the right to be who you are. In the meantime, having an autistic Board level member would be a step in the right direction. I’d happily accept Jake Crosby or Jon Mitchell. Two men who I vehemntly disagree with yet who’s opinion on autism I respect due to their diagnosis.

Maybe Bobo might take a look across the pond if his cheeks aren’t still smarting from the slapdown he got last time he came over here. Maybe the reality of life for autistic adults over here might cause him to get a bit of a reality check as to where his research priorities should lie. As he continues to steer Autism Speaks down the increasingly stupid looking anti-vaxx hypotheses,

A THIRD of Wales’ autism sufferers are unemployed and living in ‘poverty’ without benefits, a charity has said.

9,000 autistic adults are surviving (sort of) on handouts from friends and family. Not only are they subject to ignorance in job centres, they are not made aware of _how_ to make a claim:

She [Shirley Parsley] said: “It is scandalous, therefore, that thousands of people with this serious, lifelong and disabling condition are being consigned to poverty by a complex and counter-productive benefits system.”

This is the reality of life for autistic adults. Abandoned by a state system and also abandoned by Autism Speaks, an organisation focussed solely it seems on people of Bob Wright’s grandchilds age. Whilst Bobo complains about how autism is ‘exploding amongst kids who can’t talk for themselves’ (a factoid for which there’s no valid science), the adults he and his organisation turn their backs on are literally starving.

Murderers should not be pitied

30 Sep

The deaths of a man and his 11-year-old autistic son on Sunday were the result of a murder-suicide, Edmonton police said….”To say that this can’t happen for other families,” Phillips said as her eyes welled up with tears talking about the tragedy. “The dad just felt he couldn’t do it any longer and he just didn’t think he could get the help he needed.”

So? So what? We all struggle. Its damned hard, we all lack services, all autism parents all over the world and guess what? We don’t murder our kids.

Don’t pity this murderer, don’t enable pity for this murderer, don’t blame lack of services for excusing a murderer and try to remember not to kill your children today, okay?


Autism Minnesota Somali community see through anti-vaccine brigade

29 May

In November last year, David Kirby wrote a Huffington Post entry about the Minnesota Somali autism situation saying:

In fact, one of the most obvious “environmental” differences between Minnesota and Somalia is mass vaccination…

And of course, the Age of Autism site, made many proclamations about the Somali community and vaccines:

Somali parents, I offer this advice as the father of a son with autism. Like many of you, I watched my normal son descend into autism after receiving his vaccines. I genuinely believe too many vaccines given too soon in our children’s lives is the primary trigger for the autism epidemic

However it seems that maybe the Minnesotan Somali autism population have done their own reading and come to their own conclusions.

The Somali American Autism Foundation is a new-ish Foundation. The domain name was created in Feb 2009 for example. Pretty much in the middle of the period that the Age of Autism crew were waxing lyrical about standing shoulder to shoulder with their Somalian friends in the battle against vaccines.

One of the founders of the SAAF, Idil Abdull, has this to say:

When my son Abdullahi was first diagnosed with autism at age three, I felt angry, sad and confused because I have never heard of the word Autism before. I had no idea what to do next and how to help my son. A mother’s job is to help her child with whatever life throws at them, but when the doctor told me there is no known cause and cure for autism, I felt helpless and hopeless.

I remember crying for what seemed forever. After I realized to be thankful that god blessed me with a beautiful son, I saw the hope in him and the help he needed from his mother. I rolled up my sleeves and went to work by reading every autism book I could find and going online for any help to give my son the hope he and countless others need and deserve. I would not change a thing about my son Abdullahi. He is a happy and loving child and I thank god everyday for him. There is HELP and There is HOPE not just for my son but for all of our children.

Now thats a pretty fantastic, positive and…yep, neurodiverse, type of message don’t you think?

But there’s more.

The SAAF website carries a detailed explanation of what a vaccine is and how they were first started. It takes away a lot of the negative mystery and states:

There is a strong minority of people who believe that the increasing rates of autism and learning disabilities in the U.S. are related to its mandatory immunization program. There is still no credible evidence of a correlation between autism and vaccinations. This position is supported by the World Health Organization, the CDC, The AMA, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

They then recommend that a parent talk to their physician. What simple, credible and good advice.

I’d like to welcome The SAAF to the growing community of autism organisations that are clearly fed up with a constant preoccupation with a disproven hypothesis. Maybe it would be a good idea for SAAF and the newly created Autism Science Foundation to talk together.

Lessons from the Vaccine–Autism Wars

27 May

A very interesting (and long) read from Public Library of Science (PLoS) entitiled A Broken Trust: Lessons from the Vaccine–Autism Wars was published today. It takes apart the history of the vaccine/autism wars and tries to involve scientists on why they think – or what their particular discipline leads them to conclude – the autism/vaccine wars have become so protracted and bitter.

I’ve mentioned before – its always a bit of a strange, unreal sensation to see events in which you’ve been involved with – even as remotely as blogging about them – talked about as history. They say history is always written by the winning side. I hope articles like this don’t lead scientists to think that the war is over, the history is being written and they can go back to academia with no more comment necessary.

The PLoS article ends thusly:

Personal stories resonate most with those who see trust in experts as a risk in itself—a possibility whenever people must grapple with science-based decisions that affect them, whether they’re asked to make sacrifices to help curb global warming or vaccinate their kids for public health. Researchers might consider taking a page out of the hero’s handbook by embracing the power of stories—that is, adding a bit of drama—to show that even though scientists can’t say just what causes autism or how to prevent it, the evidence tells us not to blame vaccines. As news of epidemics spreads along with newly unfettered infectious diseases, those clinging to doubt about vaccines may come to realize that several potentially deadly diseases are just a plane ride, or playground, away—and that vaccines really do save lives.

I don’t disagree with any of that but I’ll now directly quote comment No.2 left after the PLoS article. A comment posted by a user called ‘bensmyson’ (and already I’m sure the battle hardened amongst us have recognised the type of person with a username like that).

Not that anything I say matters, but vaccines are not safe. My son at 12 months received ProQuad, a MMRV, later that month Merck pulled it from the market. My normally developed child with superior language skills developed encephalitis and as a result lost all those skills and developmental milestones and regressed into what has been diagnosed as autism. I know they aren’t safe because my son suffered a brain injury as a result. According to VAERS, 8 people have died because of ProQuad, Merck filed two of those reports themselves.

I’m not a scientist, just a parent of a child that got lost immediately after his 12 month vaccines.

With all due respect to the PLoS article which I really did enjoy reading and made very good points, I think the main point they either missed or that they are too polite to state out loud is that quite a lot of people _really don’t want_ to think it wasn’t vaccines.

The quoted comment demonstrates a lot of the hallmarks of what I think of as a sub-genre of anti-vaccine ideology – the autism antivaxer.

1) The immediate portrayal of themselves (not their child you’ll note) in the role of victim (‘Not that anything I say matters…’)
2) A coincidental regression into autism following vaccination with overtones of fault on the behalf of a vaccine maker/doctor/scientist
3) A statement that they _know_ (not think, not believe, not ‘are sure’) vaccines aren’t safe because their child _was_ damaged ) _as a result_ (‘I know they aren’t safe because…’) of having one. Note the lack of any sort of logic or requirement for evidence.
5) A reliance on a ‘sciency’ sounding method of backup which in reality offers no such thing (‘According to VAERS…’)
6) An emotive sign off with an appeal to false knowledge (‘I’m not a scientist, just a parent…’)

These are people who have spent a long time online and offline sharing time with other people of a like mind. They have stopped thinking critically and have started thinking communally. Stepping away from the voice of the community would be dangerous for both their continuing friendships and also for their own state of mind, therefore it is easier all round to simply lock out everything that presents any sort of difficulty or challenge to their belief system. If PLoS or anyone else thinks that these people (those clinging to doubt about vaccines) ‘may come to realize that several potentially deadly diseases are just a plane ride, or playground, away—and that vaccines really do save lives.’ then I’m afraid they are deluding themselves. I’ve had conversations with people just like ‘bensmyson’. Here’s a choice quote from one such debate from Twitter:

kids without #vaccinations more likely to get whooping cough. isn’t that better than getting shot up with #antifreeze ?

Doesn’t that make your head hurt just reading it? This person is happy to announce that:

1) There is anti-freeze in vaccines, which there most definitely is not.
2) Its better to get whooping cough than a DTP jab. I wonder if the poor parents of Dana McCaffery feel that way?
3) The reason its better to get whooping cough (a potentially fatal illness) is that the vaccine has antifreeze in it (which it doesn’t).

The level of arrogance, conspiracy mongering, self-pity and anger amongst too many of these people is so very much more than the PLoS article accounts for. Good as the article is, I fear its far too early to begin the dissection of this stage of the recent past.

Edited for typos via email by Sully. Ta 😉

Jennifer Lopez adds vocal support

25 Apr

In an interview with ‘Good Morning America‘ Jennifer Lopez stood up for vaccinations by talking about a new campaign and website. The website is very accomplished and features Ms Lopez talking about how to protect your baby from Whooping Cough.

The interview itself contained the following on vaccines:

She’s also raising awareness about pertussis, the potentially fatal disease better known as whooping cough.

Visit to find out more about the vaccine.

Pertussis cases were virtually nonexistent in the United States after a vaccine was developed. Reported cases of whooping cough hit a low of about 1,000 in 1976. That number has been on the rise over the past 30 years, and in 2005, 25,000 cases were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a CDC study of the disease, Hispanic infants were particularly hard hit by the disease, though there is no clear reason why.

Immunization from the whooping cough vaccine wears off over time, usually between five and 10 years, so adults can spread the highly contagious disease to infants.

Lopez said babies most often contract the disease from their parents, and it can go undetected. “We’ll be OK, but it could be fatal to the babies,” she said.

The Sounds of Pertussis campaign educates adults about getting a Tdap booster shot, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

Lopez joins other responsible parents and celebs Jennifer Garner andAmanda Peet in making sure everyone knows that these vaccines are safe and available.

Michael Fitzpatrick misrepresented by Age of Autism

15 Apr

Hardly news I suppose but on AoA yesterday Michael Fitzpatrick was misrepresented by someone called Teri Arranga.

Starting off by referring to Mike as a ‘backwoods doctor’ – something of an anti-British slur since Mike is a GP in London (I guess London is a backwoods now to AoA?) she soon went on to pretty much rant incoherently, built a few strawmen and finished off by quoting some other guy also ranting incoherently.

According to Arranga

…backwoods doctor Michael Fitzpatrick blasted Polly Tommey, founder of The Autism Trust, for the current campaign that seeks better supports and services for autistic individuals in the UK…

Hardly. Here’s what Mike led with:

In response to her ‘Dear Gordon’ billboard advertising campaign (see below), you have invited the British autism campaigner Polly Tommey to discuss her campaign with you on Wednesday 15 April. However, in the interests of children and families affected by autism, I hope that you will refuse support for her key activities – upholding discredited links between vaccines and autism and recommending unproven and untested fringe treatments.

Blasting? Good grief, where do these fragrant middle class ladies live? Its a statement of fact followed by a wish. None of it isn’t factual and its pretty much polite and to the point.

The fact is that the Autism File _is_ Tommey’s key activity. The other fact is that it is distinctly pro-extreme biomed and upholds links between key anti-vaccine researchers such as Andrew Wakefield. But Arranga sees some more blasting:

Fitzpatrick also blasted The Autism File magazine for including information about vitamins (oh, mercy me) and advertisements from “suppliers of biomedical products” (though none of them as lofty as Merck/Vioxx and Eli Lilly like Fitzpatrick’s cronies’ medical journals), among other things.

What escapes Arranga’s attention is that vitamins used as part of a quack ‘treatment’ for autism is both physically damaging (back in 2006 Mary Megson reported on the case of an autistic boy who was hospitalised by a DAN! doctor following an overdose of vitamins) and damaging to the future of autism research. Oh, mercy me indeed.

But no, Mike mentions the vitamins in passing. Arranga somehow neglected to mention the 15 page feature on Andrew Wakefield in the current issue of Autism File. It is peppered with ads for treatments from various biomeddlers.

Then we get to the ‘undermining’.

Fitzpatrick is trying to undermine the efforts of Polly and The Autism Trust to improve quality of life for autistic individuals and their families, many in woeful situations of deprivation and stress….Polly Tommey will be having meetings with members of the Prime Minister’s team in advance of the promised meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown himself. For Fitzpatrick to try to undermine this and to try to deny a charity the ability to do that on behalf of suffering individuals in a country deluged by autism is outrageous.

You can almost see the smoke coming out of Arranga’s ears. And for what? This is nothing but a strawman. Nowhere I can see is Mike saying Tommey shouldn’t go for her meeting with Gordon Brown. And nowhere I can see is Mike saying Tommey shouldn’t do the great things described. What he _is_ saying is that Brown should be very careful about the sort of things coming out of Tommey’s mouth about vaccines, treatments and cures. She is, on these issues, a know-nothing and I think it is absolutely correct for Mike to speak up for the autistic people and parents of autistic people who have no interest in the poor science peddled by Tommey’s publication.

Then after the strawman comes the conspiracy theory, this one bizarrely roping in Brian Deer for some totally mystifying reason:

If it threatens the Deer/Fitzpatrick camp when we want to get better services and supports for 1 child in 60 in the UK and their families, then we have touched a nerve. For example, how can trying to get decent housing and family supports threaten Deer and Fitzpatrick’s current repertoire of witch hunting? Why are they so scared that they would resort to petty tactics?

I mean, huh??? Can’t these people read? And whats this 1 in 60 number? The prevalence for autism in the UK is about 1 in 100. Weird.

Also frothing over in indignation is Oliver Jones, Chair of Autism Trust. He is ‘shocked’ _and_ ‘astounded’ (less caffeine feller):

How dare you act in such an ill informed manner about a campaign that I and many others have invested significant time and effort in – when you evidently have no idea about what we are actually focused upon

Oliver – it seems Mike has a very clear idea. Once again, at no point did Mike say that Tommey shouldn’t meet with Brown or discuss her campaign. He is merely pointing out that Tommey is someone with some decidedly odd ideas about autism treatment and that Brown should show these ideas – if they happen to be raised – the door. He also quite rightly points out that if Tommey is really serious about getting better services and education she should join NAS and support their already existing campaigns in these areas. I’m sorry Autism Trust but the phrase ‘showboating’ does spring inexorably to mind.

Their closing paragraph is genuinely amusing:

Secondly, in respect of Michael Fitzpatrick’s ill-informed letter, we would recommend that we should not seek to highlight this man in the eyes of the UK government, but, instead, we should recommend that people write to him directly. People like Dr Fitzpatrick – like Brian Deer – should simply not be allowed to undermine genuine initiatives such as Polly’s – we cannot allow this censorship.

Yeah, damn that censorship Mike (and Brian Deer again???) -how could you dare to voice your concerns and opinion in a public way? Why couldn’t you just shut up?? Oh wait…isn’t that….censorship…d’uh.

AoA have suggested 2 letter writing campaigns. The first is to deluge Mike’s inbox with emails from AoA readers. The second is to flood the PM with emails supporting Tommey.

Thats fine. But Tommey and AoA should know that a second email campaign is now under way. I’ll ask my readers here to contact Number 10 by writing an email to Gordon Brown c/o Katie Martin (Press Office in Downing Street) on email or to Michael Ellam (Director of Communications in Downing Street) on email

I’ll be writing as the parent of a severely autistic child to express my support of Mike’s points regarding Tommey’s beliefs. I hope you will too. And note that AT is an international organisation – US citizens are valid contributors also.

McCarthygeddon begins

1 Apr

Only yesterday Orac warned people of the upcoming wave of stupid about to break over us all. His only mistake in my view was confining it to the US.

Well today the wave breaks. In an interview with Time described by that publication as:

McCarthy and TIME science editor Jeffrey Kluger sparred over the causes of autism and the safety of vaccines…

Ihave to say that if this is sparring then I hope Mr Kluger decided against boxing as a sporting hobby. He all but rolls over and allows McCarthy to tickle his belly.

Theres a bellyfull of the usual facepalm inducing idiocy of course but also chilling warning about how far these antivaxxers are prepared to go:

I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f—ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s s—. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.

Thats right, Jenny is quite prepared to go for a Polio epidemic in the name of her unscientific cause. And who’s fault will it be? Why the people who make the vaccine that helps prevent Polio of course! And why? Because Google Phd McCarthy – the woman who used to think she was an Indigo and her son a Crystal Child in communication with an alien – believes that vaccines cause autism. Of course the lack of any reputable scientific evidence tends to indicate she might just be in error but y’know why let a little thing like accuracy get in the way of a body count?

Time out Jenny, you’re getting scarier and scarier.

Autism and Murder

18 Mar

Two stories recently made a splash in the autism community. In the first:

An 18-year-old man described as “severely autistic” is in custody on suspicion he murdered a 59-year-old Coos County woman…

and in the second:

A judge has ruled that Asperger’s syndrome cannot be used by the defense in the case of a man accused or murdering a woman after he lured her to his home in Savage in October 2007.

Three blogs carried this story, each revealing their owners particular viewpoints. In his small circulation blog, Harold Doherty said:

In recent days and weeks two severely autistic young men have been implicated in homicides. In one case, a young man with autism has been implicated in the death of his mother who publicly professed her deep love for her son and the joy that he brought to her….Neurodiversity ideologues are unlikely to change. Their views are entrenched and tied to their own public careers as professional “autistics” or “enlightened” autism parents. The truth is that they discourage society from addressing the harsher realities of autism by effective therapy, treatment or cure. They help keep members of the public from understanding the full nature of autism, particularly as it affects the most severely autistic. Theirs is a movement whose aim is to keep everyone from facing autism reality. Theirs is a movement which wants society to keep our heads in the sand and ignore autism reality.

And on their advert covered anti vaccination site, Age of Autism said:

How many stories of violent deaths allegedly at the hands of autistic teen males will we have to read before the world either A) embraces treatment for autism as a medical ailment or B) paints all autistic males as dangerous killers and locks them away a la 1955?

So you can see that Harold uses these deaths to say how silly neurodiversity is and AoA use them to say that treatment for autism is the only valid option before society is overrun with autistic killers.

Both viewpoints are pretty ridiculous. Harold builds up the idea that members of neurodiversity don’t like to talk about the bad things autism can bring. This is patently untrue as just a fairly random peruse around Autism Hub blogs would reveal. In fact, what neurodiversity bloggers tend to talk about are the good things and the bad. A quick example from Niksmom for example. The thing is that for parents on the Autism Hub who talk openly about their kids, they easily mix the good and the bad. Amanda Baggs, an autistic person, talks about some of the bad things that can happen to autistic people often. What Harold finds offensive is that we talk about the good things *at all* . I have no idea why.

And of course, on AoA they are desperate to link everything together with treatment. To make sure that *every aspect* of autism is seen as medical and to encourage biomedical treatment of those issues. A simple look at the advert-riddled blog that they have become is evidence of that. NB – I’m not knocking ads on websites at all but six image and text ads and five ‘sponsors’ is a little bit too much.

But then the third blog I’m talking about is Lisa Jo Rudy’s where she asks carefully and thoughtfully about how we can make sure that autism is _accurately_ reported on and presented to the world?

How can we battle the anxiety felt around the “autism spectrum” diagnosis? How can we present the face of autism accurately, without raising the specter of violence? What are your thoughts on this thorny issue?

Note the lack of appeal to fear (cure ’em or they’ll kill us!!) or appeal to fallacy (the evil ND’s are brainwashing the world!!) that AoA and Harold feel compelled to perpetuate. In fact the only quibble I’d have with Lisa Jo’s piece is the emphasis she places solely on children. However as someone writing from the POV of a parent maybe this is understandable.

In my opinion, the answer to Lisa Jo’s question – how do we get accurate information out about autism? – can be answered in some part by science.

I found it quite difficult to get ahold of papers about autism and death attributed to an autistic person. But the few that I did get access to point to quite a different direction than the overly bleak and purposefully twisted futures foreseen by Harold Doherty and AoA.

In this study, the authors looked at rates of criminality amongst those with a Pervasive Developmental Disability (subgrouped to ‘childhood autism’, atypical autism and AS) . In the childhood autism group (which corresponds to severe/kanners/etc) 0.9% had a conviction as adults. In the control group, the rate was 18.9%. For atypical autism the conviction rate was 8.1%. The control group was 14.7%. For AS, the rate was 18.4% and the control group was 19.6%.

So, in each subgroup of PDD the authors looked at, the rate of criminal conviction was lower than controls. For the type of autism that Doherty and AoA are talking about less than 1% had a conviction compared to 18.9%. I think its clear that if this paper is accurate then we’re hardly going to be overrun with autistic killers.

In the other paper I couldnt get ahold of to read in its entirety, the authors looked at wether moral judgement was present in autism. Its worth noting the assumption that ‘theory of mind’ is somewhat accurate by these authors but still,:

Cry baby scenarios, in which the distress of the victim is “unreasonable” or “unjustified,” do not elicit moral condemnation from normally developing preschoolers or from children with autism. Judgments of moral transgressions in which the victim displays distress are therefore not likely the result of a simple automatic reaction to distress and more likely involve moral reasoning…


…basic moral judgment [is] substantially intact in children with autism who are severely impaired in ‘theory of mind’.

Or in other words, severely autistic people demonstrably know the difference between right and wrong.

The third paper that I did get ahold of in its entirety was a very disturbing case study about an autistic 10 year old girl who killed her baby sister. After reading it and the heap of physical and mental abuses placed upon the autistic child, including the parents letting neighbours beat her and the parents withdrawing her seizure medications I felt this case was too extreme to be valid.

The feeling I get is that these tragic cases of severely autistic people seriously harming others are rarer than rare. Certainly the observation that severely autistic people clearly are aware of right and wrong and that the follow up observation that severely autistic (and atypically autistic) people had an extremely low conviction rate compared to controls shows that I think its very wrong to paint autistic people as requiring a cure before they kill us all or are forcibly locked away. It is also wrong to suggest that the ability to find happiness in a life with autism is somehow not realistic because autistic people kill others. Its a real shame that Doherty and AoA – all parents of autistic people – have so little respect for the sort of people their children may turn out to be.