The danger of labels.

We all watched the skin-crawling manifesto of 22 year old Elliot Rodger as he spewed his hatred and insecurity last week before going on a rampage and killing six people and wounding more than a dozen others.  This kid from a privileged life, a good looking kid..he sat there in his luxury BMW with the beautiful California sunset bronzing his skin and in a nut-shell, said “I don’t get what I want, screw you, you’re all gonna die”.

Was the guy mentally ill?  Spoiled and disillusioned?  I have my own opinions, but I’m not his family physician..I couldn’t say if he’s been diagnosed with anything, what treatment if any he’s received and every media outlet seems to have their own opinion, factual or not.  What was pointed out right away by the media however, was that Rodger had Asperger’s Syndrome..a form of high-functioning autism.  How they knew this, I’m not certain, either.  Parents?  Police?  The family lawyer who will most assuredly be earning his keep this year?  That’s what the reports say.

But on that first awful night of reporting, it wasn’t “Man on killing spree” or “Mass murderer on the loose in California”.  It was “Man with Asperger’s”.  There is NO link between Asperger’s and violence.  Not one proven study.  There’s plenty of speculation, lots of guessing and pointing of fingers, but no proven link.  After the God-awful Sandy Hook shootings, the first thing that was brought to light was that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s.  I thought to myself then, “They can’t report like that..this is going to be bad for the autism community.”  There is a HUGE difference, folks, between anti-social, psychotic, violent, egotistical behavior and autistic behavior.

It’s like saying that because the killers had brown hair, they did what they did.  There’s about as much fact to that statement as there is in saying that premeditated violence is linked to Asperger’s, or any form of autism at all.  As a matter of fact, people on the autism spectrum are more likely to be victims of violence, not the perpetrators of such.

I’ve been the parent of an autistic person for almost 17 years.  I’ve met so many autistic people on all levels of the spectrum.  Hundreds over the years.  I see them every day and interact with them.   From people more severely affected than my daughter Hallee, to incredibly high functioning people with only very minor social issues.  And guess what?  Not one serial killer.  Not one.  Loving, respectful, hardworking kids and adults who would be horrified by the thought of hurting somebody.

It’s irresponsible, dangerous reporting by those agencies that labeled Lanza and Rodger as having a form of autism first, rather than being killers with troubled pasts.  Rodger,  in a 147 page diatribe against the world and in numerous videos states over and over his plan to maim, destroy and kill…but yet we’re going to blame Asperger’s?

This wasn’t Asperger’s..this was a spoiled, twisted, self-entitled twerp who should have been stopped long before this horror happened.  His parents and therapists had seen many of his chilling videos and NOTHING WAS DONE.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda.  What’s done is done and can’t be taken back.  But the far-flung grasping of media outlets to even allude to the linking of premeditated violence and any form of autism has to end.

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Allyson Sorenson

About Allyson Sorenson

Bangor mom. BDN blogger. Volvo lover. Coffee drinker.