18 thoughts on “Autism

  1. cthulhu

    Are there reports that the shooter was ASD? I haven’t heard it…

    Agree that this kind of mass murder is much more in line with the ravages of schizophrenia. Paranoia can definitely be a symptom of ASD, but it tends to be much more a distortion of reality; schizophrenic paranoia is totally off the wall.

  2. Thomas Matula

    Especially as psychologists speculate that some of most brilliant thinkers in history (Newton, Mozart, Telsa, Jefferson, Darwin, Einstein…) may have had Asperger Syndrome.

  3. Tom Billings

    I am an Aspie. I should note that none of the primary symptoms of any ASD I am aware of push an adult towards this sort of violence. Most are pushed into retreat from the world. In early childhood, there are sometimes kicking and biting problems, usually associated with either sensory symptoms or frustration. That says nothing about secondary and tertiary symptoms, however.

    The simple fact is that many on the Spectrum are targets from an early age. They do not have the social nimbleness that neurotypicals come to expect by the middle of elementary school, because their brains do not support the rapid transfer of social cues information, passed by the emotional cueing used for the majority of social communication, to the cerebral cortex, where decisions are made for actions. There are often sensory problems continuing into adult life, though violence initiating there damps out in most with age. That means that others in the population, often those with sociopathic tendencies themselves, find them easy targets for dominance abuse, and other harassment. From this, we get many secondary and tertiary symptoms for a majority on the Spectrum.

    This was made worse in the majority of schools where staff attitudes towards these children too often gave either implicit or explicit permission for harassment to “clue them in”. I know that upon complaining myself of violence in school I came to expect the mechanical reply of, “you’ve just got to learn how to get along”. This is only changing wherever *staff* is being re-educated, and if need be, retired, to eliminate “permission”.

    One thing is notable, that an ASD does *not* exclude other issues, like schizophrenia.

    Far more important, IMHO, is training in moral and ethical behavior, that takes place too seldom. I *do* know that in *my* JHS and HS response to harassment, I gained enough muscle, and willingness to use it, that I was surprised and dismayed when I found that people had come to fear me. I found it disgusting that I had a choice of being either feared or despised. That was because I had begun readings in morals and ethics early, …on my own.

    Most important here, IMHO, is that most humans still follow an aphorism from one of those horrid old ancient Greek DWMs:

    “Men seldom rise to the level of their aspirations, but instead default to the level of their training”.

    This is true of both those on the Spectrum, and neurotypicals. It is quite possible the shooter simply found no self-restraint when he looked for any reason not to do this, because today that sort of restraint is so often submerged under a tide of “If it feels right, do it!” There *is* a remedy for this particular result of no restraint in the schools. It was demonstrated by a country that had a horrid rash of school shootings, applied a remedy, and found these killings almost completely stopped. Israel armed its teachers.

    You can imagine the outcry here, …sorrowfully, because it would work here, too.v

  4. Scott Ganz

    I too am interested in the antidepressant angle, but I am at the same time mindful of the fact that it is often easy to blame the smoke for the fire.

    Nobody here is suggesting a rash, governmental response to the potential role of SSRI inhibitors, but I think we have at least reached the point where serious clinical study is warranted.

    Thomas, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I know many children on the Autism spectrum as well as their parents, and I know for a fact that they remain a very misunderstood group.

    I’d say you’re also right about Israel. As is often the case, the Israelis find the right answer while we find the answer that feels right.

    1. cthulhu

      The issues with SSRIs are that, if there’s any underlying bipolar tendency, the SSRIs can activate it, with a time to double of the underlying instability around a week or so. The situation can diverge out of control before others are aware anything is wrong until a dramatic event occurs; sometimes that dramatic event is irreversible (major harm to self and/or others).

      SSRIs can be lifesavers in many situations if properly prescribed and monitored (clinical depression has a high mortality rate), but close monitoring in the first few weeks of use is critical.

      That said, this case still looks more like paranoid schizophrenia to me, but it will likely be a while before we know.

      1. Scott Ganz

        You’re probably correct that schizophrenia is behind this. And of course I agree that SSRI inhibitors can be very helpful to a great many people (just like legally-owned weapons). But given that these individuals are also usually, if not always, on these drugs, we should look into how these conditions and medications interact as well as how they are prescribed and monitored.

        In general, given that the availability of the various means of killing hasn’t really changed over the last several decades, yet the instances of this sort of violence have increased, we should be thinking of what other factors are associated and rigorously pursue research to find an ironclad causal link. Is it the psychotropic medications? Media saturation coverage? These are the things that have changed over the years along with this trend, and somewhere at the nexus of them all may lie the true cause.

  5. Peterh

    The gross irrationality of the crime suggests severe mental illness. At the same time, the perp was able to plan (evidenced by acquisition of 4 guns and ammo), and the victims across 2 crime sites had a connection suggesting he had some awareness of reality. As for his motive, we’ll probably never know with any certainty unless he left behind some record.

    1. RS

      Schizophrenics can be quite meticulous in their planning, one might say compulsive.

      It’s not like they are completely removed from reality, it’s just that THEIR reality has things and connections in it that our REALITY doesn’t have.

  6. Dennis Wingo

    Nobody here is suggesting a rash, governmental response to the potential role of SSRI inhibitors, but I think we have at least reached the point where serious clinical study is warranted.

    We are far beyond that point. How many more times does this have to happen before we look at this problem!

    1. Scott Ganz

      We agree in principle. I was simply trying to temper my language a bit. I am no enemy of modern medicine, buti am deeply suspicious of this sort of tinkering with brain chemistry.

      Sadly, if people think the gun lobby is the best funded player in these debates, they’re kidding themselves. Big pharma is the 800-pound gorilla here.

  7. Tom Billings

    http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2012/12/daniel-zimmerman/clackamas-shooter-confronted-by-ccw-holder/

    So, this is why only 2 people died in such a mass of bodies fleeing the shooter, at Clackamas Town Center, in Oregon, where CCW is under shall issue rules. The Connecticut school could not even have had a CCW Holder visiting, IIRC.

    Note that the CCW Holder had a shot, and was seen by the gunman, but refused
    to fire, because there were fleeing people behind the shooter. Apparently, just
    seeing an armed citizen where he was not expecting any opposition was enough
    to turn the gunman from murdering people to suicide.

    Why?

    The same reason that so many of them committ suicide when cops show up.

    The conditions of easy prey have vanished for someone who thought
    himself a predator.

    Tom Billings

  8. Leland

    A tough read but this does get to the heart of the matter. A sample to lure you into reading it all:

    I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help.

    1. Larry J

      That is a chilling article. Who knows how many cases like that are in America alone much less the rest of the world. Mental illness is a real, serious medical and societal issue. The last 3 paragraphs are right to the point:

      No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarden classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

      I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

      God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

  9. Phil Fraering

    We are far beyond that point. How many more times does this have to happen before we look at this problem!

    They don’t want to try to fix the actual problem until they get themselves a lot more power.

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