I am devastated this morning over the news that the man who fatally stabbed 2 heroic people on the Portland Max train was diagnosed with autism. If he doesn't have autism, it is a horrible "hail Mary" for a self-defense plea. If he does have autism, it is a horrible statement about the current state of our support systems of children, teens, and adults in our world. Media coverage is fuzzy and my understanding is that just one out of several psychologists made this diagnosis. It is unclear, for example, whether he had the required early indicators of autism.
If he does indeed have autism, this means this person is a victim too. I want to be angry at the right-wing neo-nazi groups that he affiliated with. I want to be mad at him and want him tarred and feathered. But I can't. I have to sit in my grief that we have a long way to go in our current education, medical, and mental health supports for children. We have failed. And we continue to fail our children by not assessing and treating social-emotional needs in children teens or adults in our prison systems.
We have to get better at this. Autism or not, we must start identifying children early with regulation and social-emotional issues. Then we must attune to them to guide them with our own regulation rather than punishing, shaming, or secluding them as we often do with children exhibiting challenging behavior in our education systems. We need to work collaboratively and have the adequate funding to both assess and support from early childhood through adulthood, including our prison systems - or we are going to have more people dying - even people we consider heroes.
Rather than demonizing people who commit heinous crimes, perhaps we look inward to see that we, our votes, our actions are a part of the problem if we are not a part of ensuring parents and early educators are supported properly to stop this tragedy down the line.
People with autism are NO more likely to commit these crimes than the general public. Autism does not cause someone to be violent - the lack of adequate support for social-emotional needs plus trauma does.
With peace and appreciation for each of you in our autism community.
Article: Is Autism Linked to Criminality?
Is Autism Linked to Criminality?
I will keep posting articles here as I continue to think and talk about this topic.