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Asperger’s, Autism no excuse for mass murderers

28 May 2014, 15:30 Harry Phillips

Abuja - The State of California was shattered last weekend by a killing spree that left 8 people dead. Elliot Rodger, the 22-year old son of a Hollywood director, first stabbed to death his three housemates before leaving his home to continue his murderous rampage.

Rodgers next targeted a sorority house, when he was denied entry he shot and killed three girls. He then drove around the streets shooting wildly at pedestrians before killing a customer in a deli. A police chase ensued before Rodger’s killed his final victim, himself. He was found in his crashed car with a single gunshot wound to the head.

In the aftermath of the disaster, many pointed to the killer being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at an early age. Asperger’s is no longer considered a valid diagnosis and instead is viewed as a mild form of autism. Sufferers are usually high-functioning and can be reasonably well integrated into society.

Regardless, academics and medical professionals are increasingly calling for the public to realise that these disorders are not the main reason behind these catastrophic acts.

Adam Lanza, the shooter who killed 28 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, is also believed to have had a similar disorder.

Interviewed by Health Day, Geraldine Dawson from advocacy group Autism Speaks, insisted that in the literature “there is no linking of this syndrome with violence in any way.” Dr. Daniel Son, an LA-based psychiatrist, went on to say that a child’s upbringing is much more strongly associated with such violence. Rodger’s parents divorced when he was young and his father travelled extensively for his work.

Autism sufferers have been known to be aggressive, but not in the same way as that displayed by Rodger and Lanza. Instead, their aggression manifests itself in the form of irritable behaviour or brief, angry outbursts. This is in stark contrast to the deep-set, intrinsic rage that characterised the aforementioned killers and their acts of terror.

Unfortunately, such acts cause people to search for a scapegoat. Video games have been a common target in the past, as have drugs. Medical practitioners and professionals are now concerned that pointing the finger at disorders like autism could create an unnecessary and inaccurate stigma making it harder for those living with the disease.

- Health24

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