Age of Autism Comment of the Week: 2/13
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Will "Autistic" Become Synonymous with "Dangerous?"

Questions Managing Editor's Note: I have no idea what to think of this story. Is William Page formally diagnosed as autistic? Does he have Asperger's Syndrome? Is every criminal who seems odd or remote going to be called "autistic." Autism has been in a lot of very disturbing stories this week. Two mothers killed their sons. The college shooter in Alabama has a whiff of Asperger's floating around her descriptions. Will a perception of danger or criminality harm our loved ones with autism? It's a far cry from crowing about the gifts, that's for sure. But I simply do not know what to make of it. Do you?

From Pittsburgh Live: Autism diagnosis may take death off table for Braddock man

An Allegheny County judge is scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against a Braddock man accused of abandoning his 23-month-old daughter to die in freezing temperatures.

A psychologist testified Friday that defendant William Page is autistic, a condition his lawyer argued precludes death as a possible punishment if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
"These are not the type of people to whom the death penalty should be applied," defense attorney Richard Narvin said. "Do we (execute) people who (start out) behind the rest of us? This is a developmental disorder."

The U.S. Supreme Court has barred imposing the death penalty in cases involving the mentally disabled and juveniles.

Experts said the courts have not ruled whether autism is included in that protected group.
"If the court rules against the defense, certainly they can still present (the autism) as a mitigating factor, should it reach the penalty phase. It's something the jury can weigh," said Duquesne University law professor Bruce Antkowiak, who is not connected to the case. "And if the court rules against (the defense), it's preserved for appeal."

Common Pleas Judge David R. Cashman listened to arguments and testimony during a pretrial hearing. Jury selection, postponed this week because of the snow, likely will not begin until Feb. 22.

Page, 26, rocked back and forth in his chair throughout the three-hour hearing. Prosecutors accused him of wrapping Nyia Miangel Page in a blue blanket and taking her to an abandoned playground in Rankin early Feb. 3, 2007.

Her frozen body, clad only in a sweater, was found less than a half-mile from her home the next day. Tiny footsteps in the snow beside her body suggested she got up and wandered around before she died, police said.

Police said Page told them he abandoned his daughter outside because Nyia ripped off her diaper and refused to go back to sleep.

Dr. Lawrence Sutton, a psychologist, testified that evidence of Page's autism stretches back to his school and hospital records, but said that Page is not mentally disabled. Sutton met with Page twice in the Allegheny County Jail to evaluate him.

"What struck me initially is his lack of affect. He had very little emotion," Sutton said. "He was very matter-of-fact."

Sutton said records showed Page didn't have friends, walked on his tiptoes, separated food on his plate, washed his hands 15 to 20 times a day, and ripped tags off his clothes, among other things.

Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli argued Page is not autistic, and that even if he were, he should not be excluded from the death penalty.

"Neither the United States Supreme Court nor our state Legislature has made that extension," Tranquilli said.



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As a member of the general public with no personal involvement with any autistic people, I can say one thing. Recently I have encountered three autistic adolescents in swimming pools several times each. Each has been accompanied by parents, caregivers and/or attendants or teachers at all times. Each is large and heavy and appears always on the verge of being out of control or is in fact very much out of control. Not only does is ruin the experience of everyone else in the pool, it is frightening. They appear dangerous. I want nothing to do with them and do not want them around. End of story.

Lottie J

i live in the town this happened. we don't really care if he has autism or not. and for the record, we don't believe the rest of the family is so innocent. he might be the one they threw to the wolves. at the very least they knew what was going on. women need to stop taking their children around strange men, whether they have autism or not.


Sounds as if he is not just autistic, but also perhaps bipolar and a sociopath...


Arguing whether or not this man gets the death penalty? Five bucks says the rich woman that just killed her son in a $3,000 a night hotel room won't be tried for a capital offense.

He is also accused of sexually assaulting her prior to putting her out in the snow. His pregnant wife lay sleeping and never heard a thing. He said the girl was kidnapped. A 6 yr old boy living at the house has claimed Page molested him a day earlier.

Thinking about how victimized our children are being raped on school buses, beaten and handcuffed in schools, and left as adults with no tools to fend for themselves. It's no wonder it seems someone like Page is capable of killing and molesting his daughter.

But then I wonder about these people too.

Not an MD

In this time of media censorship of articles regarding vaccination dangers, and vaccine damaged individuals, and promotion of anti-Wakefield propaganda, it seems obvious that we will be seeing many more articles about how dangerous children and young adults with autism are.

The goal of the pharmaceutical industry is quite evident in their new DSM autism classifications with the "let's lump them all together" strategy. The ultimate goal is surely to get it written into the code that all individuals under the Autism umbrella should be drugged with their dangerous SSRIs and SNRIs, with or without parental consent. Many children on Medicaid are already pushed onto these medications. Gynecomastia and diabetes be damned.

Considering that Senator Liz Krueger of NY is trying to pass a bill to bypass parental consent for Hep B and Gardasil shots for all children in NY (S4779/A6702), it is not difficult to imagine a future where no parental consent is required to drug our afflicted children in the public school systems. This could occur once the health clinics adjacent to or in the public schools, proposed in the Congressional Health Care Bill on page 1391, are built, if we let this happen.

We must be vigilant and protect our children. They are ours; they are not the property of the medical establishment. We cannot relinquish our parental rights over the medical treatment of our children. We already know that the conventional medical establishment does not care about our children with autism. Why on earth would we voluntarily give them carte blanche authority to control our children's medical treatment? We must be relentless and vigilant regarding the monitoring of bills proposed by our elected officials.

Amanda Blinn

I fear this is part of a huge scheme on the part of Big Pharma to discredit all of us by making our lives harder. Instead of my usual "oh--sorry--my son's autistic" I'll now have to say "oh--sorry--my son's autistic--but he's not dangerous."

I don't think autistic people are dangerous unless subjected to more than they can bear. That's one "typical" thing about them.

Maurine Meleck

What a tragic story no matter what. I kept wondering all through the reading of it--where is the mother? If he, in fact, has all those behaviors mentioned, how is it he has a baby in his charge to begin with? I also keep thinking if he's that bad that he rocks back and forth for three hours, still walks on his toes etc-he should have had some sort of help for himself and the child.


"Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli argued Page is not autistic, and that even if he were, he should not be excluded from the death penalty."
This statement scares the hell out of me. I don't know if Mr. Page is autistic or not but I will say that the last part of that statement is terrifying...People with autism, special needs etc SHOULD be executed? They are protected BY LAW. Would we be discussing this if the man had Down's Syndrome? Whether or not he should be put to death? I guess along with having a law degree, Tranquilli is also a medical doctor and "knower" of all things autistic. Nice that he can make a blanket statement about autism, it just goes to show me that people that don't deal with autism everyday think they know ALL there is to know about because they seen it on the local news and a friend of a friends child has "it".
I, by no means, am defending what this man did. What he did was wrong. A baby is dead.
BUT if we say this man deserves the death penality, then what do we make of the Sky Walker case?
My head hurts from all the bad news these past few weeks.

Teresa Conrick


What a great post! You always educate us on topics that are interesting and relevant. Thanks!

I do think there are more examples of people with an autism /aspergers diagnosis in the news and rarely is it good news. This is only going to get more so as the numbers increase. My worry is that autism will be not linked with suffering and sick but sick and scary.

As a society, it is sad and reflects the bullies out there but you will see more negative and condemning comments on a news story about an autistic allegedly harming someone than sad/supportive comments when a child with an autism diagnosis drowns in a lake or falls out of a window.

Society and the game-playing ranks tend to be out for blood more than hugs. Very sad.

Fed Up

Lepers R Us

Cynthia Cournoyer

It's not a stretch of imagination that the prison population probably includes a majority with a wide spectrum of developmental diagnoses. It's not so much that those with a diagnosis of autism will be branded as dangerous as much as those who are dangerous may have a diagnosis. Depending on how an "odd" child is raised, with help, with affection, or abused because the crazy behaviors are more than some can bear, outcomes can be horrifically diverse.

Jake Crosby

There is no question that autism can make someone more prone to exhibiting behaviors of poor judgment; leaving a 23-month old baby girl in the freezing cold to die isn't one of them.


I think I do understand it in a roundabout sort of way.

-Part of the problem is the drugs typically given to people with the diagnosis, all of which can induce violent behavior even in perfectly healthy, typical, formerly nonviolent children and adults.

-Another problem are the sheer numbers of children and young people with autism these days, so that this kind of incident would predictably rise.

-Another problem is that reports of this type of violence are sensational. If it was a matter of percentages, the number of violent incidents compared to the actual population with the disorder would probably be pretty negligible when compared to the number of violent incidents committed by "NT" individuals every day. Sensationalizing feeds into both a human weakness that likes to make bogeymen of the disabled (because we like simple, identifiable bogeymen and because we like to have an excuse not to care about the vulnerable in society), and into the corporate need to justify peddling more drugs for the disorder, even pushing for drugging mandates for "public safety".

- Part of the problem is that adults with drug-induced dementia (and, again, the usual black-box symptoms) are being mislabeled as HFA these days to pad the missing adult cohort and because the diagnosis is big money maker to bilk Medicaid for expensive, on-patent drugs.

-Part of it is that autism involves toxic brain injuries which sometimes result in agitation and increased self injury and sometimes violence, though I think this is probably only a small part of why autism is being characterized as a "violent" disorder.

-Another problem is the increasing number of incidents of abuse of children with autism in schools. Those committing the abuse are defending themselves and trying to earn public pity by characterizing students with autism as ferocious monsters.

-Part of it is that human beings are already the most violent species on earth. Any environmental toxin which puts just ONE MORE brain cell out of place doesn't help a bit.

-Part of the problem is the "anything goes" mythologizing of autism which opens the door to ridiculous "paliative" comparisons that flatter the neurodiverse or assuages parents who have hopes their children may yet accomplish something great. But this similtaneously opens the door to ridiculously unfounded negative equivocations. You can't have one without the other.

For this last bit, Michael Fitzpatrick, British industry-conflicted vaccine-defender, "autism expert" and frequently cited pal of American industry pundits, is quoted in the Wiki article on Hitler saying that Hitler had Asperger's.

A good response to this would be if the autism community stopped once and for all drafting famous dead historic figures into the ranks of "gifted autistics" and started demanding proof of an actuual diagnosis in cases where adults plead "autism" for an insanity defense (or to pad the missing adult cohort).

We need stricter standards instead of accepting the growing "autism mythology". For one, you can't legitimately diagnose the dead.

Michelangelo was bisexual, a workaholic and wasn't a good house keeper. Doesn't make him autistic and his correspondences with devoted lovers and friends comprises one of the largest historical collections on record from the period. Lots of emotional, sexual language-- not a lot of evidence of sensory issues. If having "mantrums" makes for autism, then Hugo Chavez and Bill Clinton are autistic too.

From the youngest age, Mozart had to travel with his economically strapped family back and forth across Europe in wagons, crapped in bushes and slept in hovels, then had to show up in courts across Europe and did nothing but impress. No child with Asperger's would have tolerated it or been tolerated in those circumstances. He was very close to his father, married a well known soprano and not a backward milk maid and wasn't kicked out of the Viennese court for bad behavior but quit because he wasn't paid enough.

Einstein had lovers, a sense of humor and devoted friends. He had stomach aches and a heart problem and maybe represented a susceptible type. But then so did Hitler, so did Mussolini (speech delay!). The speculations can go on and on and, like the others, Einstein is dead and can't defend himself.

My two cents on it.

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