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Should Zero Tolerance Apply to Those with Autism? GA Boy Faces Charges for Threatening Drawing.

Zero tolerance By Kim Stagliano

A teen with Asperger's named John Odgren was convicted earlier this month of first degree murder for stabbing a schoolmate to death in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Their local online news site ran an article, Parent Worry Odgren Conviction Could Cast Shadow on Asperger's. The comments there are frankly chilling, with a good deal of anger and bitterness toward the special education population. When Cho went on a shooting spree at Virginia Tech, the whispers of his perhaps having Asperger's made me so angry I wrote a Huffington Post piece to scream, Autism does not mean violent!

If your child (special needs or typical) was sitting in class with the boy in Georgia who drew a threatening picture (see story below), would you want him charged and removed from the class or would his diagnosis make you pause and help work toward teaching him smarter choices? I've had these conversations with friends who sons have autism and Asperger's; it's a source of real worry. We need to have these tough conversations, even though they are heart wrenching. How do we protect and teach our kids on the spectrum?

David Knowles, AOL News

(May 14) -- A 14-year-old autistic boy in Georgia faces possible felony charges of making terroristic threats after he drew a stick-figure version of himself firing a gun at his teacher.

After discovering the crudely rendered drawing that Shane Finn had made on his classwork, officials at Atlanta's Ridgeview Charter School suspended the eighth-grader and decided to pursue charges against him, Fox News in Atlanta reported...  Read the full article and watch the video on Fox Atlanta HERE.

All I Can Handle Small Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism. Her book, All I Can Handle; I'm No Mother Teresa is available for pre-order and will be published in November.



I believe everyone is looking at this in a wrong way, normal kids get charged and nothing happens to the disabled children, I am not races but I don't play favorites, I have an austic child and she understands right and wrong it is up to us to train our children rather they are disabled or not we mode our into knowing what is right and what is wrong, i know it's hard when it come to our austic children but they are smarter than what we think.

Jenny Webster

Asperger's or not... a drawing is not a threat. It is not against the law. The prosecutors here need to go back to law school.
This should be a non issue. period.

But as for zero tolerance and autism/aspergers --I think we call it a "case by case basis" for a reason.
This is not black and white.

I had to get my severely autistic child from school today b/c he was raging too much to ride the van. He was still raging at sign out --Now, I think it is pretty god dammed obvious that he is autistic --still I had to tell the principal and "resource officer" to stand down, b/c at the first note of my sons displeasure, they were out of their caves and hovering around me and my child.

People have absolutely no clue about autism.
I keep thinking of the clever little LOL's and memes out there --and it gets stuck in my head: "Autism Awareness: You're doing it WRONG!"
We've been doing it wrong.

michael framson

Thank you Theodora and Adriana for your enlightened and informative comments! Very well stated.

Autism Grandma

Re Post by Adriana:

"So if a child drew a picture of themselves shooting a teacher, in no particular order, I would ask "What psychopharmaceutical were they on?"; I'd ask if drawing a picture is the same as acting on an idea; and I would ask is if abuse and restraint were being performed in the school on disabled students.

Industry has known about drug induced violence for decades. In the 1980s, Eli Lilly ran drug trials for Prozac in which a high number of typical children with various diagnoses (anxiety about homework, etc.) and controls reported having uncharacteristic fantasies of committing violence while on Prozac for the first time."

Amen Sister!!! You nailed it.

Here are my thoughts which I wrote to Kim regarding this situation:

What really burns me about this is that "normal" kids make pictures like this, especially now being so influenced by violence on television. You are too young to remember "slam books" but these were passed around school when I was a kid....lots of mean things said about other kids including me, but also comments about "hating the teachers" and stick drawings from that game "hangman's noose" with arrows pointing to the hanging man and the teachers names. No one of course was really going to hang the teachers. The major issue however is the fact that NO autistic child should ever be charged with any crime according to their physical age, because their mental age and mental capacities are so much younger!!!!

I wish we could find out what kind of psyche meds these kids are on because NT kids on psyche meds are ending up in these school shootings, even some adults such as the Army psychiatrist who killed all those soldiers. Sherry Tenpenny and many other researchers have shown a proven link to the psyche meds, but even if this kid wasn't on any meds, these poor children are so frustrated and angry, so it's bound to reflect in their artwork. And who knows, maybe this boy had a legitimate reason why he was angry with his teacher.... humiliation, unfair punishments, restraints??? If the parents can't get the government to get a grip on the vaccine industry and finally get with the program on biomedical therapies, this kind of horror story is going to become commonplace.

Over 20 informative videos regarding Psychiatric drugs on this website, but this one applies to the situation with children:

Prescription for Violence


Can I nominate Adriana's comment for comment of the week. Someone who gets it and good at expressing it.


The reason the schools are overreacting to drawings and mere gestures is the degree to which schools participate in causing cognitive disorders in children-- namely mandating vaccines and pressuring for psychiatric drugging. The DOE has been captured by pharma, like every other regulatory agency in the US.

The main link to elevated rates of violence in asperger's that I can see is that 85% of those with the condition are on drugs with black box warnings for violence; and that children who'd already experienced brain injury from vaccines or other environmental causes might have particularly high rates of this particular adverse drug effect, since the drugs have an impact on the brain which overlaps with vaccine damage in many ways.

The rate of drugging in autism is six to eight times the rate of drugging of typical children, which is already grossly high. And typical children on the drugs (even those who never committed violence or had violent delusions) can become walking time bombs due to certain drug effects:

A frightening model for what's being done with autism-- PR-wise-- is the history of public conceptions of schizophrenia. Schizophrenics were apparently once known to be no more violent than the general population and the condition did not have an association with violence-- disturbing, maybe annoying, confused behavior, yes, but not violence in particular. Schizophrenia's association with violence began after the advent of drugging with psychopharmaceuticals which now all contain warnings for violence and suicide. With 93% of schizophrenics on the drugs in the US, schizophrenia is now "clinically associated" with violence.

This serves the drug companies four times over because A)schizophrenics represent a growing market for the drugs (the condition is on the rise like autism), B) because public conception of violence as an automatic aspect of schizophrenia supports mandated drugging of people diagnosed with the condition; C) the drugging of schizophrenics is used as the PR model for "curative" drugging of all other "mental/emotional disturbances" (despite the fact that the drugs only make schizophrenia worse after an initial "honeymoon" of reduced overt behavior); and D) the drugs themselves can induce hallucinations, delusions, social withdrawal, tics and stereotypies, so that patients who once had milder diagnoses can end UP with a dx of schizophrenia after a period on the drugs.

According to John Odgren's attorney, he was taking several prescription psychopharmaceuticals at the time of the stabbing, as was Skywalker Steuernagel, as was Cho Seung-Hui of Virginia Tech ( : "He also took a prescription medicine. Neither Mr. Aust nor Mr. Grewal knew what the medicine was for, but officials said prescription medications related to the treatment of psychological problems had been found among Mr. Cho’s effects." )

So if a child drew a picture of themselves shooting a teacher, in no particular order, I would ask "What psychopharmaceutical were they on?"; I'd ask if drawing a picture is the same as acting on an idea; and I would ask is if abuse and restraint were being performed in the school on disabled students.

Industry has known about drug induced violence for decades. In the 1980s, Eli Lilly ran drug trials for Prozac in which a high number of typical children with various diagnoses (anxiety about homework, etc.) and controls reported having uncharacteristic fantasies of committing violence while on Prozac for the first time. One boy had a recurring vision of taking a gun and committing mass murder in his school which disturbed him enormously. A fourteen year old girl with mild anxiety and no history of suicidality became permanently psychotic after two weeks on the drug and had to be institutionalized. She had tried to stab her teddy bear repeatedly, saying "Teddy and me want to die".

Twenty years later, after nearly as big a PR war as over vaccine risks, medical activists were finally able to get black box warnings on SSRIs and other psych drugs. But the drug industry keeps fighting back. After some early leaks in the press that the majority of school shooters (if not all: the only cases where this factor is unknown are those for which the files were sealed) were on psychoactive drugs, the door has virtually slammed shut in national news sources, which consistently make no inquiries into drug use among school shooters or other similar types of drug-induced crimes.

And the idea that only "Scientologists" oppose psychiatric drugs (when there have been active consumer and professional groups investigating the drugs for more than 50 years) was actually a PR campaign organized by Eli Lilly after the Joseph Wesbecker mass murder in 1990 (Wesbecker suffered from Prozac-induced psychosis). So that every time someone calls a mental health activist or anyone questioning drug safety a "Scientologist", they're actually just behaving as unpaid (or paid) marketers for Lilly's twenty year old press campaign.

And all of that is what led up to autism being associated with violence. Anyone who believes the association between violence and autism can be undone without addressing both how the autism epidemic and the epidemic of drug-induced brain injuries and violence began doesn't understand how important autism has become in the general cover-up. The drug industry needs the public to believe autism is instrinsically associated with violence as does every other officially guilty party involved in the epidemic. If the public hates and fears individuals with autism, interest in helping them and interest in uncovering the cause of autism will be reduced. If the public thinks that parents who kill their children with autism do so because "mental illness" is the natural, genetic forebear of autism (not because a high percentage of stressed parents of children with autism are also on drugs with black box warnings; or not because of the stress itself), then the public won't listen to parents. In their panic, the public will simply demand the prophylactic drugging of these "dangerous" individuals with autism-- which is the perfect outcome for industry.


The Zero Tolerance policy is simply a lazy-ass no-intelligence applied approach to discipline and, to use an expression popular with children, is an EPIC FAILURE.

And did anyone else notice that the paper on which he made the drawing included the typed words "death" and "nervous breakdown"? What sort of assignment was that?

Theodora Trudorn

I wrote a long article after the Odgren case concluded. I was very upset with the notion that aspergers was being paired with violence in the public eye. I am going to share with you a response article I wrote on the subject. Forgive the length, it is well worth the read!

"On April 30, 2010, the disability news site ran an article entitled “Advocates Worry About Public Associating Asperger’s with Violence”. Reading through the article, I found that due to the very public court case of John Odgren, who was convicted of stabbing a high school class mate in 2007, and a popular book speaking of a similar case called “House Rules”, Asperger’s Syndrome, which was just beginning to emerge from the shadows of being misunderstood, is being firmly pushed back into them.

In spite of other factors playing a role in the case of John Odgren, such as Bi-Polar disorder, ADHD, and Anxiety disorders, the wording used in the case “meltdown” fixed into the public’s mind that it was Asperger’s Syndrome which caused him to commit such a violent act. And so, Asperger’s and violence is being connected in the minds of the public, and this has the potential to set people on this side of the spectrum back many years, something none of us can afford.

Not entering the discussion is the fact that ANYONE, regardless of diagnoses, is capable of committing a violent act, given the right environment and circumstances. The truth is, we on the spectrum are not any more or less likely to commit such acts than a person who is not on the spectrum. Having the disorder does not make me any more or less likely commit such an act. The numbers are simply not there.

But due to the nature of being on the Spectrum, we are susceptible to meltdowns under certain circumstances. Those who are not familiar with autism would immediately assume that this proves our violent nature, it does not. Meltdowns first of all, do not allow us to be able to commit murder as we are not in our right minds. We in that state have lost the ability to be able to plan and execute a murder. To do that requires thought, which is not possible during this state.

In spite of these facts, due to years and years of representing autism in the most bleak of ways, using meltdowns and exploiting a very few incidents of violence committed by those on the spectrum in order to finally get the public’s attention is causing many who do not understand this end of the Spectrum to associate us with violent behavior, and this could have dire consequences for people with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Unfortunately, it is not a long jump from the former view of those with Asperger’s Syndrome to believe that we are capable of such acts. Plagued for years by those who regard us as sociopathic, with complete lack of emotion, and no ability to discern reality from fantasy, it seems only logical to the public to regard us as capable of such atrocities. Even though none of these things are true.
In the case of John Odgren, it was brought up that due to his obsessive interests in dark novels by Steven King and violent films, and his inability to decipher fantasy from reality due to Asperger’s, he was able to commit such a heinous murder. But as someone on the Spectrum, I can tell you that obsessive interest does not equal violence, murder, or separation from reality.

I love the world of Middle-Earth created by JRR Tolkien. I own 11 books, including all the myths and tales he created about this world. I read these books many times over. I however know that there is no such thing as Middle-Earth, that what I am reading is simply a very imaginative and well put together story and a make –believe world. I am not going to be carrying around a Claymore anytime soon!! I also like some violent films, for their complicated plot. This does not mean I am going to commit violent acts. This defense is ludicrous and can not at all be attached to the Syndrome!

The belief of those of us with ASDs being sociopathic, void of emotion goes back to a part of the syndrome that makes it nearly impossible for inner emotions to be displayed outwardly on their own. I could be incredibly happy, but my face would be a blank slate, and don’t even get started on body language.

Some of us, with great difficulty, were able to teach ourselves to act out the emotions we are feeling on the inside. If we are happy, we have to think about what that looks like and then we display it. Those who do not do this look utterly blank, giving others ideas that we aren’t feeling at all. Just because we don’t display our emotions as you do does not mean we don’t have them at all! And just because we are more likely to act on logic than off emotions does not mean we lack emotion.

The problem lies in a complete lack of knowledge of what Asperger’s Syndrome actually is amongst the general populace. All they see is that which is sensationalized by the media, which paints a very dark and inaccurate view of us. And this lack of knowledge coupled with this portrayal of violence being prevalent among us when it is not is what is so dangerous to us!

If people around you believe you are capable of such a level of violence at anytime, do you believe they would try to be your friend? How many teachers in main stream classrooms do you believe would want to teach someone who is thought to be a ticking bomb? How many employers would seek to hire someone they believe could attack them, other staff, or the customers?

This has the possibility of affecting every area of an aspies life negatively. It takes away the chances that we have worked so hard to earn, and just recently had finally begun to receive. No matter what programs are put in place, and no matter what skills are acquired, if the public views you as a threat, they are not going to allow you to integrate into their society.

So what is the solution? The community of those with AS need to stand up and start informing the public of what Asperger’s REALLY is, and how it affects those who have it. To show them those with AS, like myself, who are productive, intelligent citizens, no more likely to commit violence than you are! And for professionals to stand by the community and help us educate the public. If we do not do these things, then the damage done could set us back many years, and who knows how long it will take to get back to where we are now?

This misinformation has got to be countered and countered QUICKLY!! Advocates, parents, friends, and family have got to start coming forward and speak out against this nonsense! We must use all we have at our disposal, newspapers, local media outlets, talking to local schools, and reveal the reality of what Asperger’s Syndrome is.

Perhaps if we use this opportunity to educate others, something good can come from all of this."


Aspergers does not cause boys to draw such pictures. Boys just do these things. It's not terrorism and attempted murder it's boyhood. Adults are supposed to teach them not to do these things and make better choices. Our society has gone into panic mode and it's hurting people.


One comment said how Asperger's diagnosis is now "trendy" on the link above that Kim mentions. Unbelievable. Like having Aspergers is the "in" thing to be diagnosed with? Oh yeah, my kid loves not having a friend - but at least he has a trendy diagnosis. If children with Aspergers are not properly helped, this can be the result. I live not far from where this happened and I have parents who have expressed their fear because my son has problems with self control when he's upset in school - which happens daily. He's in public school and I'm trying like hell to get him out so he doesn't continue to feel isolated and can meet kids like him, super smart, super createive, but different. In my mind, he's the best kind of different and I tell him that everyday.


I strongly urge all in our community to get up to speed on safety issues. They are really, really important.

For every extreme case like the first one Kim highlights, there are many more like the second, which represents an "everyday" type of failure in appropriate support.

Recognizing risks and taking concrete action to mitigate them is the first step in creating a lifetime plan that everyone needs to do.

While awareness and training among first responders is certainly growing, it is not advisable to assume anyone intervening in an encounter with an individual on the spectrum has specialized training. The vast majority have none. If you need to dial 911, request that a "crisis intervention specialist or team" assist the responders. Instruct aides, teachers, school administrators, group home, etc to do the same. It will lower risk dramatically if a trained person is on site.

Advocates like Judge Kim Taylor and others are only just beginning to get the message across to administrators and professionals in the judicial system. This "stick figure" case appears to demonstrate that common sense is often pushed aside in favor of looking to limit liability by making the issue (and person) go away.

Unaware D.A.'s may also be motivated to pursue and upgrade charges because they are using erroneous standards or have agendas other than compassion. Judges may be clueless. The quality of "autism experts" may vary widely from location to location.

Proper management of aggression issues is a big deal for many in our community. A broader understanding and implementation of effective deescalation techniques is key to keep everyone safer.

Vicki Hill

When my son with Asperger was age 12, the special ed teacher gently admonished him on his artwork, as drawings of guns were not permitted at school. He replied, "Then why is it okay for the Pilgrim in the Thanksgiving picture on the wall to be carrying a gun?"

Bob Moffitt

When I was a child, a long time ago, a teacher would have seen the fourteen year old's stick-figure drawing as a "teachable moment" in which to "teach" the child right from wrong.

I don't know what word I would use to describe threatening to prosecute this 14 year for a felony for "making terroristic threats" .. but .. I know the word would not be "teaching".

Bad Apple

Hmm. I find this interesting because I know of another person who's personally experienced pretty much the exact same thing with her neurologically typical child, although the boy was slightly younger (maybe ten or eleven) when it occurred. Professional help was sought out, and the official diagnosis by the pshrink was that if it was an isolated incident (it was), there was little to be concerned about. I don't know what the prior history of this boy's behavior looks like, but on the surface it looks to me as though we have a situation where the child is perhaps receiving special (draconian) treatment because of his autism diagnosis.

I wonder if this sort of thing has become a fad in the schools in recent years. When the columbine shootings first occurred, I explained to my children that if they don't intend to harm another person they shouldn't speak (even jokingly) of doing so. Same goes with the pictures.

Caution Needed

Our very sweet natured son became a physical danger round about his 14th birthday, causing immense havoc. For months we lived in fear and trembling and all the furniture and the pictures on the walls had to be locked out of site: we certainly hid sharp kitchen knives.

One instance comes to mind, however, which particularly demonstrated his diminished sense. We were on a hospital visit when he threw his packed lunch out of an upstairs window - he then started to lean out alarmingly to try a retrieve it. If he had been at his normal cognitive level nothing so bizarre would have occured.

I don't think you can presume anything much about responsibility in these cases. Even where normal cognitive level is well above our son there could be no assumption that they were operating at it when such an incident occured and particularly not around puberty. This is not to place autistic people beyond the law but only to emphasise the need for caution when interpreting such acts.

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