Update: Reports say Joe Scarborough has apologized (HERE).
By Kim Stagliano
Joe Scarborough, the host of the MSNBC program "Morning Joe," put forth the brazen suggestion that James Holmes, the shooter (OK, "alleged" shooter) in the Aurora, Colorado, midnight showing of the The Dark night last week is on the autism scale.
Joe. Joe. Joe.
First I have to ask: Autism scale? Even a first year special ed student would say "autism spectrum." Why didn't you just blurt out "Asperger's" - I think you know that term pretty well having a son with the same diagnosis.
Scarborough's words were: “you have these people that are somewhere, I believe, on the autism scale. I don’t know if that’s the case here, but it happens more often than not.”
It happens more often than not? Really? Wrong planet, Joe.
In 2007, when Seung-Hui Cho shot up the bucolic campus of Virginia Tech, killing 32 and wounding 25, reports of his odd behavior were chalked up by some as "autism." I went on a verbal tear against this assumption that lumps people with autism in with violent mass murderers. The post was called You Can Call Me Angry, Just Don't Call Him Autistic" in which I wrote, If the media really begins to call this murderous, evil man autistic, or if the general public simply assumes if they heard the word once it must be true, I will blow my stack. It will insult every person on the planet with autism.
There's a petition on change.org where you can share your dismay at Scarborough's suggestion. I'm going to hope Joe apologizes or at least clarifies what on earth he meant by the time this post goes live.
I'm pleased to report that there are organizations like Dennis Debbaudt's Autism Risk Management who are working to educate law enforcement, legal and yes, media personnel on what autism looks like in varying degrees. From the Debbaudt Legacy Productions Page: "In 2008, the General Assembly provided funding to the TEACCH Autism Program (TEACCH) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Medical School to develop this "video to raise awareness of autism for those involved in government and public service, including information on recognizing the signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, and contacts for further information on appropriate responses to individuals with autism." See NC Session Law 2008-83. TEACCH was assisted by the UNC School of Government and the Autism Society of North Carolina in the development of the video. The video is reproduced here with permission of TEACCH." We invite you to watch and share THIS VIDEO from UNC which:
- illustrates verbal and non verbal communications difficulties experienced by persons with autism who may become victims, witnesses or offenders in the criminal justice system; offers advice and information for criminal justice professionals they may interact with
- features persons with autism, criminal justice professionals and autism professionals through vignette and interviews
- enhances communications and facilitate understanding of autism in the criminal justice system
Morning Joe is "brewed" by Starbucks (contact them here.). I think I'll have a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee today.... It's the least I can do to stand in support of men, women, boys and girls on the autism spectrum, like the three I tuck into bed each night.
Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism. Her novel, House of Cards; A Kat Cavicchio romantic suspense is available from Amazon in all e-formats now. Her memoir, All I Can Handle I'm No Mother Teresa is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book.