Like many Americans, I was stunned by the tragic events in Connecticut. On Friday, Fox News had their medical expert, Dr. Marc Siegel, talking about the school shootings. He made a comment about the actions of the gunman that was shocking to me as a parent and as an autism advocate.
Dr. Siegel: "One thing's for sure, he's out of touch with reality at the time this occurs. If he had something called Asperger's, he may have had ongoing meltdowns which are associated with violent behavior. That's possible."
The next day I was watching FOX News and saw they had a forensics expert on who said that if this young man was autistic or had Asperger’s, it was in no way connected to his violent behavior. I went on the FOX News site and while I could find the comments by Dr. Siegel, I couldn’t find the other expert’s interview.
This young man had a number of mental health issues which could be connected to a psychotic breakdown. There was nothing to justify Dr. Siegel citing Asperger’s as motivation for mass murder. I would hope FOX News realizes how damaging remarks like this are for the hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. who have autism. Autism is a disorder that causes problems with communication skills and social interaction. There is nothing in the diagnosis about someone with autism being inherently violent. These children and their families struggle to get the help they need. Sadly, stories of autistic children being abused and bullied at school are now routinely reported in the news. Remarks linking murder to autism are as unacceptable and false as any associating criminal acts to certain ethnic or racial groups. I hope FOX News understands this.