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Age of Autism on Elliott Rodger & Media Reporting

Elliott rodgerBy Anne Dachel

When I first heard of the shooting at UC Santa Barbara on Friday, May 23, I could only hope that it wouldn't be another Adam Lanza, the young man responsible for the CT school shooting in Newtown in 2012.   Numerous news outlets said he had high functioning autism--Asperger's Syndrome.

And it was discouraging to see that major new outlets were quick to announce that the Santa Barbara shooter, Elliot Rodger, had Asperger's Syndrome,  More than anything else, it was the way they talked about it.  It was included in the midst of describing violent and psychotic behavior.

ABC News:

Alan Schifman, the lawyer for Rodger's family, said the 22-year-old was being treated by several therapists and recently his parents and a social worker had become so alarmed by his behavior and his videos that they had reported him to police. Schifman said Rodger had always had trouble making friends and was diagnosed as a high-functioning patient with Asperger's syndrome as a child.


The Associated Press spoke to Alan Shifman, an attorney who represents Elliot's father, Peter Rodger. Shifman told the wire service that Elliot Rodger "was diagnosed at an earlier age of being a highly-functional Asperger Syndrome child."

CBS News:

On Saturday, a family attorney said Elliot Rodger's parents long had concerns about their son's mental health. . . .

Shifman said Elliot Rodger had been diagnosed at a young age with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, but did not have a history of gun use.

On May 26th CBS did put out a story with an expert who denied that Asperger's caused someone to commit murder, but they didn't change the story from the 24th.


He was being treated by multiple therapists, according to the lawyer, and had been diagnosed as “a high-functioning patient with Asperger syndrome.”


Elliot Rodger’s Asperger’s syndrome and depression are thought to have played a role in triggering the mass shooting, which many will remember as being talked a lot about in relation to Adam Lanza and the Newtown shootings. The family also brought up the issue of gun control in relation to their son.

Rodger was reportedly under psychiatric care and “diagnosed with ‘highly functional Asperger’s syndrome’ as a child, the BBC reported.

I was surprised to read in the Los Angeles Times, that Simon Astaire, a family friend, said that Elliot Rodger was not diagnosed with Asperger's, but they referred to it as a mental illness.


Astaire said Elliot had not been diagnosed with Asperger’s but the family suspected he was on the spectrum, and had been in therapy for years. He said he knew of no other mental illnesses, but Elliot truly had no friends, as he said in his videos and writings.

I have to mention that NBC News did mention that having Asperger's doesn't necessary mean someone will become a mass murderer.  I didn't see others saying this.

NBCNews Say what

At some point, Rodger was diagnosed as having an ultra-high-achieving form of Asperger syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum, an attorney for his family said Saturday.

It's important to stress that there has never been any scientific link between Asperger and acts of violence, and there is no claim that Rodger's disorder itself had anything to do with Friday's actions.

Two days after their original story, CBS did put out a piece with an expert saying that Asperger's didn't necessarily lead to violent behavior.

Because Elliot Rodger was born in the UK, there was considerable coverage there. Here are two examples.

UK Daily Mail:

He was diagnosed at an earlier age with Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism meaning he had difficulties with social interaction.


Earlier, Peter Rodger's lawyer, Alan Shifman, said that the "family believes the child was the perpetrator".

He said Mr Rodger's son had been "diagnosed at an earlier age of being a highly functional Asperger Syndrome child", had trouble making friends and had been receiving professional help.

All in all, this coverage is pretty typical of how the press reports on autism.  And it is sad because You got it wrongof the mainstream media never gets it right.  EVER.

I can only think back a month to all the April Autism Awareness stories celebrating the disorder by lighting the world up in blue.  No one was really concerned about autism, despite the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had just announced another gigantic rate increase for the disorder that has no known cause, prevention, or cure.  The new numbers, one in every 68 children, one in 42 among boys alone, weren't cause for alarm.  They didn't make the front pages.  There was no demand for answers.  Instead, as in all the past increases, one in 166, one in 150, one in 110, one in 88, one in 68, no official would state that it was a real increase.  The media eagerly told us that it might just be more better diagnosing of a condition that's always been around.

Whatever keep calmThe media's casual attitude toward these increases only makes one ask, if the rate were one in 10, would anyone care?  I've never seen a reporter really look into this.  No one asks why the rate is based on studies of eight year olds, not eighty year olds. No one is worried that the numbers may get worse. No one questions how long we're supposed to accept that all the autism is the result of doctors doing their jobs better.  No one is concerned that the definition of autism was broadened twenty years ago, but it's cited as the reason the numbers keep going up.

In the absence of telling the American people anything substantial about autism, news reports usually show us happy, typical-looking kids as the face of autism.  Almost never do we see the seriously affected kids.  The teenagers in diapers who are a danger to themselves and to others.  The ones who require 24/7 care.

In the average autism story, we're not told that according to the Kennedy Krieger Institute, half of Remain_calm_mediumall autistic children are prone to wandering off or “bolting.”  There is no mention that according to experts, 30 percent of children with autism regressed into this condition with loss of learned skills, including speech.

And, according to Autism Speaks, 25 percent of children with autism are diagnosed as nonverbal.  This is a significant handicap requiring lifelong support.

Instead, the press usually reports that autism results in a lack of communication skills and an inability at social interaction, which doesn't sound all that bad.

So what about a link to violent behavior?  March 10, 2014, the Today Show interviewed Adam Lanza's father who stated, "I wish he had never been born."

"Adam had what was then called Asperger's syndrome and what would now be autism spectrum disorder,'' Solomon said. "He had a certain amount of autism, and the autism made him as his father said, 'very weird.' Because they had a diagnosis, it didn't occur to them that anything else was wrong.

"Whenever Adam was being strange or peculiar, he thought it was just the Asperger's, and he didn't look past it. But Adam saw a huge number of psychiatrists and psychologists, and none of them detected hints of violence. (Peter) said he wishes he tried harder because he said, 'Anything I did differently might have changed the outcome, and the outcome couldn't have been worse or more evil, but at the time I didn't see it.'''

Then on May 21, 2014, the Washington Post published the story, Study: 'Significant' statistical link between mass murder and autism, brain injury.

The public is supposed to accept that autism is a mysterious condition.  No one knows anything for sure about the disorder.  No one is alarmed.  But one thing is making the news, killers can have a diagnosis of autism.  It's more the of mystery.

Anne Dachel Book CoverAnne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of  The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which goes on sale this Fall from Skyhorse Publishing.



Actually, no, he was never diagnosed with Aspergers. The lawyer's statement was an error. It seems his family suspected he was "on the spectrum" - after all, they were desperate for an explanation for what was wrong with him and probably considered many things. It does people with Aspergers and autism a horrible disservice when this term is thrown around without knowledge.

His manifesto reveals the only thing Elliot Rodger had in common with Aspergers individuals was his difficulty with social situations. Elliot was obsessed with social status and superficial appearances in a way an Aspergers guy just would not understand. For example, when hacky sacks became popular at school, Elliot immediately demanded his mother buy him one and spent hours practising it so he could hang out with the "cool" kids. A boy with Aspergers would become obsessed with hacky sacks because he was fascinated by the physics behind them, or because he found the motion soothing.

For my money, Elliot Rodgers was a psychopath. While I'm being guilty of armchair diagnosis here, if he's not one, I don't know who is.

For Will de Paul

Will de Paul

No one has suggest Asperger cases are incapable of criminal intent, but a lot of people here deplore the ill-informed stereotyping by shoddy journalism (or shoddy science as in the disgusting paper you cite).

Will depaul

For anyone suggesting individual with Aspergers are incapable of criminal intent they should read this study in the Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

Asperger's Disorder and Criminal Behavior: Forensic-Psychiatric Considerations

Betty Bona

I read that paper a few years ago, so I don't really remember. I always wonder how accurate the mouse model idea is, especially for a complex condition that can only be measured by observing behaviors. But the main time I hear complaints about a mouse model is when industry says that proof that a product is a carcinogen in mice is not proof that it is a carcinogen in humans.


How does one diagnose a mouse as being schizophrenic? Do they express that they're having a break with reality? Do they have trouble with a coherent flow of ideas? How could one tell that they are having hallucinations?

Betty Bona

Schizophrenia is sometimes triggered by puberty, probably the hormonal change. It could be that the biomedical landscape is ripe for onset with presence of particular dormant viruses and possibly chronically activated microglia. I don't know that much about schizophrenia, so that's just a guess. Michal Schwartz gave young mice destined to be schizophrenic kisspeptin before puberty, and the schizophrenia was not triggered by puberty. She was able to prevent the onset of schizophrenia. I don't know if it changed the landscape or just annulled the trigger. One way or the other, she proved that schizophrenia is not destiny. For autistic kids, I think the biomedical landscape is ripe for bipolar, although I think the trigger may be an environmental factor or maybe several and it's certainly not destined to happen. I think SSRIs are a trigger in autistic kids (and maybe any kid with the unfortunate biomedical landscape left by vaccines and toxins). Not the only trigger, but still a trigger, and also a trigger for worsening of symptoms. Everyone knows SSRIs given to bipolar people frequently results in worsening of symptoms. I didn't notice that my son had bipolar tendencies until after I tried Prozac. Of course not every young adult who executes such horrible crimes is autistic, but it may be that our children are at greater risk than the general population for those triggers to cause the illness to progress to that point. Until our society defines the autism epidemic as a biomedical condition that can be prevented and treated (not destiny), I think autistic kids and young adults will continue to be associated with violent crimes.

In any case...

Maybe it's simple- they don't want to admit there are comorbidities such as serious mental health issues associated with mild autism- that would blow the whole "autism is no big deal" thing. And, they do not want to reveal the psyche meds because yes they probably do have ill effects and that fact will affect their sales. The people in charge of "health" really are disgusting. We need transparency with the autism research as to causes and treatments- because it's quite likely as Birgit says, that this kid could have been helped in a better way. I don't believe for one minute that this young man wasn't taking some kind of drugs- prescription or otherwise.


This was not a person with autism. This was a person who people want to label autism to further demonize the autistic population. Just disgusting.


Becky, The source of "all" the reports is Radar Online. They say "The latest allegations claim he refused to take medication to better manage the problem." Then they go on to quote an anonymous source. This hardly seems like the final word on this.

Birgit Calhoun

Barry! He knew what the meds would do. That's why he refused them. But if indeed he was impaired because of mercury or some other similar toxic substance, he would have needed a really informed person to deal with that toxicity. He would have needed a physician who knows about proper nutrition, and he would have needed very understanding, caring parents. My guess is they were probably absent a great deal of the time as is the case with many families. He had nobody to help him find a friend, and they most likely were clueless about what the kid really needed. He spelled it out, he needed love. That does not excuse what the young man did. It would be nice to call back all the young men who have sought out the violent route they chose. I always ask myself why there are no studies to see what made them choose to end that way. I would also like to know why nobody is looking for the mercury connection.

Birgit Calhoun

I would be very careful about suggesting to drug anybody who appears mentally unstable or for that matter anybody who has autism. Some of those drugs and especially the serotonin reuptake inhibitors have different effects on different people. My son was prescribed Prosac quite a few years ago. He lasted a grand total of one week. He said he was not going to take the pills. His explanation was: Before I took Prozac I felt as if my dog had died every day. After taking Prozac I didn't care whether my dog had died every day. He didn't want to feel so indifferent that he didn't care about anything. And exactly that lack of empathy worries me when I hear about people who are mercury-poisoned. Was the most recent shooter mercury poisoned? I don't know. But if he was I woulnd't give him a drug that might make him less empathetic.


"… He was NOT taking any psych meds. All reports say he REFUSED them…."


All MEDIA reports say that he refused medications??

Oh well then, that must be true.

Cynthia Cournoyer

We are dissolving the brains of our children with chemicals. Stripping away their humanity with vaccines and psych drugs.


He was NOT taking any psych meds. All reports say he REFUSED them.
Perhaps if he had taken them to relieve paranoia and depression, the murders would not have occurred. I work with mentally ill people each day. Without their meds to reduce psychosis or mania, they can become violent or suicidal.

C. Collins

Elliot Rodger stated in his "manifesto" that he had a supply of Xanax and Vicodin. Vicodin can trigger mania, rage, and violence in a subset of people who use it as prescribed. It has been said that his behavior became more bizarre after the ankle injury. I wonder whether Vicodin triggered something. There's scant research on the Vicodin/mania-rage-violence link, but it's out there for those who want to consider this possibility.

In any case...

Possible mental health comorbidities make groups like ASAN (neurodiverse) seem bizarrely out of touch when they try to paint autism as not needing to be cured or comabatted or figured out.


That was very interesting Joy B.
But the long and short of it is - it is not aspergers that brought on the shooting. It was the other illnesses that come along with a brain injury.

I have a son that is made irritable with a seizure medicine (not too bad -- just a little).

Descriptions of celiecs kids back in the day - doctors described them as just pissed.

as far as my son goes -- he was sadden that a mouse was stomped on by another co worker at work. He loves his cat --he is kind to all the animals under his care. He really would not hurt a fly. Better to be looking at psychosis.

I want to know how you can look awake, do complicated stuff like drive, shoot a gun, cut yourself up with a knive, and still not really know what you are doing. This does exist and even happens in diabetics -- HEY! Diabeties and violence should be linked too. Hey! How about that ambien use and violence?

Jeannette Bishop

Everyone of these high profile shootings have witness reports suggesting involvement of at least one more individual that the press never follows up on.

I personally think the most likely link with being on the ASD spectrum and these acts is a vulnerability to manipulation and exploitation.

And it's so beyond words having a "study" linking ASD with such events from which many of the "facts" come from agenda selling media and self-perpetuating and self-promoting bureaucracies.


Considering his age, 22, this young man was in the group of kids given the most mercury in shots. He would have had about ten years starting at birth to get all the shots with mercury that were later taken off the market. Now, being a powerful neurotoxin it certainly made some people crazy whatever name it is called. Psychiatry spends a huge amount of time and money putting symptoms into diagnostic boxes but really, that is pretty meaningless. I believe he had mercury poisoning. Add up all those thimerosal shots and a few guns--really is it that surprising?

Joy B

I'm reading the 'manifesto'. It's basically an autobiography, which is deeply sad in itself because the only highlights of his life, even as an affluent and fairly intelligent child, seem to be getting new video games and powers, with a few brief mentions of international travel - his parents had friends and family in England, France, Malaysia, Morocco.

Anyway. Back to my point. In the first few pages of the manifest he chronicles his earliest memories and earliest school memories. There are several mentions of him being 'weaker' than other boys, not being able to throw the ball very far in sports, not being able really 'understand' the basic rules of the sports, either. Actually on this point it may have more to do with his upbringing rather than intellecual disability, since his parents' and even stemother's background(elite Morrocan) and were pretty far removed from the Soccer Families he was surrounded by. (As a neurotypical I had a similar experience in school simply bc my parents never exposed me to sports, not even on TV)

But the 'weakness' thing is curious, I wonder if he didn't suffer from hypotonia. He mentions his weakness a few times.

FFW a few years and he's decided to become a 'skateboarder' to fit in w the cool kids at school. It ends up being more image than substance though, as he finds after a few yrs of intense dedication and practice. He still can't do the same simple tricks that the other boys are doing. He gives it up.

Now, if he were lower functioning, he may never even experienced these 'failures'. I think the highest end of the spectrum is a particularly torturous place, even moreso for the most intelligent. Not saying this kid was a genius or anything but he absolutely was perceptive enough to know that something wasn't right with him. He admits to have only given up Pokemon because he was afraid the other teenagers would find out about it. He still had very narrow, childish interests as a teen. On some level he was aware of this, too.

Couple the socially induces insecurities associated with his autism(which he transfers to a "height/race" issue- obviously his autism wasn't 'addressed' in this sense, the most basic symptom likely being poo-pooed by parents, et al) with what come across as indifferent parenting ie no sense of right/wrong + resultant navel-gazing and you have a formula for disaster.

One thing I've observed in several different fairly affluent HF autism familes in my own life is that they never address the illness really. It's not really an issue bc of their relatively charmed lives. The kids are mainstreamed in every way (content, but homebodies still). Now, these kids I know are not quite as high functioning as Elliot Rodger appeared to be, and that has PROTECTED them from the trajectory that his life took. They simply aren't as AWARE of the implications of their disability. One boy in particular has a bunch of 'sympathy' friends, and even a girl who took him to prom as a gesture of kindness. He's now away at college with much support, of course. This is all enough for him though, these litle kindnesses! He knows he's different, but isn't bothered by it, simply because he dosn't have the insight to see what he was missing the 'normal' side of life like Elliot Rodger unfortunately did. This kid of course 'knows' how normal people behave, but there isn't one bone of envy or hate in his body, he simply doesn't have the capacity at any level that would be detrimental.

So the highest functioning may be the healthiest physically, but mentally I'd wager they're naturally ticking bombs if denied real affection and emotional involvment as children - so it's not really a question of rich/poor, tall/short.

I expect many more Elliot Rodgers. We've got decades of experimentally poisoned children, and what percentage of their parents realize any of this, let alone how to go about raising them into confident, or at least contented adults.


Hm. Add more vaccines to the schedule until a significant percentage are diagnosed with autism.

Link autism with mental "illness."

Medicate the " illness" with chemicals that cause violent behavior.

Now you have an excuse to either imprison or forcefully medicate a large percentage of the population.


Psychiatric care has digressed into nothing but pushing the latest drug onto a person rather than looking for the core issues as to why the behavior is occurring.


A month of er going off of zonnagram -- and going on Lamiccal onnagram that caused deep depression and very angry son ---said to me in the car as we were driving him 30 minutes away to his community college.

I have learned to let go of my anger; I don't know why I did not learn how to sooner.

He thought he as in control of his emotions.

God said we had free will -- I would think free will is your brain thinks of situations that should make you angry --- not just at the whimes of hormones, thyroid - adrenal and so forth.

Prozac may be just the right medicine for those that have depression all the the time and nothing else -- Bipolar is pretty tricky.


I think part of the issue that is also being glossed over is from the words of the Elliot Roger himself, it sounds possible that he was the victim of severe bullying as a child. His single friend in school describes an event where Elliot's head was taped to a desk while he slept.

While some people cope with severe bullying by growing up to be kind and to have empathy and help the underdog, unfortunately others learn to grow up to hate.

It is hard to tell the reality of a situation when you weren't there. The young man seems to have been severely disturbed; it is possible that he invented a fantasy about some of the middle school girls he blamed for his pain with little or no input from them.

Equally, I have seen the casual cruelty of the popular kids towards the socially inept. And it does seem possible that multiple experiences of cruelty at school may have also caused some of his issues.

Deep sympathy towards all those injured and killed, and also to the killers own family who must be devastated that their multiple attempts to get their son help did not work.

One thing; perhaps as the media links violence to autism, some of the high functioning self diagnosed Aspergers types who explain to everyone that nothing needs to be cured will decide to "lose" their diagnosis.
There are plenty of children with autism who are incredibly kind, gentle and would almost certainly be far more likely to be the target of bullies than to bully or commit violence themselves. And I have known other people with autism who are prone to irritation and violence.

And as Roger points out, some very different symptoms and manifestations, that are basically unrelated, are being combined under the "autism" umbrella.

Billie Joe

It is the fault of his psych doctors and police that they did not put him in for observation after the parents turned him in. These kids on drugs are getting worse from the drugs. Name a mass shooting where they have been psychotropic drug free. It sounds like he had multiple doctors... how many was he on

In any case...

In any case, the mention of Asperger's will just scare parents more and more about wondering what is happening to children- be this SSRI's or other environmental considerations such as vaccines.


Ironically the week before this shooting, the Washington Post published a story linking autism to violence. I think they want to solidfy this connection in the public's mind regardless of whether it is true or not. Certainly many mass shooters did not have autism. They were lonely, isolated and depressed.

Meanwhile they push the autism is genetic message that "bad" DNA leads to autism and violence. They will capitolize on stories like this one to sell genetic screening, PGD and IVF technology to nervous parents-to-be.

"New Study Links Autism & Violence: Parents Dismayed"

 Bob Moffitt

@ Roger

"There is definitely a very high functioning population,that is prone to psychiatric disorders."

With all due respect .. which do you believe is more likely to cause unprovoked .. violent attacks .....

"being prone to psychiatric disorders" .. or .. treatment of those psychiatric disorders by prescribed drugs with manufacture warnings that "suicidal or homicidal" thoughts may occur?

I only ask this question because .. in many .. if not all recent incidents of violent attacks .. the perpetrator has been reported to have been under the care of a mental health professional .. which more than likely means having been prescribed psychotrophic drugs.

At the very least .. would you agree .. that efforts should be made to ascertain if "particular" drugs were involved in a significant number of these events.


Psych drugs are given to this generation like candy. I did see somewhere that this boy was under treatment that included psych drugs, although I am not sure that it meant that he was medicated at the time of the shootings, not that that would make a difference given the permanent damage that these drugs can do, known and unknown.

Roger Kulp

While psychotropic drugs often do cause violent behavior,I think every autism parent needs to be aware of the Harvard Comorbidity Clusters study that was done last year,that basically shows autism as three very different diseases.There is definitely a very high functioning population,that is prone to psychiatric disorders.
Subgroup 1

* Seizures present in 77.5% of individuals

* Lowest proportion of Boys

* High Rate of Intellectual Disability 60%

Subgroup 2

* Correlation with cardiac and auditory disorders, asthma and other autoimmune
disorders,and congenital anomalies involving the ear, eye, and cranial nerve.

* Characterized by “relatively severe” autism

* Abnormal immune response to infection

* Increased ear infections

Subgroup 3

* Highest rate of individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome

* Lowest rate of Intellectual Disability

* Comorbidities largely psychiatric disorders (especially anxiety).

* Non- psychiatric comorbidities – asthma and cardiac dysrhythmia.

 Bob Moffitt

Is it me .. or .. are these types of absolutely terrifying .. inexplicable .. senseless violent acts .. becoming more and more "common" today .. than anytime before in our nation's history?

It can't just be the easy availabilty to acquire "guns" .. because .. these types of violent attacks were far less common when guns were even more accessible.

It can't just be severe mental problems .. because ... we have always had a small percentage of the population suffering severe mental health problems .. yet .. the violent attacks were far less common for most of our history.

In my humble opinion .. I suspect the "treatment" afforded those with severe mental health issues has changed dramatically .. such as .. less "hours" spent in psychiatric theraphy .. replaced by the widespread prescription of psychotrophic drugs .. which were not available decades ago .. many of which are labled with warnings that "suicidal and homicidal" thoughts should be immediately reported to the prescribing doctor.

Common sense suggests that drugs containing the manufacturer's warnings of "suicidal and homicidal" thoughts are more likely responsible for the surge in violent attacks .. then are the guns and mental health issues being blamed in main-stream media for today's attacks?

Yet .. for some unfathomable reason .. we are never told "what" medications the perpetrator was prescribed at or near the time of his/her violent act?

Consider .. had the perpetrator been using alcohol, cocaine, heroin, meth or weed .. we would be told .. but .. prescribed drugs remain a big mystery.

Why is that I wonder?

Dora Dexter

If this guy could not get laid given his good looks, upscale trappings and fancy car, he must have given off a complete serial killer vibe to females and scared them off from the get go. That's not Asperger's. It's American Psycho meets DEXTER.


The media is completely silent on whether Elliott Rodger was on any medication. Given that he was " in therapy for years," the likelihood is extremely high that he was either taking psych meds or had just switched or stopped a medication.

We must not let this information be suppressed.


Rodger was reportedly under psychiatric care…


I wonder if any of that 'psychiatric care' was for depression?

And I wonder if any of that 'care' included prescriptions for SSRI anti-depressant drugs?. You know, the ones that can cause patients to have violent thoughts, and homicidal ideations?

These drugs have long been known to have these severe side effects, to the point where the FDA requires that a black box warning about this side effect be put on these medications

Anyone see any media reports about that ?

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