Florida School Shooting: Autism Is Not the Reason for This Tragedy! by Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP

Opinion Headlines
6 years ago

Florida School Shooting: Autism Is Not the Reason for This Tragedy!

As a parent and educator, I extend my thoughts and prayers to all who have been touched by the horrific violence that occurred in Florida. As an autism advocate, I feel I must express my concerns about how quickly the media reported that the perpetrator was diagnosed with autism. Autism is not the reason this tragedy happened! By reporting this diagnosis, the media is creating a connection between a diagnosis of autism and the act of committing violence. I am concerned that insinuating that autism is the cause of this tragedy will create irrational fear. The Autism Society of America made the following statement on February 15, 2018:

“We ask that those reporting about this tragic event not suggest or imply any linkage of autism and violence. Implying or suggesting that a person who is diagnosed with autism is violent is not only wrong but hurtful to the over 3.5 million individuals living in the United States and any other individual with an autism diagnosis.”

I have the fortunate opportunity to know and work with children and adults with autism on a daily basis. There are many unexplained reasons why this act of violence occurred, but autism is not one of them!

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Mike Prochaska
Could it add to his “problems” though. The poor kid had the deck stacked against him
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
I do not believe it "added to his problems." His problems were his own and people with autism should not be connected to this. That is just wrong!
Ann Marie Patitucci
Thanks for this, Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP . Very important information here.
Mike Prochaska
Yeah I agree with that people with autism shouldn’t be connected to it at all thanks for the information.
Vicki Putnam Pompa
I attribute blame to the availability of automatic weapons.
Mike Prochaska
I agree no 19 year old should be able to buy a gun. U can buy a gun before you can buy beer?
Tamara Ritchie
I respectfully disagree. And this comes from a mom with a son on the spectrum. Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and this most recent shooting all had autism in common. I would venture to quess if you looked at other mass shootings you would find a statistically higher proportion of kids with autism.

When we are trying to solve a problem it is important to look at anything that the shooters have in common. Many of them have autism in common. By all accounts the Parkland shooter coddled her son and even allowed an unhealthy obsession with guns to flourish in her child on the spectrum. Many times with our son we have had to replace one obsession with another that we felt was more healthy.

I have found that people tend to want to make excuses for kids with any disability. Nothing becomes their fault and things that can be changed are palliated and excused away because poor thing he struggles with Autism and kids are mean to him.

With all due respect, so what? Jerks exist everywhere and as much as we might want to get rid of them all we never will. It is much better practice to teach our kids, especially those on the spectrum, how to cope with the jerks. How to manage their own reactions and how to live a productive, fulfilling life - one that doesn't involve the mental gymnastics necessary to internally justify killing people.
Mike Prochaska
We don’t want people to assume that since you have autism you might become a shooter.. trust
Me people will go there.. I heard crazy stuff just visiting my wife at work..
Gretchen Brochu
Good information! It’s one small piece of the puzzle here. Although some of the shooters have had autism many did not. We as a society have many things that need to be reconsidered.
Mike Prochaska
Test resist to 50409 makes it so easy to write your congress person #Resistance #StopNRA
Gina Pomering
This whole discussion is upsetting to me and I appreciate the article bc I remember when Sandy Hook happened and I was so furious w the Today show on how they kept saying he had a history of ASD. I tell you as a mom w a child on the spectrum the only thing these boys had in common was their disconnect w the world. Trust me it is not an easy task to raise a child who sees things on a literal black n white basis now a Days... meaning that although they seem to understand the game or the movie they don’t. I have to work on this daily and there is a fascination w weapons and war and really technology but there is a reason for that... it is easier to hide in their own world where things make sense and move fast enough to keep them focused than it is to try to navigate the confusion of social behavior. That doesn’t mean by any chance we give up. I work everyday to try and get my child to understand, guns and violence are NOT OK. They don’t solve anything. They should be used by trained military and law enforcement to protect those that can’t protect themselves.
As a society we need to embrace the differences of kids on the spectrum and realize that not everyone should be treated the same. Forcing a child with a fear of separation to stay in a room by himself , may not be the way to discipline a child like that. That doesn’t excuse anyone, especially this latest young man but we have to careful not to paint all kids on the spectrum as bad or disturbed. They are so much more than that . This boy was lost, maybe bc of ASD or maybe bc he was misdiagnosed or mistreated, we will probably never know. What we do know is no one with his history like his should have ever been allowed to own a gun. The system failed to protect the children @ his school and it failed to protect the shooter from himself and his peers.
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
I am not a parent of a child on the spectrum, but I work with these children and their parents daily. It is an ongoing effort! My concern is that society will become fearful of anyone with autism, as some people are because of the color of your skin or the religion you practice. The focus should not be autism. It should be why this keeps happening and doing something about it!
Mike Prochaska
I agree mindy I seen in happen
Ashley Dales
I could not agree with you more. I am a parent of a child with XXYY Syndrome and autism spectrum disorder. My son is no way violent to anyone, and in his moments of outbursts he usually hits himself or throws things down on the ground. Never has been violent towards anyone else. I also have a problem with all of the mass killers here lately as being diagnosed with autism. The problem I have with this is the sensitivity to noise that is associated with autism as a sensory issue. My son can not watch fireworks, handle police sirens or loud noises at all for that matter. How are these autistic guys able to shoot a gun with autism, or autism spectrum disorder. This makes absolutely no sense to me and I believe they are misdiagnosed. I haven't ever met a person with autism spectrum disorder who hasn't suffered from this sensory disorder.
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
Thanks for your comment. I actually just saw on the news that he had a diagnosis of depression, ADHD and autism. So, why is it that the autism label is the one being questioned. There are a lot of mental health issues here and yes I agree with miss diagnosis at times. Self regulation is a challenge for these guys, but it sounds like you are helping your son adjust!!
Sheri B Doyle
My son lives in the neighborhood where several children attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. One of the families had this boy in their home once and then banned him from their house forever. Their children were afraid of him. It wasn't because he had autism it was because he carried weapons, killed animals and was filled with hate and rage. The parents said it was obvious this boy was violent years ago. The families have also said he was reported for violent behavior for years. It wasn't autism it was anger and hate.
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
Thank you Sheri for sharing this. The media needs to stop indicating that autism has something to do with all these violent cases.
As a Special Education Teacher and a mom who just received an official diagnosis of Autism for my child- my heart is breaking. In no way do I believe that this tragedy happened due to the Autism. To imply it does is ridiculous.
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
I agree. Your child is lucky to have you. You will be an amazing advocate for him/her. Being touched by autism isn't the reason for violence. Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for this. I'm also an SLP in the schools and advocating for needs of my students with ASD and other developmental differences. IAN
has a fantastic summary of research on ASD and violence . Here is also a 2014 systematic review on the subject stating the same conclusion:.

Students with ASD are much more likely to be victims of violence, not perpetrators.

To neurotypical people, the differences in the w i d e variety of behavior influenced by ASD can be confusing, but any forms of aggression seen in autistic individuals are typically unplanned, impulsive, and toward themselves because of sensory dysregulation and/or communication breakdowns.

Let's move beyond finding labels of people to blame for violence (i.e., ASD, mental illness) and work toward instilling systems that promote community, emotional development, and meet the social needs of those most frequently ostracized. Differences are not evil.
Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
Thank you for sharing this information and for your hard work and dedication as an SLP in the schools and advocating for these beautiful children! I totally agree!
If autism is a spectrum disorder, why are you so certain that autism doesn’t play a role in expressions of extreme violence e.g., mass shootings? While the majority of those with autism may not express violence this way, there are a significant number that do. In fact those with Autism+ are twice as likely to be incarcerated in jails or hospitalized than their nuerotypical peers. Autism psychopathy -differs from general psychopathy. Pretending that there is no connection may make some parents feel better but does little to get to the root of the issue. Listening to PhDs on the autism speaks payroll, reminds me of all of the scientists and doctors who asserted that bacteria could never be the cause of ulcers.
Autism development disorder is a complex and tenacious condition that challenge social and communication behaviour, restricting interaction . In rare cases, autism is associated with agents that cause birth defects. Many other causes have been proposed.

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