When the press reported that Adam Lanza had Asperger's syndrome (part of the autism spectrum disorders) and other unspecified personality problems, the autism community swung into action in a way that is totally understandable. The Associated Press' headline: “Experts: No Link Between Asperger's, Violence”
The vast majority of autistic people are not violent. Autistics like Temple Grandin, the professor who helped create humane strategies for the meat industry, remind us that many people with high-functioning also go on to live full, rich lives of value to themselves and others.
Grandin also reminded us that, for autistic people, “The principal emotion experienced by autistic people is fear.”
If you cannot read people's social cues, it's hard to tell who is a threat and who is not. If you live in a world with social rules created by “neurotypicals” that make no sense, anxiety and fear are natural, perhaps inevitable, responses.
But the suggestion that science has demonstrated there is no link at all between autism and aggressive violence is questionable.
Google “autism” and “aggression” and you will suddenly be treated to a counter world the formal autism community claims does not exist: desperate mothers seeking help or respite from the violent behavior of large, aggressive, beloved autistic boys (and a few girls).
In the name of love and absent decent institutions for these troubled young adults, we are permitting a silent epidemic of domestic terrorism against women that we would not tolerate under any other banner.
These are mothers. Many are willing to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, to keep their beloved sons out of institutions that would terrify them.
Consider an essay by novelist Ann Bauer. She believed passionately that autism is a beautiful, mysterious neurodifference. She wrote essays about her fierce love for her son Andrew and his beautiful mind. Then in 2009, she wrote another essay, “The Monster Inside My Son,” after learning about Trudy Steuernagel's murder by her 18-year-old autistic son, Sky:
”I'm exhausted and hopeless and vaguely hung over because Andrew, who has autism, also has evolved from sweet, dreamy boy to something like a golem: bitter, rampaging, full of rage. It happened no matter how fiercely I loved him or how many therapies I employed.”
Ann is an “official writer,” but on the Web there is heartbreak galore.
One mother of an 11-year-old with high-functioning autism:
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.