Maggie Gallagher

”Over the last year he has evolved into a violently tempered child who seems to 'snap' when things (don't) go his way. He is at a point now that he has pulled knives on us and our other child and has threatened to kill us. ... I have no idea what to do and I'm in tears daily.”

Another mom:

“He has bitten me, tried to strangle me, tried to sit on my younger son to crush him when he was an infant (18 months old) talked of shooting us, shooting our younger son in the eye with a bow and arrow, punched himself in the face so he got a black eye, threw large objects at us like our baby's sit-and-spin, kicked my husband in the groin area, aggressed toward babies in the park, punched me and my younger son while I was driving etc. ... This is the short list.”

Yet another:

“I have spent the entire evening feeling so alone. Thanks for all your stories. I am recovering from my son's outburst this evening. The bruises from the last one were just starting to heal. He has autism, and at 13, he is over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. There are pieces bitten out of my arms and hands, and my breast and stomach are full of red bruises. His much smaller twin brother tried to get him off of me and got bit in the process. I sent him out of the room so he would not get hurt any further. My husband left us and a divorce is in the works.”

Enough anecdotes.

The 19th European Congress of Psychiatry abstracts included one study of “autism and violence.” Researchers in Morocco handed out questionnaires to families being served by handicapped centers. They found that 43.3 percent of families in this sample reported problems with aggression.

According to another recent study, “The prevalence of and risk factors for aggression were examined in 1,380 children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Prevalence was high, with parents reporting that 68 percent had demonstrated aggression to a caregiver and 49 percent to non-caregivers.”

The human cost of denying the relationship between autism and aggression is simply unacceptable. Mothers need to know they should not allow themselves to be hit, beaten, bitten or threatened in their own homes. And a mother like Liza Long, who is afraid enough to have developed a “safe” for her younger children in the event their brother goes berserk, needs to know her first obligation, her very first one, is to protect those siblings and give them a safe home.

We need to give them better options than generalized overcrowded psych wards, jail and permitting violence against mothers.

Maggie Gallagher

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.