Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Neurodiversitites misrepresent autism crime/violence studies

I am still reeling over the responses of some members of the neurodiversity movement to my simple and factual statements that there are some persons with autism who behave in totally inappropriate ways, sometimes violently or making untoward sexual overtures towards people. I have talked about Kev's response to my post on Lisa Jo Rudy's blog in my previous blog entry on here. On Zach Lassiter's blog in response to Lassiter's reprint of my comment well known neurodiversitite blogger the "autism bitch from hell" had these words of wisdom to say:

As for the grossly offensive comment that you first chose to reprint (and that I highly doubt you’d have reprinted if the subject of the discussion had been any other minority group), I won’t repeat any of its false and bigoted insinuations. Instead, I’ll simply point out that research studies have established that autistics have no higher rate of committing violent acts or violent crimes than the general population (Murrie, Warren, Kristiansson, & Dietz, 2002; Barry-Walsh & Mullen, 2004).
Scientific studies have not found that autistic persons are more likely to commit violent acts or violent crimes than non-autistic persons despite some media sensationalism of isolated cases of violence (Murrie, Warren, Kristiansson, & Dietz, 2002; Barry-Walsh & Mullen, 2004).

Ari Nee'man has also cited these two studies that abfh talked about in this post to show that autistic persons usually don't commit violence.

as previously noted on autism's gadfly ABFH has, in the past, either completely neglected to do any fact checking of her allegations or is outright deliberately misrepresenting factual information in her ND tirades. Also, one wonders about Mr. Nee'man's credibility given his ND bias.

One of the most persistent criticisms that ND detractors Harold Doherty and the infamous John Best, both parents of severely autistic sons, have leveled against the neurodiversity movement is that Asperger's syndrome should not necessarily be included under the broad general rubric of autism. Now that I have read both the Barry-Walsh et. al. study and the Murrie et al. study this certainly rings true. Though both ABFH and Nee'man use the word autism to describe these two studies both of these studies deal specifically with cases of Asperger's syndrome and not autism. Here we have the first instance of misrepresentation of the two studies.

So these two still don't cite any studies that deal with the entire autism spectrum and crime/violence.

While we see that these studies don't deal with autism let's see if they show any evidence of whether or not persons with Asperger's are more prone to violence.

The Barry-Walsh study does not appear to be online but I went to the UCLA biomed library and copied it there. the abstract of the study is online The study does not specifically address the question of whether persons with AS are more prone to violence than people in the general population, but rather it gives 5 case histories of persons with AS who have run afoul of the law and how their Asperger's caused them to commit these crimes and whether or not an insanity defense can be considered. The first case history is a man who committed arson who had a an obsession with fires. He set fire to a hedge and damaged property and he was considered fit to plead and received no jail time. Another case was a man with AS who had stalked and harassed professionals who had been involved in his treatment that he became obsessed with. He was found fit to be tried, was convicted but received no jail time. The third case was another man charged with arson. There was a radio station which played music he liked to listen to. When a religious station interfered with the frequency of the other station, he set fire to the radio station. He had no regrets for his actions and was puzzled why a fuss was being made.

Another man assaulted his father, again this assault was precipitated when his father reprimanded him for setting fire to the lawn. He was not found unfit to be tried but the charges were dropped.

The final case was a man who was a sex offender who would go to children and put his arms around them and say he wanted to take them somewhere and do naughty things with them. He also made an untoward sexual advance and then assaulted the person who rebuffed him. Some forensic experts tried to claim he was unfit to plead but the court did not buy this. He was conditionally discharged with court ordered treatment.

Rather than showing no association between autism/Asperger's or violence as Nee'man and ABFH assert, the authors actually go on to state that it was aspects of their Asperger's that caused these five individuals to commit the crimes that they did and also none of the individuals expressed remorse at the crimes. None of these individuals was deemed unfit to plead. The authors go on with legal ramifications of the possibility of an insanity defense for persons with asperger's who might commit crimes in the future.

The Murrie et al study is online for anyone interested enough to read it. They report case histories such as Baron-Cohen's report of a 21-year-old man who had a pathologic desire to stab his 71-year-old "girlfriend". They described other case reports of AS persons committing sex crimes and arson. Murrie then becomes similar to Barry-Walsh in that it describes six case histories of persons with AS who commit violence or crimes.

Though no evidence of lack of violence among AS persons that ABFH and Nee'man puport are in Barry-Walsh, upon closely scrutiny of Murrie, we see that he reports a study by Ghaziuddin published in a 1991 issue of the journal of autism and developmental disorders in which the author perused various journal articles concerning AS and on this basis concluded that the rate of violence among AS persons was low, approximately 2.7%. This was a questionable methodology as it just relied on case reports in the literature and not actually going through police records or court documents or other records of crimes or violent acts that might have been committed by persons with AS. Also, the criteria for violence and for a diagnosis of asperger's that the author imposed were quite strict and according to a study Kohn (1998) if the authors had used a more inclusive criteria the number in their actual study may have risen to 20%.

As is similar to Barry-Walsh, Murrie explores the possibility that these individuals amoral acts were a direct result of asperger's and these persons also saw nothing wrong with their actions.

One issue of interest is that some of the crimes were thought to be due to sexual frustration.

Murrie observes that clinicians working with Asperger's patient should be cognizant of the fact that social impairments coupled with the desire for sexual attachments could lead to illegal behavior in some of these individuals.

Other than the mention of Ghauziuddin's study, with its questionable methodology, mentioned in Murrie, in no way shape or form do either of these two journal articles show any empirical evidence that persons with asperger's let alone all autism spectrum disorders are less prone to violence or to commit crimes. It would appear that both abfh and Nee'man have either not read the two studies they talk about or they are deliberately misrepresenting the facts. I don't see how there can be either conclusion other than these two options after reading the studies myself and reviewing the evidence.

I am not saying that this shows that persons with autism or asperger's will as a general rule commit crimes or are sexually abusive-though I am sure the ND's will find a way to misconstrue this blog piece. The majority of persons on the autism spectrum are most likely law abiding and would not do the deeds of the case studies that are mentioned in these two pieces. However, my original contention was that there is indeed a subset of ASD persons who do commit these acts and this should be dealt with either by trying to find a cure or some other means. As far as I can tell ND again offers no solutions whatsoever or maybe they are just saying that autism acceptance means that these behaviors are okay and anyone who wants these behaviors dealt with is some sort of bigot because they want something done about them.

I don't think it is helpful for ABFH and Nee'man to confuse asperger's syndrome with the entire spectrum of autism and I believe it is even less helpful for them to misrepresent the two studies that they discuss on the internet.


Barry-Walsh JB et al.(2004) Forensic Aspects of Asperger's Syndrome

The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology vol 15 no 1 96-107

Baron-Cohen S. (1988) An assessment of violence in a young man with Asperger's

British Journal of Psychiatry, 29, 351-360

Kohn, Y et. al.(1998) Agression and sexual offense in Asperger's syndrome

Israeli Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 4, 293-299

Murrie et. al.(2002) Asperger's Syndrome in Forensic Settings

International Journal of Forensic Mental Health 1: 59-70


Anonymous said...

There is a statistically significant correlation between incarceration (as well as divorce, substance abuse, accidental death, job loss, inability to secure jobs, and academic failure) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Yet no one in the AD/HD community has ever suggested that AD/HD be obliterated.

John Best said...

Neuroinsanity tries to misrepresent crime studies because they are all criminals themselves.
Would anyone call Amanda Baggs' advances to Laura Tisoncik untoward? If it takes her 5 hours to boil water, how long must it take her to attach the strap on dildo?

Jake Crosby said...

I'm not defending the NDs, but I do think this person-to-person violence is more a result of increased treatment with psychotropic medication, and not autism. For instance, Schizophrenia was not regarded as a violent condition until people who had it started taking psychotropic medication. More recently, these drugs are now being used to treat autistic people with FDA approval of Risperdal for autism in 2006 to name such an example, and now we're seeing autistic individuals associated with all sorts of violence the way schizophrenics have been. It's already been shown that these drugs cause brain shrinkage over a long period of time. Studies should be conducted on the subsequent behavior comparing autistic children on these drugs, to autistic people not on these drugs, and to NTs on these drugs and NTs not on these drugs. It may resolve some unanswered questions.

Stephanie said...

I internet stalked my psychiatrist. Wrote about it on my blog.

And no one in the ADHD has suggested to get rid of ADHD because severe ADHD is no where near the level of impairment of severe autism.

Anonymous said...

One of the first things I learned in my Psychology class is that correlation is not causation. Take that as you may.