July 24, 2014

nova scotiaHalifax, Nova Scotia – Last week, Dustan Joseph Preeper received  two life sentences for the murder of Melissa Dawn Peacock and Ben Hare without possibility of parole after pleading guilty to first degree murder.

Preeper shouted belligerently in the Supreme Court when he was asked it he had anything to say before sentencing. But is was a conversation that followed outside the courthouse that got the autism community upset.

The NovaNewsNow reported

The aunt of Dustan Preeper said July 16 she was not surprised at his outburst in court because he has Asperger “tendencies,”

Tiny White, Preeper’s aunt, told reporters outside court that Preeper has “tendencies of Aspergers” and attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Reaction by Cynthia Carroll the Executive Director of Autism Nova Scotia was quick and critical. The following statement was issued the following day and is posted prominently on the web site.

It has come to our attention that some newspapers have quoted the aunt of Dustan Preeper who suggested that he may have “Asperger’s tendencies”.  While there is no indication that Mr. Preeper has been assessed or diagnosed with ASD, this comment has been found to be hurtful and confusing for many individuals and families living with autism.

Perhaps even more disappointing to Autism Nova Scotia is the media’s tendency to headline the label of Asperger’s as the main focus of what is seen by the community as a horrific crime, at a time when thoughts should be with the families who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

Sometimes people cling to negative stereotypes to justify or understand “bad behavior” but this is not reflective of a true understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Currently, it is estimated that 1 in 68 are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder, and research indicates that individuals with this disorder are far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators.

Autism Nova Scotia advocates for the responsible representation of autism in the media. We stand for representing the strengths of children, youth, and adults on the Autism Spectrum, and clear and factual messages that do not inflate negative and unfounded stereotypes.

Cynthia Carroll Executive Director, http://www.autismnovascotia.ca/

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