May 23, 2014

AnalysisOpinion on Daily Mail,“Recipe for a serial killer?” – Following on from our article Autism Community’s Response to the Daily Mail Article – “Recipe for a serial killer?” which can be read here there have been many outspoken comments from the wider autism community.

Alan Somerville, Chief executive of Scottish Autism made the following statement in the Herald Scotland newspaper:

Scottish Autism“We recognise that research is important and can be a powerful force for change but it is time to take cognisance of what we actually need to know and what we do not yet know about the practicalities of services and support systems. This might actually have some resonance and relevance to people with autism, their families and those directly involved in their education and support.”

Dr Elisabeth Hurley, who is the Research Officer for Autism West Midlands wrote a blog on the charity’s website entitled,Linking autism to serial killers: why scientists need to be more careful about how they report their research and can be read here

In the blog she states:

“…I am going to make one thing very clear: there is no research evidence to indicate that people with autism are more likely to commit crime, and there is actually some evidence which implies they may be less likely to do so (according to Ghaziuddin et al 1991 and Woodbury-Smith et al 2005).”

Dr Hurley then goes on to further add:

AWM“The authors do talk about how the interesting information here is the combination of autism, head injury and psychosocial factors They use this to talk about the importance of gathering more information internationally about serial killers and mass murderers so that we can understand what can lead to this instead of speculating so much. But the way their article was structured and the way the abstract was written mean it is just all too tempting for journalists to report more on the autism and serial killer link than anything else.

“When research can impact people (and in autism, research really can impact people), scientists have a responsibility to report their work in a way that will not damage people with autism. In this case, they failed. Every time there is a mass shooting somewhere, people will continue to ask “does that person have autism?”. This will to feed a culture of fear and misunderstanding of autism, something that we need to move away from.”

An interesting article from Pucks and Puzzle Pieces entitled, Some Words Matter More Than Others which can be read here discusses the use of sensationalist headlines in order to sell stories.

“Designed to entice readers into consuming something that may or may not deliver on the promise the headline offers.”

They make reference to the title of, “Study: ‘Significant’ statistical link between mass murder and autism, brain injury” that appeared in The Washington Post and that the headline is indeed misleading in that it is:

“…irresponsible. It is harmful in so many ways to our community. And those are the nicest things I can say about it.”

This research and in particular the article from the Daily Mail newspaper will continue to create many responses from the autism community.


About the author 

Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.

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