March 15, 2017

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An evidence based study published in the Journal of Current Psychiatry on October 3, explores the relationship between a rare sub-type of Asperger’s Syndrome and extreme violent acts that have occurred over the past few years.

The study, undertaken by Mohammad Ghaziuddin, MD and Professor of Psychiatry at Michigan University asks the question if violent behaviours in people diagnosed with autism and ASD is fact or fiction.

DSM-IV-TSR  Asperger’s Syndrome affects on in every 1,000 children diagnosed. Children and adults diagnosed with this type of ASD are not usually slower in developing than their peers, there is no significant language or social milestone delays as there usually are, but they are prone to violent outbursts.

The author explores the relationship between violence and an ASD diagnosis, taking into account, the incidents of  the Virginia Tech Campus shooting  and  the 2012 Connecticut School massacre.  In both of these incidents, the shooters allegedly had an ASD diagnoses but were diagnosed previous to the incidents.

The author looks closely at the work of 1940’s researcher Leo Kanner, who paved the way in terms of Scientific research into (at the time) an unusual case of a young boy who retreated into himself and was happiest when left alone, named only as David T.  And moves forward exploring the relationship between extreme violent acts and a diagnosis after the event.

Dr Ghaziuddin then gives fellow psychiatrists a number of clues to follow for diagnosis and evaluation.

He writes:

Often, the alleged crime occurs when the patient’s excessive interests “get out of control,” perhaps because of an external event. For example, a teenager with AD who is fixated on video games might stumble upon pornographic web sites and begin making obscene telephone calls. Particular attention should be paid to a history of rigid, restricted interests beginning in early childhood.

Clues include, lack of sound judgement despite other wise normal intelligence, past diagnosis of Schizophrenia, or hallucinations.

He urges caution when comparing violent and aggressive behaviour, and urges fellow Psychiatrists to be aware of complexities surrounding the nature of ASD and ASD diagnosis.

He sums up:

Most people who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not commit violent crime. When violent crime occurs at the hands of a person with ASD, it is almost always precipitated by a comorbid psychiatric disorder, such as severe depression or psychosis. Treating a person with ASD who has committed a violent crime is multimodal, including forensic services when necessary.


About the author 

Shân Ellis

Shân Ellis, is a qualified journalist with five years experience of writing features, blogging and working on a regional newspaper. Prior to working as a journalist, she was a ghost writer for top publishers and was closely involved in the editing and development of book series. Shân has a degree in the sciences, and 5 A levels. She lives in the UK and is the mother of an autistic child.

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