Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Autism and violence? Or is that drugs?

As I spent a while this morning, I came across this article. I find it rather difficult to express the sheer horror I felt as I read it.

The story is an account written by the mother of an autistic child, a Ms. Ann Bauer. Beyond pointing to some earlier commentary by her, I won't try to analyze the causes of her son's violent behavior. I lack enough details to form proper conclusions.

I will, however, point to the conclusions that Ms. Bauer herself reached and challenge the validity of her conclusions. I will also point out that she is hardly the first person to reach this sort of conclusion.

Psychoactive drugs, as a class, are dangerous. Abilify, the first medication that she mentions, has been known to induce diabetes and cause strokes, among an extensive list of other, frequently nasty, side effects. Compared to most antipsychotics, that's actually fairly prosaic. When I did a brief clinical practicum at a gateway program to a South Carolina mental hospital, I saw a level of drug-induced brain damage (usually in the form of tardive dyskinesia) that would have stunned most people.

What's more, her son's rage, violence, etc. appears to be highly ego-dystonic. As has been repeatedly observed, autism is anything but.

Ms. Bauer has my most sincere sympathies for what happened to her and her son. I do not, however, believe that it is appropriate for her to blame autism for it. But, then again, emotions are rarely the language of reason. I cannot blame Ms. Bauer for lashing out, even in writing. I just wish she'd chosen a different target.

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