Saturday, October 17, 2015

Autism Educational Series—Asperger's and Violence—"Aimlessly Shameless"

Brian Packard, blessed husband of Anne for 26 years, and proud father of Jeff and Sam.

Jeff "J.D." Packard is a 19-year-old college student diagnosed with Asperger’s since he was 16. He was originally diagnosed at the age of 6 with ADHD and again with the same diagnosis at age 12. A self-proclaimed nerd and pizza delivery guy extraordinaire, he’s studying electronic crime with the hope of becoming a computer technician if he’s unlucky, and a professional writer and Youtube video maker if he is lucky. His blog, Aimlessly Shameless (where this post was originally published), has the stated goal of “increasing understanding to decrease frustration,” essentially intending to keep other families from dealing with 18 solid years of constant argument and struggle like he and his parents did. J.D. has a 15-year-old younger brother (Sam) who is the greatest musical genius the universe has ever known, and he lives in Ames, Iowa, with said genius, his parents and two dogs: Daisy, the basset hound and true boss of the family and Gretchen, a ballistic missile/piranha crossbreed (usually called a miniature dachshund).

Well, this is going to be a bit of an unusual post for me. I don’t normally deal with anything this serious; if you’ve read my blog you know it’s usually me complaining about something for a few paragraphs or so. Much as I enjoy complaining, there’s something a bit more…weighty, shall we say, that I feel needs to be addressed.

On October 1st I was in class when one of the students, browsing CNN during a five-minute break, reported to the teacher that there had been a college shooting in Oregon. Naturally, I and everyone else who had brought a laptop to class immediately hopped over to the news websites to follow the situation. I don’t recall very much else of note happening during the day – I don’t make a habit of following the news and this wasn’t much of an exception, as horrible of a person as that makes me sound like. To be honest, there didn’t seem to be a lot of information available that day anyhow.

After the fact, I talked with my dad about the issue with school shootings. Among other things we talked about the relation between these shootings and autism. At the time, I wondered if the UCC shooter would be revealed to have Asperger’s or autism. Turns out I may have been right – some Googling shows that the guy’s mother at least claims she had Asperger’s and so did her son. Jury’s out on the accuracy of this information so please cut me some slack if that’s not right. I feel what I need to say this anyway.

With this information and also with the Newtown shooting a few years ago, the shooter was linked with Asperger’s. I would like to stress that most people on the spectrum absolutely will not be involved in anything like this. To quote statistics from my criminal justice class, most people with any form of mental illness are in fact many times more likely to be the victims in a criminal act than the perpetrators.

As an example I submit myself and one of my friends – the only two people that I both know relatively well and know to have an official diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Neither of us are particularly likely to do anything like this – my friend is perhaps the overall nicest person I’ve ever met in my life and while I do lose my temper from time to time and it tends to involve a lot of yelling and swearing, I have an extremely long fuse and I absolutely refuse to vent my anger through violence – I’ve done that, and after a broken door, two holes in the drywall and a busted monitor, I’ve decided I don’t care for breaking things, much less people.

That said, I can…well, sort of…make a guess at how someone with Asperger’s could get so far gone as to consider unloading a gun into a school. The disorder’s biggest problem has always been the immense negative impact it has on communication and interacting with one’s peers. Without a group of friends around them to provide support, and with family unwilling or unable to help fill the gap, it’s relatively easy to see the consequences. They may not be murderous, or even criminal, but they’re always destructive.

Finally I’d like to say something, though first I’ll qualify it by saying I do not in any way condone these actions. At all. Seriously, this is some of the most abhorrent behavior I can possibly conceive of and I do not make that statement lightly. But these shooters are people too. They’re lashing out for whatever reason and we as a society can stop it. They may feel like outcasts, like they’ve never had anyone they could call a friend, never had anyone to listen to them, to share a laugh or a smile with. And they don’t just snap all of a sudden – typically, according to a lecture on active shooter situations I attended at my college, they will post something to social media or mention their plans to someone.

Basically what I’m saying is that I believe the best option by far is to reach out and never let anyone fall so far that the only thing they can think to do is to resort to hideous acts like this. I don’t know how – I’ve never been good at reaching out and connecting with people and I won’t pretend to for the sake of appearing competent in a blog post. But there’s a way to stop this. The first casualty of every shooting is the shooter. If we save them, we spare dozens if not hundreds of families unimaginable pain and heartbreak. That can’t be anything but good, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment