akronchildrens.org

No link between autism and violent crime

Photo from @CherokeeNation

One of the looming questions as we sort through the details of Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School is why? What could motivate someone to do the unthinkable?

Many news reports have linked the shooter, Adam Lanza, with Asperger syndrome. Could Asperger syndrome, which falls on the autism spectrum, be the reason he acted out in such a violent way?

In an appearance yesterday with WAKR Morning Show host Ray Horner, Dr. John Duby, a developmental-behaviorial pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital, discussed autism and and recent news reports linking it to violence.

The bottom line is that research hasn’t shown a link between violent crimes and autism or Asperger’s. In fact, the rate of violent crimes committed by people with autism or Asperger’s is comparable to the population at large.

“The numbers are very small, just a little over 1 percent of the male population, whether it be in general or people with autism and Asperger’s, have been involved with violent crime.”

And if you look closely at that 1 percent, Dr. Duby said you’ll find that those cases were largely about property offenses, not bodily harm.

“Violence against people is exceedingly rare,” said Dr. Duby. “There was one study that looked at case studies over 22 years, and there were just 33 convictions, with only 3 cases of bodily injury. The more severe the autism, the less likely it is that you would commit a violent crime.”

In fact, Dr. Duby noted, more often than not, the scenario is reversed.

“One of the things we have to keep in mind is that it is clear that people with autism are more likely to be the victim of various forms of crime, abuse, bullying and mistreatment than they ever would be to perpetrate it on others,” Dr. Duby said.

Listen to Dr. Duby’s interview below.

  • Sam Formica

    Thank you for sharing this valuable information, Dr. Duby. As professionals in the healthcare industry, caring specifically for pediatric patients, it is so vitally important for us to advocate for our patients. The tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary has devastated me, but at the same time, I am very worried for the population of children and adults on the Autism Spectrum. I fear that they may be at a higher risk to become victims of violence after the news of Adam Lanza’s diagnosis hit the media. Thank you for being a voice for this population. ~Samantha, RN at Akron Children’s Hospital