parent opinion

'Waleed Aly spoke about his son's autism. Then the news about Courtney Herron's killer came on.'

Last night after my son gave me a million kisses and told me a million times that he loved me, my husband and I sat down to watch The Project.

One segment was on the amazing work of Tom Gleisner and others that are part of an early intervention program in Melbourne for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Being the proud parents of a little boy on the spectrum, my husband and I were delighted in the segment and especially Waleed’s words after it touching on his own experiences as the parent of a child on the spectrum.

Waleed Aly discusses autism on The Project. Post continues after video. 

It’s always nice to find others that are familiar with your own experience and can resonate with the journey. Then after the commercial break, the news segment of The Project came on, discussing the horrific death of the young lady in Melbourne named Courtney Herron over the weekend.

When describing the alleged killer, the journalist said he had a delusional disorder as well as autism. Both mine and my husband’s hearts sank. Yet again, autism is viewed in a negative light and it seems the media and the law is using it as an avenue to explain horrific crimes such as this.

The DSM-5 criteria for autism spectrum disorder does not classify psychopathic tendencies or violent behaviour as a criteria for autism. The journalist (or lawyer) may as well have said he has brown eyes because that is just as significant as saying he has autism.

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I am so angry that cases like these are contributing to the stigma attached to autism, that they show no emotion, are unable to show love or are violent. That is such a stereotype.

Statistics show that people on the spectrum are much more likely to be the victim of harm rather than the perpetrator. Bullying for those on the spectrum is also more likely than a neurotypical person. Yet autism is the one that gets a bad wrap.

LISTEN: Melinda Hildebrandt speaks candidly to Mia Freedman about parenting her daughter who has autism and is deaf. Post continues after audio.

I wonder how many people on the spectrum have been watching the news lately and felt shame for being who they are? I wonder how many parents will stay up tonight wondering whether their beautiful little cherub that is on the spectrum will one day grow up to be a killer?

I wonder how many parents have considered getting a diagnosis for their child but due to the stigma attached and highlighted in the media, will wait a little longer or perhaps never get it all because they’re worried their child will become a target? Only to have that child miss out on vital interventions and therapies that will help them or have them going through life misunderstood.

The media needs to do better, the law needs to do better. We all have Google, we all have YouTube. If that’s as far as your education goes then so be it, even from those sources you will find autism is not as it is portrayed in the media.

It’s called a spectrum for a reason because everyone is different and unique. Like the saying says, “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism”.

Whether or not that person is a killer has very little to do with them having autism and more to do with drugs, alcohol, the way they were raised, their morals, their values and a myriad of other reasons.

What ever the killer’s reasons on the weekend, autism isn’t one.

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