Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Autism and the Criminal Law

Should an 18 year old man with autism and an IQ measured between 43 and 62, who a psychiatrist has testified functions on the level of a 3-4 year old be found competent to stand trial for criminal charges of assaulting a teacher and a room mate in separate incidents? The question is not one that Michelle Dawson, Jim Sinclair or Amanda Baggs have offered much enlightenment on but it is one that is undoubtedly of great concern to many parents of low functioning autistic children, both out of love for their children and concern for themselves, siblings and other caregivers. It is a question that is under deliberation by a judge in an Athens, Georgia court proceeding as reported in Judge considers whether to put mentally disabled man on trial for assaults by Athens News Senior Writer Jim Phillips. The Defendant is being tried in juvenile court.

The young man involved requires 24 hour supervision and has difficulty following the context of a discussion according to the psychiatric evidence. A caseworker though has testified that he understands that it is wrong to hit. I would not presume to assess the evidence from afar, as summarized in a newspaper article, of a matter under deliberation by a judge in a proceeding. The court's decision will be of interest to many parents of severely autistic children.

1 comment:

Brian Henson said...

As a person on the autistic spectrum, I am, like you, leaving it up to the courts to decide whether that young person (along with others of similar situation) should be tried or not put on trial for "psychiatric" reasons.

However, it would be, as you say, informative if others, such as Dawson, Baggs, or Sinclair would comment on this issue.

Personally, I have been verbally assaulted right online by other autistics for my stand on many issues. I am at a loss as to why other autistics cannot seem to appreciate differences of opinion--that what they say has to be not so much respected as revered, and any questioning of their posts is seen as "berating" them, which is not true in any case.

I find that Simon-Cohen's ideas of the "extreme male brain", that of ultra-logic in comprehending life to be the closest answer, so far, in the mystery of understanding autism. With each autistic individual having such extreme logic, it's no wonder that both deep scientific comprehension of nuclear physics and "meltdowns" can come from the same person.