Editor’s Note: HA in no way supports or condones speculation of the neurostatus of children, nor the bullying of children through social media or other means of communication.
From the time Trump started his campaign, up until his taking office, there have been multiple people sending out tweets about Barron, his 10 year old son. Many of these have ranged in topic from speculation on whether he is autistic, to calling him a future serial shooter. The people tweeting seem to not care that they are targeting a child, instead focusing on perceived problems that Barron has as though it is their right.
This article will focus on two main tweets that seem to be foremost in people’s minds.The above tweet was sent by Rosie O’Donnell, and speculated publicly as to Barron’s neurostatus. Given the atmosphere towards autists in society and media, this was a dangerous thing to do. It is always private whether someone is autistic or not.
This tweet seems to expand on the speculation that he is autistic, and jumps to the conclusion that Barron is a violent person waiting to explode.
Leaving aside the most basic fact that Barron is neither homeschooled nor autistic, I would like to address this linking of autism and violence as well as the claim that he would be the first homeschool shooter.
It has long been an assumption that an autist is naturally more inclined to be violent than an allistic person. People and media have jumped to these conclusions because of the apparent ‘lack of empathy’ displayed by the demeanor autists have. We typically do not display emotion like allistic people, and this has been the cause of many misunderstandings, judgments, and danger.
Some of the risks involved in speculating on someone’s neurostatus can include: increased harrassment, social isolation, affecting one’s access to education, prevent someone from seeking/accessing appropriate medical or mental health care. This speculation in Barron’s case has resulted in more harrassment from twitter and other social media platforms.
The Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-hui, was supposedly autistic. It was widely speculated again that his autism is what caused him to be a violent shooter. The Umpqua Community College shooter, Christopher Harper-Mercer, was also speculated to have been autistic too. Adam Lanza, a homeschooled autist (TW for descriptions of physical and sexual violence), was the shooter at Sandy Hook, a national tragedy. The speculation that his autism is what caused him to turn violent. There were even links to limited studies that appeared to show a link.
These fears stigmatize an already marginalized group, making it seem as though our differences are really proof that we’re ‘soulless’, ’empty-eyed’, ‘vacant’, ‘anti-social’, and other negative words that strip away our humanity. These kinds of words seem to empower people to be violent and cruel towards autists.
Contrary to public fears about autism and violence being linked, studies actually show that autists are more likely to be the victim of harrassment and abuse. A study by the National Autistic Society (NAS) showed that nearly half of all autists surveyed had experienced some form of abuse or harrassment.
A sibling control study was done that showed no link between ASD and criminal behavior.
The longitudinal relationship between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and violent criminality has been extensively documented, while long-term effects of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), tic disorders (TDs), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) on criminality have been scarcely studied. Using population-based registers of all child and adolescent mental health services in Stockholm, we identified 3,391 children, born 1984-1994, with neurodevelopmental disorders, and compared their risk for subsequent violent criminality with matched controls. Individuals with ADHD or TDs were at elevated risk of committing violent crimes, no such association could be seen for ASDs or OCD. ADHD and TDs are risk factors for subsequent violent criminality, while ASDs and OCD are not associated with violent criminality.
Combining these worrying stereotypes with the speculation that Barron would be the first homeschool shooter was highly irresponsible.
Homeschoolers Anonymous has an extensive series called ‘When Homeschoolers Turn Violent’. In it, there are detailed lists of homeschoolers that have become violent as well as an exploration about what lessons can be learned. These homeschoolers have, for many reasons, become violent.
Katie Rich’s tweet that Barron would be the first homeschool shooter shows a lack of knowledge and understanding about the issue. Again, we are leaving aside the fact that Barron is not homeschooled.
Homeschooling brings with it many risks, which cannot be ignored. Among them are mental health issues, socialization issues, and abuse through discipline. These issues can combine in catastrophic ways, creating homeschool shooters. It is a myth that homeschoolers are less likely to be violent, or that homeschooling is a safer alternative.
In the end, Katie Rich and Rosie O’Donnell chose to speak about things they do not know in order to gain followers, likes, and attention. They did so in an irresponsible and bullying manner, choosing to focus on a child and his behaviors, instead of focusing on Trump and his policies.