High Functioning Autism: Do You Know What It Feels Like To Be Torched Alive?

If we continue to simply say that this kid is just a monster, we will be enabling other "monster" kids to commit future heinous acts of violence.

This is why we, and the media, and the politicians, can not turn away. This is why we have to look at Cho Seung-Hui, read his manifesto, look at his video and study his sad history of being bullied, and of having untreated illnesses.

There is so much that we need to learn from this unfathomable insanity.

It is safe to say that we have behaved horribly with regard to mental illness and developmental disorders in this country. I draw a lesson from the horrific slaughter at Virginia Tech. There were so many extreme warning signals - a cry for help - from this tormented young man for so many years.

What I am about to write will cause much hate mail from the Autistic Community. But in order to fully understand any catastrophe, one must dispassionately consider all the facts to understand its cause and to prevent such a horror from ever happening again. We need to insure that sick people get early and intensive treatment, so that they don't lash out - cornered like an animal - at a society they feel bullied by.

The first and most obvious of Cho's symptoms - from early on in his life - was that he was suffering from characteristics of Autistic Spectrum Disorder - difficulties with: social skills, communication, obsessive tendencies, adaptability and speech articulation, amongst other possible symptoms.

A high functioning autism to be sure, perhaps Asperger's, but certainly in the spectrum.

"From the beginning, he wouldn't answer me," Kim Yang-soon, Cho's great aunt, told the Associated Press. "(He) didn't talk. Normally sons and mothers talk. There was none of that for them. He was very cold."

"When they went to the United States, they told them it was autism," said Kim, 85, adding that the family had constant worries about Cho.

Soon after they arrived, Cho's mother took the boy to a doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis of autism. But the family was too poor and busy trying to set up its new life to give Cho the medical attention he needed. Cho's great aunt said she believed Cho's mother was 'not very determined to get treatment for him' because he continued to receive good school grades after the autism diagnosis and the family hoped he would eventually straighten himself out.

Autism - a topic of heated debate in the scientific community and the MSM - is a neurodevelopmental disorder that encompasses a broad range of symptoms frequently including impaired social interaction and communication, as well as obsessive interests and behavior. Little is understood about its cause and there is no cure. Bill Gates is widely reported to display many personality traits characteristic of Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.

Cho's autism has not been mentioned much in the US media because the autistic community went ballistic -- intimidating the media - at any suggestion that autism caused the killings at Virginia Tech.

CNN broadcast the autism connection and quickly withdrew it from its website after complaints from activists. The AP story that mentioned the link was highlighted in papers around the world, but not mentioned in any US headlines.

Yahoo put out an alert - Kill Story - to a piece linking Cho with Autism. The offending - since killed - story quoted Autism activist Cindy Waeltermann, who cautioned the public not to stigmatize children or individuals with autism. Cho likely did not receive the help and support that he needed early on - that is why early intervention is so important.

The act of one individual, Waeltermann added, should not reflect upon the entire autistic population.

The activists are right. It is ridiculous and unfair to blame the bloody massacre on autism. In fact, most autistics are peaceful and generally frightened. But truth be told, some autistics have extreme anger issues - as do individuals with bi-polar, depression, paranoia, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders.

But Cho's high functioning, untreated autism and speech difficulties should surely be considered as a contributing factor - compounded by vicious bullying by his peers - which led to multi-diagnosis, sociopathic rage and delusions. One educational blog - Teacherfocus - said that the most important treatment is to protect the Asperger's child from bullies.

This did not happen with Cho. Bullying was rampant at his Chantilly High School and, according to a fellow student, at least one teacher held him up to ridicule by making him read aloud, when he clearly didn't want to. Couldn't! See my previous piece: The Whole Class Started Laughing and Saying, "Go Back to China."

The neglect of these severe issues by ignorant educators in grade and high school led Cho to a dark history of psychological impairment with numerous other disorders - depresssion, entreme paranoia, and sociopathic anti-social behavior.

This should be a wake up call for parents that stresses the importance of early intervention, research, and appropriate treatment strategies for kids who are bullied as a result of high functioning autism or other illnesses.
Research has consistently shown that when children receive the help that they need early on, they are more likely to become more adept at social and communication skills.

Bullying even affects children with cancer. One study of pediatric leukemia patients showed that they associated their worst pain not with chemotherapy, surgery, or spinal taps, but with "going back to school and being teased."

Jed Baker, a psychologist who works with Asperger's kids, found the situation was very severe. "In some areas, there have been reports that 90 percent of kids with Asperger's are getting bullied on a daily basis," according to a recent Nightline Report.

A recent Secret Service study on school shootings found that two thirds of the shooters were victims of bullies.

600,000 adults are living with autism in the United States and this number is rapidly skyrocketing. Autism affects 1 in 150 children and is now the most commonly diagnosed developmental disability. It is time to recognize autism for the epidemic it is.

April is autism awarness month.

It may be that Cho sent his multimedia manifesto to NBC because of the Law and Order episode, which portrayed a victim of Asperger's Syndrome, and that Cho thought NBC would understand his suffering. His motivation may have been to call attention to the plight of all victims of his condition.

If this hypothesis is true, then Cho's actions should be an alarm that wakes us all to the plight of those people on the fringes who suffer from autism and other emotional diseases.

What can we learn from Cho's words:

"It's not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters that you fuck, I did it for them.

"You have ... raped my soul. You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.

"Do you know what it feels to be spit on your face and to have trash shoved down your throat?

"Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive?

"You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

What must come from this mass murder is a serious national discussion about the dire lack of mental health services for our children. This was a case of a child slipping through elementary school, middle school and high school, with no educators, teachers, or counselors realizing and treating an obvious, severe developmental disorder. It is all very complicated. Medical insurance considers autism to be an educational issue, whereas schools consider it medical, if they consider it at all. What it amounts to is institutional child abuse.

We have a no child left behind act, but it is a farce...... in reality we have a many children left behind policy.

Cho is guilty of the greatest mass murder in our history by a lone gunman and he is responsible for his actions - but there is much blood on many hands from a failed system, which never gave Cho a chance - and 33 dead is the result.

jfleetwood@aol.com