Journalists have a responsibility to deliver news stories truthfully to the public. So what is the truth behind Asperger syndrome?
Last month, a young man committed suicide after being publicly humiliated at his place of work by his coworkers. The journalists who wrote about this event made a point of mentioning in their story how the young man “suffered from Asperger syndrome.”
To say an individual suffers from Asperger syndrome is an unfair assumption. To suggest that Asperger syndrome was the cause of the young man’s death is an unfair accusation. Asperger syndrome does not cause suicidal tendencies. Blaming a behavioral disorder for this young man’s actions steers the focus away from the poor behavior displayed by his coworkers.
The journalists for these stories were not unjustified in stating the fact the young man had a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. It is fair to say Asperger’s affects how we behave. However, since the majority of readers do not know what Asperger syndrome is, the mention of Asperger’s has now become synonymous with suggesting a “troubled mind.”
Asperger syndrome says something about a person, but at the same time it says very little. Journalists should not even bother mentioning Asperger syndrome in a story unless it has direct bearing on the circumstances.
Using Asperger syndrome as a way to explain what happened to this young man is not the way to pay respects to him. Having Asperger syndrome does not make what people think and feel invalid. The truth is everyone feels pain. No one can blame Asperger’s for that.