- Published: November 12, 2012
- Written by Amanda Studebaker
Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is a type of Autism Spectrum Disorder that is associated with people who function well academically but have trouble in social interaction and exhibit repetitive behaviors. While the neurological manifestation of AS has not yet been fully discovered, people with AS have less grey matter in the frontostriatal and cerebellar regions than controls and exhibit differences within the limbic system, particularly in sensorimotor gating. The line between AS and general autism is the topic of current controversy; AS was listed in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) but may not be in DSM-V when it comes out next year.
AS presents an interesting challenge to the courts, as it may drive people to commit crimes even though they have no malicious intent. Darius McCollum is a prime example of the challenges that AS brings. McCollum is fascinated by trains and has been arrested 27 times because of it, the majority of which have been for commandeering subway trains and buses. While McCollum’s crime – driving around a bus with passengers on board – is definitely major, his intent isn’t to steal the bus. Therefore, the actus reus is present but the mens rea is not. However, again and again, he has been sent to jail for his crimes. Clearly treatment in jail is not helping to reduce his recidivism.
Psychologists recommend that people with AS participate in therapy that teaches them about normal social interaction and allows them to practice interacting with others in a non-threatening environment. This therapy is expensive to implement within the prison system. Instead of sending these people to jail, sending them to a mental institution or requiring therapy has much greater potential in preventing them from committing future crimes.
People with AS are not malicious and should not be isolated from the public because of their obsessive behaviors. Instead, they should be taught how to interact properly with others. An understanding that what they are doing is wrong will help them choose not to commit crimes in the future.
For more information:
Asperger's Syndrome Therapy: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/OnCall/story?id=4133184&page=1#.UKBV7eOe8ho