A Message about the Tragedy in Parkland

Mar 5, 2018 – Stacey Hoaglund

I am the recently elected president to the Autism Society of Florida. Due to the
media’s opinion that there is evidence that Nikolas Cruz has been diagnosed with
autism, I feel the need to share clarification in this regard.

Autism is a communication, sensory and social disorder characterized by
challenges in critical thinking, executive functioning and generalization of skills.
All three of these would have been necessary to commit the atrocity that took
place on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,
Florida. Please note that NOWHERE within the diagnostic criteria for autism is
there anything related to violent behavior. The vast majority of individuals with
autism have a strong desire to please those they care about, thrive on
consistency and are avid rule followers… all of which flies in the face of the
horrendous act which took place this past week.

Autism did not take the lives of anyone

As we learn more about the individual arrested for this unspeakable crime
against humanity, we can see that he appeared very troubled. None of his
behaviors described in the media are related to behaviors of a person with

Children and adults who have autism have long fought for the right to be included
in their schools and communities. They continuously find themselves in positions
where they must passionately advocate against bureaucracies that attempt to
smother them with low expectations and lack of necessary supports and
services. In fact, it has taken until 2018 for our society to even remotely begin to
recognize the gifts that people with autism bring to our society. Today,
awareness of what autism is and isn’t is better than ever before, but unfortunately
far too many people, including some in the media, still do not understand.
Individuals with autism deserve respect as valued members of society, free of
discrimination. When news reports imply that autism might have impacted this
horrific act, the over 3.5 million people with autism are denied that level of
respect and value.

We ask the media to refrain from making autism a factor in this heinous event,
and instead expose the changes necessary in our society to promote the lives of
all people.

Stacey Hoaglund

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