Today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day.
The issue of autism recently touched our profession in a tragic way. Professor Gertrude Steuernagel of Kent State's Department of Political Science was one of the very few scholars studying public policy on autism. In early February, she died from injuries that she suffered in a beating in her home in late January. Her 18-year old son, who has low-functioning autism, is under arrest for the murder and has pleaded not guilty.
I never met Trudy, but for years we had a friendly e-mail correspondence stemming from our shared experience as the parents of autistic kids and our interest in autism policy.
It would compound the tragedy of Trudy's death if it led to the impression that autistic people are violent. Actually, the data show that serious crime is rare among people with such disorders.