Asperger's does not make a murderer

Regarding your article about the teen girl accused of plotting her father's murder with her boyfriend ("Troubled child on a dark path," May 19), I found the article filled with misleading information and misinformation.

First, the article tells us she "struggled with mental health" issues, leading us to believe that it was those issues that resulted in the tragedy that occurred. Yet we get no further information on these "mental health issues." The next sentence tells us she has Asperger's. Asperger's is not a mental illness or a mental health issue. It is a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, a developmental disorder. Asperger's does not make someone violent.

Next we learn that she has a learning disorder that makes her "unable to decipher the social cues, jokes and emotions of her peers." Having a learning disorder does not make it impossible for one to read social cues. Difficulty with social cues is a hallmark of Asperger's, but Asperger's is not a learning disorder. Those with Asperger's are not "unable" to read cues, but they tend to be more limited in the range they can perceive or interpret. Some individuals with Asperger's may also have learning difficulties or disorders, but that is not a given any more than being an individual without Asperger's means you will not have a separate learning disability.

Your article invites your readers to conclude that this girl suffered from mental health issues, namely Asperger's, and it is because of this that she planned her father's murder. In doing so, you do a severe disservice to your readers and a severe injustice to the one in every 80 children in Maryland diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders who may now be seen as a threat to others because the inferences of this article. I suggest that your reporters contact local experts in the area of autism spectrum disorders before they write any more articles on the subject.

Janet Schneider Tillman, Ellicott City

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