Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Defendants With Asperger's Need Court's Understanding

The criminal-justice system often has a hard time understanding defendants with Asperger’s syndrome because of the nature of their verbal and psychiatric symptoms, maintains Madelon Baranoski, Ph.D., M.S.N., an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine. “There is a disparity between their verbal capacity and their practical behavior,” she said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law in Montreal last week. “They don’t get idioms or context, and this ‘odd-yet-normal’ presentation is seen by the court as arrogant and defiant.” An obsessive focus on vocabulary coupled with mood lability and a vulnerability to anxiety, depression, and paranoia can present a serious problem if judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys are unaware of Asperger’s manifestations. A better understanding by courtroom participants (including the defendant) of Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders might lead to disposition at lower levels of charges and better outcomes for the patient/defendant, she said.

Read more in about Asperger’s syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders in Psychiatric News here and here.

(image: Jaimie Duplass/


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