May 3, 2006

What if I had a bomb that could blow up the whole school.

I have a hypothetical story to tell you (in my typical rambling Aspie fashion):

Aidan has just been expelled, because he threatened to blow up the high school. His buddy Jacob also was kicked out because he was threatened to kill the football team. You are stunned because your Aspie child is good friends with Aidan and Jake. Aidan is autistic and fairly high functioning. Jake has never been "officially" diagnosed at school, but is in the process of going through testing. It looks like Jake will receive the ever popular PDD NOS designation, and school staff are resisting drafting a 504 plan. In fact last week you overheard one school staff say something like, "He's not disabled, he's just obstinate."

Are Aidan and Jake bad kids? Oops, not allowed to say bad anymore. Are Aidan and Jake a threat? The might be. The more revealing question is, what were Aidan and Jake intending by what they said?

Well, this little story of mine is not based on any specific historical event nor do I have credentials or research to back what I say. However, as an unofficially diagnosed Aspie with two clearly diagnosed children, I have my ears open to these things and this story is a composite of some things that I have heard.

So let's pretend, Aidan's actual statement was, "What if I had a bomb that could blow up the whole school. I could hide it in the principal’s office if it were the right size." A panicked student reported this to a guidance counselor after reading his statement on When questioned, Aiden said, "I was just thinking about blowing up the school."


Now the police are involved. Aiden makes it worse for himself.

Police: "Son, where you planning to blow up the school."
Aiden: "Yes."
Police: "How were you planning on doing it?"

That was end for Aiden, because he was delighted to explain his plans in detail.

That’s what happened, but what was Aiden going to do?

Nothing. What was his intent? Nothing. There was no intent.

Aiden is an Aspie. From my experience our minds are constantly revolving through scenarios. We are constantly working through what-ifs.

I remember as a child sitting with my older brother on a commercial flight in a holding pattern over Lake Michigan. My brain started saying, “What if the plain crashed.” That came out of my mouth. In my mind I was considering how crashing on water would be different from cashing on land. I had no thought to the emotional component or tragedy of a plain crash. My brother was shocked that I would say that. Then my brain popped up a funny result. If we dropped a water softener into Lake Michigan in there it would give us a softer landing. Ha, ha, ha (nerdy Aspie humor about words). My brother, a neurotypical, didn’t find my humor funny at that point.

When I was a boy in the days before ATMs or internet banking, I would ride into town with mom or dad and wait in the car while they withdrew money for our various purchases we might need to make. As I sat there, my mind spun through various scenarios for the best way to rob a bank and get away with it.

So in my pretend example of Aiden, he intended nothing. He was going through an exercise in his brain, and planning out how, if he were evil, he would go about hiding a bomb powerful enough to blow up his school. For a kid like Aiden, this provided a lot of mentally stimulating exercise. How do you make a bomb powerful enough and small enough. He even did a little research, because it was interesting. He found it interesting enough that he wanted to tell some one about it. Aspies (and maybe all Autistics) feel compelled to divulge new information about their area of interest.

Aiden had no thought of the social impact of what he was saying, because blowing up schools is wrong. Of course he wasn’t going to do it. In his imagination he didn’t consider killing people. That’s offensive and wrong. He might find interest in the blast pattern and how the overpressure wave of the explosion would impact structures and if those structures would serve as shrapnel. How would that impact the human body, and who would survive? It was just interesting to think about.

What’s my point?

Parents, teachers, and care givers: Teach your Aspie children about what not to say in public. Aiden could have grown up and worked with other Aspies in a security firm, branch of the military or any other industry that needs people who can’t help but asking “What if”. His expulsion from school may jeopardize that.

God was kind to me in that he provided that my father was an airpline pilot. Between the age of 5 and 25 I spent time each year walking through metal detectors, and knowing that certain words would be perceived as a threat by airline personnel. If I ever said certain things out loud in the airport, I was gently reprimanded.

There were times however, that I said things that shocked people and didn’t understand why.

That said, this posting has gone on long enough. More later.

Adam M. Parmenter

P.S. If you are a parent, clinician or care giver for an individual who is in the High functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder classification (HASD), please swing by or send an e-mail to me so that you can join the HASD Heros group. Also, take a moment to visit my band’s web site

1 comment:

  1. I had to explain to my Aspie son why his teacher was so upset about him drawing tanks and weapons at school. It never occurred to him that it could be perceived as a threat. I told him he could draw anything he wanted to at home, but at school, no weapons or tanks.

    Your blog is very interesting, and as soon as I find time, I'm going to read all the posts. It's great to be able to read how life is from your point of view. It gives me some insight into what my son is thinking. Thanks!