Sunday, April 22, 2007

A letter from Monica Moshenko

I received an email today from Monica Moshenko. Not having heard her name before, I was not aware of her being a somewhat public figure, so I wrote back asking if she would mind if I posted her letter here. I don't like to assume that communications to me at my email address are for public view; I prefer to ask first. This is what I wrote:


Thank you for your response. You make some good points here as well as some others I disagree with. I would like to publish this Email to my blog, either under comments or as a separate post with a response from me. Many bloggers do not believe in the need to ask permission before publishing mail they receive, but I prefer to err on the side of good manners. Therefore, I ask you, may I add this to the blog?


And this was her response:

HI Bev

Thanks for writing and sharing.. I am speaking from the heart and as a parent and advocate of many, I know that the autism community is having a difficult time digesting Autism as a diagnosis for this individual Cho but autism is not the what killed people.. an individual did.
Best regards


NTs really are hard to understand sometimes. I would have included a word like "yes" or "no" somewhere in response to a question, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, I'm taking this as a "yes", since that's my best guess of what it means. So here is the original e-mail, with some commentary provided:

I have read that Cho was indeed diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at eight years of age… but no intervention took place. It wasn’t autism that killed people in Virginia Tech but an individual that had exhibited symptoms of a learning disability at a young age and the people that came in contact with all the years in school did nothing to intervene. Why ..because he was smart, a loner and Korean….. and probably because his own family didn’t accept the diagnosis (this isn’t so unusual is it?)

Some good points here. Kids who get good grades and are quiet don't tend to set off alarms as easily. All students deserve to get the services they need to be successful. Some families have a very hard time accepting a diagnosis for their children.

I think it is wrong to deny that Cho exhibited autism traits... It is not autism that killed people but this individual Cho who never received help or interventions for years..........

Again, I agree. It's the presence of these traits that prompted my original post. However, I am not qualified to diagnose anyone, dead or alive. Certainly, whether or not Cho was autistic, autism is not responsible for these deaths

This is so important for parents to remember and a lesson for all people who try to deny children services/support or say they are too smart to receive services at all... even though they have a diagnosis. All the years that Cho was in school, all the teachers that had in class didn't see that he had a disability and did nothing speaks volumes to me. It is not so unusual to hear about kids that are smart, shy, lacking social skills that continue to get pushed through the system for a myriad of reasons......schools don't want to provide services, parents don't want to accept the diagnosis, parents don't know their rights under law for interventions, and some parents have issues that compound getting help for their own child...

If we don't accept that Cho was diagnosed with autism and learn from this, we are compounding the problem of getting help for thousands of children now and in
the future.

This is where I start having a problem.

While I admit that children on the autism spectrum are not usually violent, keep in mind this young man was someone who never had intervention

I never had intervention either; I am not and was never violent. This is true for many many people on the spectrum.

and who knows what it was like for him to deal with day to day issues..which I am certain most people didn't even know as he didn't share his feels.. How many kids on the autism spectrum have challenges with sharing their feelings?

Or alternately, how many of the typical persons in their lives take the time to learn how to listen to what they are saying? Why is it always the minority who is said to "have challenges"? We are supposed to understand and use typical ways of communication rather than NTs learning more about autistic communication, yet we are the ones who are said to be disabled. Logic?

Remember this individual Cho does not represent Autism -

Who said he did? I know it wasn't me...

he was diagnosed with it and no one did anything to intervene. Can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer

Please, no, please, please don't let this be another of those autism = cancer fallacies!

when you are eight-years old and then no one does anything for years, even though they suspect something is wrong?

Something was wrong, alright. It's called bullying.

Then you "suddenly" do things from rage...because you are dying inside and no one did a thing to help.

Autism = dying inside? Well, no...

I am not trying to justify what Cho did as right, what I am saying is that this individual needed help, was diagnosed with autism and lived without any treatment/therapy for years… not able to have friends, social issues, etc. along with other emotional problems that compounded his mental state.

He needed help. Yes. He was diagnosed with autism. Apparently, yes. But note the (illogical) implication here: He needed help because he was diagnosed with autism. No. No. No.

Where are all the experts that saw the signs and symptoms which Cho exhibited for years… and did nothing but push him through the system? By denying the diagnosis now, people will further contribute to other’s not getting the help they so desperately need…

If I understand your point here (and I'm not sure of that), you are saying that autistics need help to prevent them from becoming violent. Or is it maybe that this looks like a delicious red herring to serve up to anyone who might contribute to the causes of research, cure, prevention, etc?

Monica Moshenko, Parent, Advocate
Host – DisAbility News & Views Radio

I appreciate the understanding that autism did not commit the crimes. What's missing is the understanding that Cho did not commit the crimes because of autism.

I'm all for making sure people get the interventions they need. Social exclusion, bullying and forced conformity need to be addressed as the enormous problems they are. Parents, teachers, lawmakers and advocates must insist that the (mostly) typical kids who engage in these practices receive the proper treatment and instruction needed to prevent further tragedies.


  1. Is cancer really the only other condition so many of these people are aware of? Jeebus.

    I'm not dying inside, or violent. But I get irritated. And bullying caused far more problems than autism ever did...the issues with autism can be worked around. Bullying causes long lasting PTSD and trust issues.

    Youd think someone who wangled themselves a radio show would have done enough research to know that.

  2. I'd like to know why she is so insistent that we should "accept that Cho was diagnosed with autism," when there is, as far as I know, no evidence of an actual diagnosis. The news stories that mentioned autism were based entirely on hearsay reports from distant relatives in Korea. As a journalist, she ought to know that it is irresponsible to "accept" anything that hasn't been adequately verified.

    Looks like what she's actually telling us to "accept" is that we are all mentally inferior and would have been better off if our existence had been "prevented." No surprise to see an attitude like that from a prominent NAAR/Autism Speaks supporter who regularly organizes those infamous fundraising walks for eugenics research and prenatal screening.

    I think you've got another name for your haters' registry, Bev.

  3. So this person is going to use Cho as a means of pushing for intervention. Would you mind passing a message for me?

    Your logic is non existent and your strategy totally flawed, not to mention that it will be autistics who will pay the price for your actions in equating autism with psychopathy. Not, mind you, that we haven't seen this false equation before. Usually this comes in the form of no intervention = institutionalisation. Just think how fast the experts will be to get these psycho behind bars and maybe that should happen before they do something. After all all how can you tell if they've had the right intervention or enough of it. Does chelation count?

    As someone here said - what are you planning to do with all the psycho perpetrators of bullying and when exactly do you plan to start with that intervention?

    Apologies Bev - I'm not normally this blunt but if this is called advocacy, I'd rather have her for an enemy.

  4. Isn't there something eerie about claiming Cho as a poster boy for autism awareness? We should use this supposed diagnosis to help spread the word about autism? No thanks.

  5. This is my first visit to your blog.

    I stopped taking you seriously when you said, "NTs really are hard to understand sometimes. I would have included a word like 'yes' or 'no' somewhere in response to a question, but maybe that's just me."

    You are trying to make people understand that Cho's violent behavior is not representative of autistic people, and yet you want to make snide comments about this woman's writing skills being representative of NTs.


  6. Gwen,

    Representative? What part of "sometimes", "maybe" and "just me" did you not understand?

    Also, I don't consider using the word "lame" as an insult when writng in a forum about disabilities to be very kind or helpful.

    Thank you for your feedback.

  7. Gwen wrote:

    I stopped taking you seriously when you said, "NTs really are hard to understand sometimes. I would have included a word like 'yes' or 'no' somewhere in response to a question, but maybe that's just me."

    When I read Moshenko's reply email my first thought was "does that mean 'yes' or 'no'?" Maybe Bev's question sounded like a snark, but I'll testify that Bev was not the only person to have that question.

    If there was a snark, it was wondering why NT's seem to do that a lot.

    ...And on that point, speaking only for myself now: I run into that sort of thing constantly -- people answering a different question from the one I asked.
    It's like asking people what time it is and getting "purple" back as a reply 60% of the time. And I'm not some grammatical sticker or anything; it's not form or preference or hair-splitting -- I literally cannot decipher whether that email means 'yes' or 'no'.

    I get the feeling the answer to that question is so obvious to you that it seems that it must be sarcasm for someone to say that they don't get it. FWIW, I really, actually don't get it.

  8. Makoto,
    Thanks for writing this. The comment re "yes or no" in the original post was not meant as a snark. I was honestly confused at getting what I saw as a non-response to my question. My response to Gwen was snarky and I felt kind of bad about that. I try not to stoop to the level of people who try to pick fights with me and I later felt I could have handled it better.

    Yes, this happens all the time with me too, this non-answer/answer. I think the problem is that I ask questions that most people understand are not to be asked. Either the answer is obvious to almost everyone or the asking violates a social norm I'm not aware of. Maybe our being direct is as confusing to some NTs as their being indirect is to us. I don't know.

  9. Personally, as an NT, I didn't really see a clear cut "yes" or "no" into her email either. So I would have been confused also.

  10. I'm not dying inside from cancer, that I know of, either. Too many people jump to the conclusion that autism causes one to go on a rampage and become a mass muderer. On the other hand, bullying can push people over the edge. And I admit that as an autistic, it is probably easier to push me over the edge, especially if you know my autistic buttons to push. And I know many of us don't want to hear one of us say that. But here's where the distinction should be made: The conditions that would lead to snap would cause a meltdown or shutdown, which are acts that are not premeditated. On the other hand a murderous rampage involving multiple killings which involve a certain amount of preparation would indicate a considerable amount of premeditation and intent. -all of which do not classify as a melt-down. These acts are obviously retaliatory from the bullying, but they are calculatedly carried out. Again, unlike a meltdown.

    The grounds for bullying become more fertile in a society that is unacceptant of people's differences. A society that aims towards assimilation, instead of integration or inclusion. These premeditated acts are not born of autism but from that interaction which makes people who are different feel disenfranchised, regardless of their difference. But each individual is an individual, and each chooses how to deal or not deal with their disenfranchisement. Some peacefully, some not so peacefully. Some justly, some unjustly. It depends on the individual, not on autism itself.

    It would be ludicrous to blame autism for our actions in Iraq after 9-11, especially when Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. And the masses of people that died as a result, way disproportionate to what took place on 9-11. It was premeditated too, and it was a matter of planned and deliberate choice. But it had nothing to do with autism. Trying to contrive some form of autism link between this action and the American people is just as ridiculous as implying that autism made Cho do what he did. He just happened to be autistic. Just as Americans happen to be who they are.

    If one were to round up a random sampling of Americans and ask them if one should lash out and retaliate against people that had nothing to do with an action that was taken against them, several times fold what the original action was, I can assure you the resounding response would be "hell no!" Yet this is what actually took place. This is why the true nature of Americans can't be blamed for this action. Just as autism should not be blamed for the actions of Mr. Cho.

    No wait...

    Now, can we better appreciate how and why people might be making this false inference?

    People constantly leap to the conclusion that people do things because of who or what they are, saying stuff like he did that because he was autistic, or what happened in Iraq was because Americans did it. When the true nature of an autistic meltdown is not that of premeditation and calculation and the true nature of individual Jane and Joe American who were hurt for some reason would not individually choose to lash out and indiscriminately hurt many many people who had nothing to do with their hurt.

    This is just my autie micro-to-macro pattern-match perspective.

  11. And now the US State Department and the Pentagon are trying to blame autism on Putin's actions. The State Department and Pentsgon Public Affairs offices seem to be feverishly at work getting that word out with their latest media campaigns. So, I guess you can also count them into the list of "haters". Yes, Bev, add them to your list! Until they too get their acts together and not use autism as a tool by which to attempt the defamation and character assassination of others. I'm not a Putin advocate, but what I believe the State Department and Pentagon are doing with this Putin-Autism media blast is wrong. And as a fellow autie I don't appreciate the political intent. It certainly does not help the autism cause.

  12. One of the things that may have masked my behaviour as a kid was the fact that I was multi-cultural. Many of my quirks were attributed to "oh, that must be some foreign trait. Perhaps in that country they act more like that." xD

    The country I grew up in is extremely tolerant to foreigners, so I was blessed with a lot more acceptance than having been in a country in my formative years that would have been more bent on assimilation, rather than integration and inclusion.


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