Blaming wrong doing on a health disorder, especially when undiagnosed by a medical professional can have serious consequences highlighted in the media storm surrounding public figure Don Burke.
Several organisations have hit back at Mr Burke for ‘playing the blame game’, condemning him for his “appalling” Asperger’s syndrome defence in the wake of allegations he now faces.
‘The I Can Network’ took to social media to publicly express their disappointment for the slanderous comments the television veteran made during an interview on 27 November.
Statements made in their Facebook post read: “The I CAN Network considers this to be an unforgivable slur against the Autism community.”
“To equate Asperger’s with a genetic failing that somehow causes one to mistakenly perpetrate sexual harassment or assault is utterly disgusting.”
“Too often, people on the Autism Spectrum are described as soulless or empty – Don Burke’s comment plays into this incorrect stereotype.”
The Network mentors young people on the Autism Spectrum to live life with an ‘I CAN’ attitude through education, advocacy and providing opportunities.
Their statement drew widespread reaction online, mainly in support of the stance.
Autism Awareness Australia (AAA) also used their Twitter platform to speak out against Mr Burke’s ploy, saying:
“We have a community of incredible autistic individuals who we love and respect.They bravely face many challenges everyday. We see them as our heroes. We won’t sit back and allow Don Burke to use autism as his scapegoat and fuel misconceptions about our community.”
The organisation works to improve the lives of all Australians on the autism spectrum and the families who love and care for them.
AAA’s Chief Executive Officer Nicole Rogerson made her disapproval known, sending out her own personal tweet which she says: “Aspergers/ Autism is not your ‘go to’ diagnosis for this kind of behaviour /crime.”
Both organisations have made clear for all media to treat this issue with respect and sensitivity.