Case study of man with Asperger syndrome highlights impact of late diagnosis and lack of intervention on risk of offending


This paper describes a case study of a young man with Asperger syndrome who set a fire in his home.

The authors point out that offences may be committed by people with autistic spectrum disorders because of deficits in social skills, co-morbid mental health problems or abuse of drugs and alcohol. There may also be links with their particular special interests.

In relation to the case study, they found that each of these issues contributed to the fire-setting behaviour.

In addition to the case study, the authors also briefly summarise the literature in relation to ASD and offending. From this review and the reflection on the case study, they conclude that late diagnosis and consequent lack of intervention can increase the risk of offending.

They suggest that adults with ASD who offend “can benefit from treatment in specialist secure units and the prognosis following such treatment may be good.”

Asperger syndrome and arson: a case study, Radley J & Shaherbano Z in Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities 5,6, 32-36

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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