The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) is outraged by a news story in the Daily Mail that irresponsibly links Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) with the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Other articles have suggested that the shooter may have autism or a learning disability. At this point, these are all speculations, not the findings of qualified professionals.
It is irresponsible to suggest that the Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz, may have an FASD. Obviously, this individual has not been diagnosed with an FASD, so we must ask: What are these claims even based on? They appear to be based on this man’s facial features, which have been irresponsibly analyzed by amateur so-called “experts” inappropriately making such judgments. These claims are rooted in false and stigmatizing stereotypes and have no basis in fact.
We see no good reason for FASD to be discussed at all in the context of this shooting. There is no evidence of any connection between FASD and violent behavior. In fact, individuals living with FASD are disproportionally likely to be victims of violent crime, not perpetrators. FASD is characterized by a range of issues, including difficulties with memory, attention, and sensory processing. As new research shows, FASD is very common and affects up to 1 in 20 children. Clearly, the vast majority of these affected individuals are not violent criminals.
Furthermore, even if the Florida shooter is found to have an FASD, that would mean nothing in terms of our understanding of the condition. FASD does not cause a person to be violent. There are millions of people with FASD and the actions of this one man would not be representative of the overall FASD community.
It is also worth noting that countries with similar, and even higher, rates of FASD do not have the same issues with mass shootings that we have in the United States. FASD is not the issue. The topic of FASD is rarely covered in the news media, and it is a shame that out of all the stories that could be told, media outlets have chosen to associate FASD with violent behavior, demonizing and further stigmatizing individuals with FASD. We condemn the irresponsible statements that are quoted in the Daily Mail, including a quote saying of the shooter, “It could have been FASD.” This reckless statement should not have been made and certainly should not have been published.
Individuals living with FASD have their own struggles and challenges, yet they should not be seen as different from any of us. Most are loving, warm, compassionate, and kind people. They are mothers and fathers, professionals, and members of our communities. They deserve to be understood, valued and supported, not stigmatized and vilified.