According to this article, an autistic teen-ager from Ohio, accused of beating his mother to death, is likely not competent to stand trial. The article indicates that both the prosecution and defense agree on this point at this time, with the judge set to make a decision next week. From the article:
Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow said he probably would rule next week on whether Walker, who did not attend Friday's hearing, will stand trial and, if not, whether to send him to a treatment facility. The judge said he expects to keep the evaluation under court seal and not release it publicly.
The article only offers a brief description of autism as a “developmental disorder that limits social interaction and communication skills, usually starting before age 3.”
Also from the article:
He was found in the home with his mother’s blood all over his feet, a trail of blood from his mother’s body leading police to his location (in the basement). The other pertinent information appears to be that his mother called in to his school to inform them he wouldn’t be coming in, due to “a meltdown.”
The article’s brief description of Autism does not do justice to just how debilitating Autism can be. When severe, individuals with this disorder can have major deficits in social, communicative, and behavioral functioning. Individuals with Autism usually (but not always) are mentally retarded, and can have extremely poor frustration tolerance due to their difficulty with communication. A larger individual with severe autism can be quite a handful, to say the least. From a competency perspective, a significant case of autism could certainly impair not only an individual’s ability to assist their attorney, but also their rational understanding of court proceedings. This might be due to associated cognitive deficits, but socially they may not grasp the nature and purpose of many aspects of court proceedings. In addition, you may also find an inability to assist on one’s defense due to behavioral problems, as was identified in the article.
Given this is a pervasive developmental disorder with no “cure,” (though lots of dedicated families and treatment providers work extremely hard to improve the deficits of those afflicted), it is not likely that an individual found incompetent to stand trial due to autism would be restorable in the near future. Of course, I’m speaking in generalities, I am not familiar with the specifics in this case. For more information about autism, check out here and here.