I’m not sure who said it first, which news agency, which reporter….I don’t know, but whoever reported it was being negligently irresponsible in their reporting.
It came out late Friday evening, after the worst elementary school shooting in the nation’s history, that the shooter, Adam Lanza, may have had Aspergers…some said that he had autism.
They could have just as easily said that he was diabetic, had brown eyes, was a New England Patriots fan or had a penchant for sweets…none of it…not a single word of it…had any bearing on what he did or why he did it.
To report that it did, as if it DID have any relevance is complete ignorance. Ignorance that will lead the general public to attach a stigma to an already greatly misunderstood and neglected diagnosis.
Violence is NOT inherent to autism. Neither is it inherent to Aspergers, which is on the Autism Spectrum.
Autism is a nationwide epidemic. It is currently believed that 1 in 88 children are on the spectrum.
The Webster’s dictionary Autism definition is as follows:
1) A disorder that develops by age three, that is variable in expression, but is diagnosed by an impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships.
2) By stereotyped behavior patterns–especially as exhibited by a varying obsession with repetitive activities of restricted focus rather than with flexible and imaginative ones.
3) By impairment of the ability to communicate with others.
Is there anything in there that says, “prone to planned violence?” Anything about violence at all? It isn’t. Just like an inability to regulate insulin doesn’t make you prone to “planned violence.”
The fact of the matter is that autistic children are FAR more likely to be the victims of violence and bullying than other kids. Typically, they are quiet and solitary. They are awkward socially, but it does not mean that they do not want to be social.
I write about my son a lot. My son, who is high-functioning autistic, has problems filtering what he says and what he hears. He doesn’t understand what would be considered normal body language and cues. He frustrates easily, that does not make him a violent child. When he gets frustrated by loud noises, crowded rooms, etc…he takes a minute, by himself to recompose himself…to calm down.
He doesn’t go get a gun. Just like a diabetic in an insulin fit eats an apple or a candy bar…they don’t get something to eat and a gun.
Please do not put that completely false stigma on 1 in 88 of the population, further alienating a group that is too often marginalized into their own special education environments far away from the “normal” kids. They have it hard enough as it is, we don’t need people being afraid of them too.
Now there certainly are forms of mental illness–autism is NOT classified as a mental illness–where a penchant for violence is a symptom. I have not seen anyone yet report that the shooter was classified with any of those conditions.
We are all looking for answers to this unspeakable crime…but realize that we are looking for ANSWERS, not unsubstantiated rumors…and especially irrelevant ones.