We've all heard that the gunman in CT supposedly had Aspergers.

As a community, we immediately speak out against the assumption that those with Autism are more prone to this kind of violence. We fight back against broad generalizations. We try our best to make people understand our kids will not turn into psychopaths.

Unfortunately, there are even those within the community, (parents, teachers, relatives) who feel Aspergers was to blame. Who take stories of a person diagnosed with AS harming a family member, or lashing out violently, and decide that it is altogether possible for an adult on the spectrum to carry out these murders.

But, it's just not true.

There are many conditions that can occur alongside Autism. Many conditions that can occur without Autism. Other conditions that might play a large role in a person's decision to kill 20 innocent children. Conditions that cause things to go very wrong in the brain.

Those I know who are diagnosed on the spectrum, who also have a tendency towards violence or aggression, all have co-morbid psychological conditions. Serious conditions that fuel their behaviors. Even then, their violent outbursts are usually centered on a family member. They do not sit down and come up with a plan for mass murder. 

It is hard enough to push back against a media that always wants the most sensational side of a story. Who throw out the word "Autism" anytime something like this happens, with complete disregard for how it affects others on the spectrum.

But, for those within the community to speak up and say that maybe it was because of Aspergers?  That because they heard a story of a kid who was violent at home, it means people with Autism are perfectly capable of walking into a school and gunning down 20 kids? That I cannot understand. That hurts us more than any ignorant news reporter throwing his opinion around. People in the know basically telling me that my daughter could grow up to perpetrate such a crime.

I don't think there is anything more offensive.

What we know is that we have a mental health crisis in this country. There are not enough services, and accessing the services that do exist isn't easy, or cheap. Instead of pointing fingers, instead of verbalizing untruths, why don't we fight for anyone affected by mental illness? Make sure we have legislation that provides the help they need. And we need to be more aware, in our schools, churches, community, of those people who need help. Not letting them slip through the cracks. We all need to take responsibility.

My beautiful daughter is not more prone to this kind of violence, just because she has Autism. If she found out about what happened, it would devastate her. It would affect her more profoundly than I can explain, since her sense of empathy is great (another myth about Autism we must fight).

What happened was a tragedy, for which there are no words. The man who committed this act had something deeply, deeply wrong with his brain. With his psyche.

But, it wasn't Autism.

1 comment:

  1. The one and only interview Peter Lanza, gunman Adam's father, gave to Andrew Solomon (published in the New Yorker) was very, very clear about the fact that there's no direct link between autism and violence.

    Did Adam Lanza's autism factor into his decision to commit mass murder? No more or less than his American-ness, whiteness, upper middle class-ness, tall-ness, thin-ness or any of a thousand factors that made him who he was.

    A teeny-tiny minority of neurotypical people commit mass murder -- which is not unlike the teeny-tiny minority of folks with autism who commit mass murder. Mass murders are, regardless of their neurology, individuals who are 1,653 standard deviations from the mean.