Saturday, December 15, 2012

Autism Society of America on Newtown Horror: No Linkage Between Autism and Planned Violence

The numbing horror that unfolded yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut has prompted many intense responses.  The grief of those who lost children, family and community members is beyond words.  Unfortunately for people with autism disorders and their families  there are unconfirmed reports from various sources claiming that the alleged shooter had Asperger's or high functioning autism. These reports have in turn prompted wild speculation about autism as a cause of this unimaginable tragedy. There have been many intense responses to those claims.   

I recommend everyone think of those who are lost and those who have lost them and consider the clear, concise and well informed statement  issued by the Autism Society of America: 

Autism Society: No Linkage Between Autism and Planned Violence

December 15, 2012
By Autism Society
Yesterday, 26 people lost their lives through the acts of a single person. These 26 people were children, teachers, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters.  Today, their families are experiencing grief that can't be described.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by yesterday's tragic shooting.

This morning, many news outlets are reporting the shooter was on the autism spectrum.  This has not been officially confirmed.  These reports imply that autism might have had an impact on the person's mindset leading to the shootings. 

There is absolutely no evidence or any reliable research that suggests a linkage between autism and planned violence.   To imply or suggest that some linkage exists is wrong and is harmful to more than 1.5 million law abiding, non-violent  and wonderful individuals who live with autism each day.  Stereotyping an entire group of individuals because of the actions of one individual is wrong and unacceptable. 

Please do not judge any individual with autism based on what is being said about a killer of innocent children and teachers.  Rather, our nation's attention must be focused on being there for the children and teachers whose lives were lost yesterday.


Sandy said...

Harold. Anyone who has lived with a borderline intellectually disabled/Asperger's adult child knows perfectly well that in the right circumstances, they can indeed plan violence.

They have short fuses. They lack empathy. They are smart enough to know they do not fit in. If they should get hooked on violent video games or other obsessive compulsive behaviours, anything is possible.

Therefore, it is pure political correctness for the Society to come out so early to claim that autism symptoms could not have influenced the alleged shooter. Not helpful at all. They simply don't yet know. Denial at its worst.

People with autism are human after all and suffer depression and other problems as well.

We have talked about this before. Once a person finishes formal schooling, there is nothing else for them -- especially if they are high functioning and fall through the cracks.

Just my opinion having also worked with those with Aspergers for many years.

Unknown said...

Sandy, in my case I haven't lived with a borderline intellectually disabled/Asperger's adult child. I have a 16+ year old with severe autistic disorder and profound developmental delay ... and a powerful physique ... who reacts aggressively sometimes but the aggression is "reactive", purely reactive, and not planned in his case.

Kathryn said...

It is my opinion, that ANYONE has the potential to commit planned acts of violence. This type of incident is not indicitive of one disability or another. For someone to say Asperger's/high-functioning Autistic children or adults have potential to commit these crimes, my response is, respectfully, no more so than you or me given the right circumstances to support it.

The statement by the Autism Society was pure fact. Autism is not a direct factor in planned violence. No more so than schizophrenia or down's syndrome. The statement was needed to deter the awful assumptions that 1 out of 88 children in American have murderous tendicies. And shame on anyone who would categorize another human being simply because of a diagnosis and experiences of a few. Autism is a spectrum, each human their own individual snowflake.

Sandy said...

I understand Harold in your son's case.

A little story. It's not about violence but shows that those with Aspergers can be very manipulative and manipulation takes planning.

Andy is also intellectually disabled by the way, but borderline. However, I am actually thankful for that because if that wasn't the case, he wouldn't be in a supervised independent living program now. Those who have a normal IQ or higher just fall through the cracks.

Anwway, he and his wife wanted money to take a day trip on the bus. They had already spent their savings and spending money and so he visited one of those cheque cashing businesses. Why they loaned to a person on disability allowance I don't know, but thankfully it is now illegal in Ontario for them to do so.

Well, over the course of a year they got in real deep. I kept asking if they were okay because they never had any money and all they did have would be spent within the first week of the month.

In other words, he lied constantly that everything was fine. I asked him if he would tell me even if something was wrong, he assured me he would.

Well, one day he finally calls and tells us he just got an eviction notice, that they had to move within fifteen days. Talk about panic!

He was three months behind in his rent. His financial trustee did not even know he had spent the money trying to keep up with what they owed to some six cheque cashing businesses -- all around the city.

I called the apartment super and asked her why she didn't call me as she promised she would.

She said she couldn't because of the new privacy laws.

Needless to say, my husband had to take him to every single store, pay them what he owned.

We also paid his back rent. In return, he had to put a certain amount of money in savings for two years. He thought he was paying us back but that simply wouldn't have been possible. We have used that money to get them clothes, a new sofa, etc.

All told, they owed $4000.00.

So, yes, they reacted initially but then they carefully planned what they were doing in the hopes we wouldn't find out. Why I don't know. All we would have done is help them. But, that was his perception.

Problem was they kept borrowing in the hopes it would all go away.

Not surprising. Magical thinking is fairly typical.

Their trustee now pays their rent and utilities directly. ;)

Planned violence? I sure hope not. But there but the grace of God go I.

Kathryn said...

Sandy, they are BY FAR the only people to have done that exact same thing. That's not a surprise to me at all, which is why those check cashing places are now regulated more. I heard almost the exact same story from a friend of mine about her experience with check cashing just a couple months ago. She was embarrassed that it had happened to her, a college educated, neuro-typical woman in her 40's was in debt to 3 different check cashing locations. That's not planned by anyone but what they both did was strategize in hopes of digging themselves out of the mess alone. Ask in a public and anonymous forum and I bet hundreds of thousands of people say the same thing happened to them.

It's amazing and hopeful that this young man had the intelligence enough to create a plan. Whether it was prideful or not, he hoped to get out of it respectfully and quietly without asking for your help. I commend that he tried then asked when he had no other choice and that he relinquished the funds to a trustee when it was offered to assist to be sure it didn't happen again. That is not psychotic planning tendencies. That is human nature. No one wants a handout whether you would've perceived it as such or not. And no one wants a lecture for doing something they knew was the wrong choice. That's why people end up homeless. It's why people end up on heavy drugs. It's why people do all sorts of things that require time for things to get worse and hit rock bottom. This is not an Autism-specific problem.

Larry Arnold PhD FRSA said...

For once Harold, I cannot disagree with anything you have said. Whatever this shooting tragedy is about, it is not about Autism, and those people who have started putting two and two together to make five are doing no service to either you, me or Conor.

There are enough instances of cops overeacting to autistic people with fatal consequences. Dennis Debbault is going to have his work cut out now, an incident like this can undo so much good work.

Cynthia Bartlett said...

I really wish the world would stop using the autism word for just about anything which they cannot understand.
I have a 23 year old with severe autism/epilepsy and severe inteallual impairment, and yes self-injurious behaviour.I know others like him, as well, through my former work at the Dragonfly Centre for Autism, and in the UK,
These individuals are the height of innocence and completely devoid of any malice.
The professionals who diagnose all too loosely with the word autism should be brought to task, and the insane lack of services for all who are afflicted with autism or mental illness are the root of this horrible confusion.

Anonymous said...

What really sickens me are the talking heads on the Nancy Grace type shows who are continuing to freely label Asperger's/Autism as a mental illness. First of all, we are all well aware that autism is NOT a mental illness but is a neurodevelopmental/biomedical disorder. It is DAMAGE to the neurological system. If this lunatic shooter had MS, a neurological disorder, would the talking heads be calling THAT a mental illness too?? How about Parkinson's, ALS and Alzheimer's? Would these pathetic, irresponsible news reporters be calling those disorders a mental illness?

I can not stomach the people who know absolutely nothing about autism yet just slap a label on this lunatic and assume he was on the autism spectrum so this is why he did what he did. I think the media IS catching on as parents are angry about this. Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta tried to clear this up but I really hope this is made clear to the general public who really have no knowledge of what autism truly is.