Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Asperger's is Not Connected to Violence

The tragic events of last Friday have effected the world. It's been five days since the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut and I've shed tears every day since. I don't even have the words to describe that sadness that I'm feeling...heart broken, simply heart broken for every young life gone and for those lives of the teachers and principal at Sandy Hook.

As any parent has been feeling over the last few days, I cannot simply imagine sending my children to school and not have them return. My heart breaks for the families of those lost.

I can't recall if it was on Sunday that my sadness deepen after reading Twitter and watching CNN when the words "autism" and "Asperger's" were mentioned. I didn't even hear the context but instantly just shook my head and said "No, oh no" when I heard those words.  Since my days in university, 18 years ago, I have worked with both children and adults with the diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and my response to the latest news regarding what happened in Newton was a silent plea to the media to "please, please don't connect this horrible event to ASD".

Autism is a spectrum disorder that currently covers five disorders under the Autism Spectrum Disorders umbrella:

These disorders include, currently:

  • Autistic Disorder
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (very rare)
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified
  • Rett's Syndrome (also rare, only effecting girls)
  • Asperger's Syndrome
It is the last of these that has been connected to the incidents connected with Newton. From Wikipedia, 

Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger's syndrome or Asperger disorder, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development.

Yes, I'm quoting Wikipedia but do you see anything regarding violence in this definition? You don't well that's because a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome has no connection to violence. Autism is not a mental illness. It is a neuro-developmental disorder.

Asperger's has no connection to such aggressive violence, so please, as sensational as it may be, don't connect it, and individuals who has Asperger's, to any search for why this terrible event happened. Individuals with Asperger's have a hard enough time being understood and at the same time, we may never understand why the tragic events in the small town of Newton took place. Please don't connect the two when searching for your "why". Children with ASD and their families are vulnerable to conjectures such as these in the media and making this connection in order to try to work out "why" is just too harmful.
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