One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy

My daughter is five years old.  She is in kindergarten.  She likes to wear a hat everywhere she goes.  As she falls asleep, she gently rubs her blanket with the tips of her fingers.  She is afraid of the vacuum.  She loves bacon and stealing sips of my coffee.  When she’s hurt, she’ll ask me to kiss her “boo-boo-owie.”  She’s watched “A Bug’s Life” so many times, she has the dialogue memorized.  When she’s tired, she’ll sometimes crawl into my lap and fall asleep curled up next to me.  She’s mostly left-handed, but sometimes she’ll decide to write with her right hand … because she can.  She gets into trouble and sits on time-out, which she does not like – not one little bit.  When she says, “I’m sorry” or “I love you,” she means it.

This is what autism looks like.

When I heard the news yesterday about the horrible tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, my very first thought was, That could’ve been my daughter.  Why?  Not because we are in Connecticut; 3,000 miles separate us from the epicenter of yesterday’s heartbreak.  But that geographic buffer didn’t prevent yesterday’s events from hitting close to home.  My little girl has so very much in common with the 20 young lives cut short by a senseless act of violence.  Like those children, she goes to school everyday with no expectation other than the routine she knows — circle time, math, reading, art, recess, lunch, spelling, Papa waiting to pick her up.  The most violence she encounters in a day is a temper tantrum over unshared toys.  She doesn’t even know what a gun is.

So, when news reporters started speculating on what drove Adam Lanza to shatter the peaceful security of Newtown, Connecticut, I was heartbroken all over again by the implications or even bald assertions that Adam Lanza massacred 27 people because he was somewhere on the autism spectrum.  Why?  Because although my daughter has infinitely more things in common with the Sandy Hook Elementary students, she may share one thing in common with Adam Lanza — she is autistic. (And I say “may” here, because I have YET to see an accurate, authoritative report on ANY medical diagnosis for Adam Lanza.)

I don’t know what motivated Adam Lanza to do what he did.  As I said several times yesterday, we call such acts “senseless,” because they literally defy logic, reason or explanation.  What I do know is that Adam Lanza did not kill 27 people and himself because he was autistic.  Autism is a neurologic disorder; it is not a mental illness.  Even if autism were a mental illness, that does not mean that its diagnostic criteria include propensity for violence.  Compare the DSM-IV criteria for a diagnosis of autism with those for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder.  Lacking an ability to express or engage social or emotional reciprocity is NOT the same as callous indifference to others’ feelings, a low threshold for discharge of aggression or the incapacity to experience guilt.  I don’t know how any reasonably trained psychologist or psychiatrist could look at the diagnostic criteria for autism and even speculate that it caused or contributed to a violent outburst of truly epic proportions.  Yet, we don’t hear the talking-head doctors speculating that Adam Lanza suffered from antisocial personality disorder.  Why?  Because that doesn’t have the same political sound-bite quality as “autism.”

I would like to say that I am shocked, but really I am just saddened and frustrated by the reports – many of which are now endorsed by prominent public figures proclaiming expertise in psychology or psychiatry – that attempt to establish a link between autism and yesterday’s horrific events.  I understand the need to search for some reason or explanation for why.  Having someone or something to blame gives a grieving person somewhere to direct anger, sadness, confusion.

But I am furiously angry at the “professionals” who get on television – with all they know about grieving, post-traumatic stress, and the dangers of making a diagnosis without all the facts — and perpetuate falsehoods, myths, and misunderstandings about a community of people already struggling to achieve the recognition and acceptance from society so richly deserved.  I am furiously angry, because what I hear these “experts” saying over and over again is that my daughter – my beautiful, sweet, loving, funny little girl – has more in common with a cold-hearted killer than the 20 beautiful souls who perished and the hundreds more he scarred.

Please – I truly beg you – do not fall for the sensationalistic, irresponsible speculation about autism simply because the idiot who utters it has the letters  “Dr” in front of his or her name.  Instead, go look at the picture above.  Tell me you don’t see a million other innocent five-year-old faces in her face.  Tell me you don’t see a world of possibility twinkling in those five-year-old eyes.  Tell me that you can look at the picture, knowing now that she is autistic, and see her gunning down her classmates in cold blood.  Because that’s what the media hype would have you believe about her.

This is just me, writing as a mom with a heavy heart.  Admittedly, I feel defensive. But, my voice is not the only one having this conversation.  Mom blogger and biologist Emily Willingham wrote here.  Disability rights activist Paula C. Durbin (who is herself autistic) wrote here.   Michael John Carley of GRASP (and father of two school-age boys) wrote here.  The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network released this statement.  Read these blogs and statements.  Share them.  Amplify the voices that tell the true story about living, loving and learning on the autism spectrum.

My heart, my wishes, my hopes and my sympathy go out to the entire Newtown, Connecticut community.  Like Paula Durbin, I just want to grieve for you without having to worry about another community.

My thanks go out to Liz Ditz (@lizditz) for leading me to the great sources linked above.

My love and empathy go out to all those in the ASD community.  May your voices be heard over the din of those who would perpetuate misinformation.

UPDATE:  Please see Liz Ditz’s blog, I Speak of Dreams, for an outstanding collection of commentary from the ASD community on the media’s (mis)handling of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.

UPDATE (12/18/12):  This story – right here – is one worth remembering.

UPDATE (12/20/12):  And this one.


94 comments on “One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy

  1. BRAVO!!! What a great post! You are saying exactly what all us mothers of autistic children are thinking. The press are scaremongering and putting autism acceptance back by decades! Idiots!

    • i truly believe in what you said here autism is totally different from what this boy (adam) was. please people don’t confuse the word AUTISM with ADAM. cause they are two different things. he didn’t have autism , i believe he was just a very confused boy and angry. lets pray for all the children and adults that were killed in conn. also adam needs prayers also , cause he was a lost soul.

  2. Perfect post. Thank you for taking time to write. And, I love your first paragraph describing your daughter. Your narrative about her is what I strive to help parents do when they are sharing their child with others, instead of jumping straight to a disability label. Now I’m going to find you on twitter! 🙂

  3. Sam says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more. What I do know is that the cause of something like this comes down to the person’s inability to connect with other human beings and form meaningful relationships. I myself have Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m an individual though, not a diagnosis.

    Yes, Autism could be one of the factors as to why he had a difficult time connecting with others and making friends but it didn’t make him do what he did yesterday. That was an individual choice. It is like saying someone who had a broken leg, their leg caused them to go and do something this senseless.

    I do find it sad that his so called “friends” that the media finds to interview say things like he was a nice kid. Seemed cool. Quiet guy, but I haven’t seen him since middle school.” These are his best friends and that’s what they’re saying about him?

    Connecting with others is very important. I do not at all understand why he did what he did and I’ve been trying to grasp the why and everything. Having asperger’s I have some ideas as to what his really messed up logic might have been. But I can’t imagine hurting anyone else or innocent people like that. The importance of getting people help before it’s too late just can’t leave my mind.

    The only thing I do know is that today, nearly everyone around the world is trying to do something with this guy that he probably wanted people to do all of his life. From investigators, to parents wanting answers, to all of us just wondering why and how this could happen? Today we’re all trying to find out who this guy is and connect with him. Sadly, we are too late and many innocent people have lost their lives.

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Sam: Thank you so much for sharing your point of view. I appreciate it. Yes, we are too late for Newtown. But, if we can start and sustain an intelligent dialogue about mental health that is based in fact rather than rank speculation — one that leads to better diagnosis, treatment and support — perhaps we won’t be too late to prevent this from ever happening again.

  4. Terry says:

    Well said. And thank you!

  5. […] One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy. […]

  6. […] One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy ( […]

  7. vyvacious says:

    This is one of the better posts I’ve seen regarding the horrific event from yesterday. Thank you for writing it. Your daughter is a cutie pie, by the way.

  8. findingninee says:

    What a beautifully and perfectly written article. My son is three years old and is on the spectrum. I couldn’t believe it this morning when I heard the word autism this morning in relation to the beast who took these children’s lives. I’ve shared this on my blog and FB page, too. Thank you for helping to spread awareness.

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing! For all our kiddos …

      • findingninee says:

        For all our kiddos, indeed. The fact autism was even mentioned today makes me so angry. Tell us his hair color. Because that’s as likely to be a contributing factor.

        Thanks for writing this so perfectly well. I just posted it (tried the “reblog” feature but it wouldn’t allow me to do so) as a link here:

        If you have any suggestions on how to “reblog” instead, let me know as I’d be happy to share this that way instead.

        By the way, found you via Jillsmo at Yeah. Good Times.

  9. cye says:

    Thank you for writing this. I hope your point reaches a lot of people. I have been scouring the web today after hearing on the radio that this guy was autistic and had a personality disorder. You can’t get any more vague than that. His brother told authorities that Adam “was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and be ‘somewhat autistic’.” Which still means so little. If he had Antisocial Personalty Disorder, Autism or not, he could have still been very dangerous. The only PD that looks like Autism is Schizoid Personality Disorder and this is one of the least dangerous PDs. It’s possible that he had both APD and was on the Autism spectrum, but obviously psychopathic tendencies are far worse than any behavior exhibited with Autism. I believe we’re going to see a lot of articles and interviews with professionals on the matter and I hope they clear this up soon. I’m glad that the conversation is opening our eyes to the importance of mental health, but this the idea that he committed this heinous act because he may have had Autism is going in the wrong direction.

  10. Thank you for your post. Scapegoating really is a concern we must take seriously. Liz Ditz’s blog has a great page about it. It includes part of official statement saying: “Autism Rights Watch urges the public and the media outlets not to stigmatize the autistic persons and their families. They already are facing segregation and prejudices on a daily basis.”

  11. […] Another blogger wrote this morning about how her five year old, with Aspergers, had more in common with those poor, dear children in Sandy Hook, than with the killer. […]

  12. […] One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy ProfMomEsq […]

  13. Thank you! I to am sick to death of the speculation that the killer was on the spectrum…i am having a sense of deja vu because that’s exactly what they said about the movie theatre killer a couple of months ago! My sons on the spectrum are no more likely to become mass murderers than their NT brothers and sisters!!

  14. EF says:

    It’s not unlikely that the killer was on the spectrum, based on what is known about him. The problem isn’t suggesting that (because it does add to an understanding of who he was). The problem is extrapolating that therefore people on the autism spectrum are dangerous. But I fear that this is actually what you have done in writing this–extrapolated that people who are “actually mentally ill”, as you might put it, are dangerous. Or that they don’t also have a disorder that is neurological. Every single person is an individual, and it’s impossible to suggest that people of one type or another are dangerous whereas others aren’t. It’s also unfair to suggest that autism is somehow “better” than, say, schizophrenia, because both are undoubtedly a problem with neurons and neurotransmitters and etc. Of course Antisocial Personality Disorder is an exception, but most mass murderers have not fit those criteria (as this current one does not, as he has no past history of violence or legal trouble). (Also, Antisocial Personality Disorder seems to be biologically based, and hence truly a neurological disorder, as well, based on all the current research.)

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      EF, I think you missed the major premise of my post. I don’t condone the media speculating about *any* medical condition the shooter may or may not have had. The contrast of antisocial personality disorder was illustrative only, and it was not intended to illustrate why autism is “better” than any other than condition. There is no such comparison to be made. I’d be interested in reading the research on which you base your statement that a biologic base is the determinative criteria for distinguishing neurological disorders from psychiatric ones.

  15. Thank you for writing this, thank you for sharing and speaking from your heart about your daughter (and my son, Tylor – he is autistic also). Tylor is 18 years old now and he has NEVER in his life done anything to hurt another person (physically or mentally). Although he is in pain everyday of his life, he is the most joy-filled person I know. Instead of dwelling on his own pain and limitations he is more concerned about others pain, feelings and needs. Does all that he knows to do for them – PRAY, and he does that without fail. So, no one will ever convince me that all children with autism lack empathy. He’s happy, he loves being on his computer (YouTube), like your daughter there are movies he’s watched sooo many times that he has them memorized and so do we, LOL, he enjoys school, he likes his routine, although he’ll break it to stay up late on computer if allowed to, reminds us constantly if we’re running late, he’s very smart, knows what he wants and when he wants it, typical teenager!! Haha!
    When he wraps his arms around me to hug me, I can feel the love. I can feel the words I longed to hear for so long. I can see it in his eyes, in his smile, and on his face – now knowing how sweet it is – we don’t have to say or hear the words…..

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Angela – you are welcome. I love to hear inspiring stories from adult autistics and their parents, because it encourages me to keep pressing on for my daughter and her peers.

  16. Laura Caruso-Kofoid says:

    Stepmom to 22 year old on spectrum, teacher for decades, heartsick about all the glib misinformation as well as the tragedy. Thank you.

  17. […] One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy. […]

  18. Jen says:

    Wonderful and thoughtful post. I agree with you. One thing that is driving me crazy thought is I don’t even know the names of the victims and yet I’ve read the killers name dozens of times and heard it on the radio more often than I can count. He does not deserve to have his name remembered. The victims deserve to have their names remembered.

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Jen – thank you for your comment. I know exactly what you mean. I’m always bothered by the practice of news reporters referring to criminals – especially particularly notorious ones – by first, middle and last name. It feels like the reporter is according the criminal respect s/he does not deserve. I’d be interested to know how that practice got started. Maybe it helps the reporter and the public keep a certain emotional distance between themselves and the criminal by making such formal reference? Still, I’d rather never have known his name at all …

  19. Jen says:

    Thank you. My first thought when I first heard this tragedy unfold was that autism would somehow be linked to the shooter. Autism seems to come up whenever the media speculates about violent actions. It’s sad and disheartening.

  20. […] One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy ( […]

    • Lassie says:

      THank YOU!!!!! I was so relieved to see your article! I couldn’t put into words all weekend how hurt I was when the first reports from the media I heard on Sat. were making me feel like they were attacking my family personally; my son has ASD and I couldn’t agree with you more –we have enough heartache without the media making it worse

  21. Crystal McCoy says:

    I read this post on facebook as a share. It is greatly written. No one wants to believe their child is capable of doing such a heinous act. I don’t think the basis of your writing has logical point though. There are a large percentage of autistic children that also have mental illness. My daughter is proof of that. She was diagnosed at age 5 with autism. Now she is age 7, and going into a mental hospital for the 5th time this year on Monday for psychosis and self-injury. The “temper tantrums” that seem so innocent when your child is autistic can quickly turn into violence. I have witnessed that myself. We have went to over 400 appointments since her autism diagnosis. She has been pushed from dealing with autism and her (now) mental illness. I think the problem is the denial that your child could do something like this. I have to be honest here, seeing that the shooter is “some-what autistic” and has mental illness only makes me want to work harder to ensure that my child does not get to that point. I cannot express my frustration with the “this is not my child-and autism does not mean violence” theme here. We need to work together to ensure that people are cared for mentally and not pushed from society do to an autistic or mental illness label. I am not making an excuse for what the shooter did at all. I do know that I will not be one of the people that refuse to see the capability that a social disorder has on affecting my child and others.

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Crystal – thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to read of the difficulties you and your daughter are experiencing. It sounds like you are doing all that you can to get your daughter the care that she needs, and that’s wonderful.

      But, I hope you understand that your daughter is not experiencing psychosis because she is autistic. I have seen reliable, scholarly reports that note up to 70% of autistics also meet the diagnostic criteria for an emotional or behavioral disorder. However, I have never seen a study establish a cause/effect or correlative relationship between autism and an impulse-control disorder, such as antisocial personality disorder, or a psychotic disorder (such as schizophrenia). The coexistence of these diagnoses is unfortunate and entirely coincidental.

      I am also concerned by your remark that the shooter is “‘some-what autistic’ and has mental illness.” We don’t know that. No one, other than Adam Lanza and his doctors truly know what his medical or psychiatric condition was at the time. One of the most important points I wanted to make is that the media’s speculation about Adam Lanza’s psychiatric state causes people to make a false correlation between autism (or mental illness for that matter) and violence. In that way, your comment illustrates my concern.

      I send positive thoughts and wishes for you and your daughter. Thank you again for commenting.

      • Crystal McCoy says:

        I appreciate your well wishes for my daughter. I do understand that my daughter’s psychosis does not come from autism. She is also been diagnosed with OCD this year. I was just trying to point out that during my journey I have meet many other children that have autism and a secondary mental illness. I have no data, just my personal experience. Open forum oftens have a difference of opinion. I am not speaking of Adam Lanza specifically, because we don’t know his mental state. I do believe that there is a correlation between mental illness and violence. Like I said, I don’t have a bunch statistics or data to back me up. I have been in many mental hospitals with my child, I have been in many therapy appointments, and I am a member on almost every forum for autism and mental illness. My wisdom and experience tells me this. My appreciate the opportunity to voice my opinion. Thank you again for the positive thoughts. It is going to be a hard Christmas for us this year.

        • ProfMomEsq says:

          Thank you for explaining. I genuinely appreciate comments on my posts — whether the commenter agrees with me or not. Yours is the kind of comment that helps start a conversation, which is exactly what I hoped for! So, I’m glad you shared. When I asked about whether you had seen a study, I didn’t mean it as a challenge – I was hoping you found something I could read.

          I can’t pretend to understand your journey with your daughter. I can say only that – as a mom – I know it would be so hard to watch my daughter struggle in that way. I hope you find some peace in this new year.

  22. Bob says:

    Dear Mom, I am retired special educator and I can feel your pain. I must, however, defend at least one of the “talking heads” that I saw on TV denouncing the fact that being anywhere on the autistic scale could lead one to do such a terrible deed. Dr. Sanjah Gupta,, while pointing out that he was NOT a psychiatrist or a psychologist made exactly the same point that you did about Compare the DSM-IV criteria for a diagnosis of autism with those for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. Lacking an ability to express or engage social or emotional reciprocity is NOT the same as callous indifference to others’ feelings, a low threshold for discharge of aggression or the incapacity to experience guilt.

  23. Donna Turner says:

    My son is 20 years old and is Developmentally Disabled (more a six year old mentality), Autistic and Bipolar due to Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (numerous tumors on his brain). He can be violent when he has a meltdown, rage or gets frustrated. It became worse once he became a teenager, we are now seeing improvement after 3 nightmarish years of police calls, hospitals, med changes, tears, thoughts of long term institutionalization, and prayers. While he has never held a gun or other weapon, he has destroyed property, bit and hit people. His size alone makes this dangerous. To deny it is to be part of the issue. I hope that your child never exhibits these behaviors, but I have worked with many children on the spectrum and though it was not their fault, I have been sent to the ER 8 times in 4 years (bites w/skin broken, shoved on concrete, dislocated shoulder, scratched cornea, busted nose and lip ect) and I was not the only one, their parents and other caregivers also carry the scars from pinches/scratches, punches and bites. To say that autism does not cause behavioral issues is patently untrue. I do not believe that autism-if in fact he had autism- caused the evil acts yesterday but the older they get the harder the behaviors can become. Not all will but enough do that we need help as more and more children with autism become adults with autism.

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Donna – Please understand, I am not asking or expecting anyone to deny that children can be violent and dangerously so. What I am asking is for supposedly learned people to stop going on television and suggesting that autistic children, as a rule, become violent adults. That’s simply not true, and continuing to spread that message is harmful in two ways. First, it further stigmatizes a group that continues to be misunderstood by the medical, educational and social communities. Second, it misdirects treatment. What happens when, say, a psychiatrist focuses solely on “treating” autism to control aggressive behaviors when, in fact, those behaviors are caused by a psychiatric or emotional disorder the psychiatrist fails to diagnose?

      I’m not sure what you mean when you say “[t]o say autism does not cause behavioral issues is patently untrue.” The DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing autism (and I’m using DSM-IV here because the DSM-V is new and less familiar to me) rely heavily upon the patient’s behavior. But, none of that behavior is necessarily violent. The behaviors include impaired social interaction, impaired communication, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities. An autistic person is no more or less prone to violent behavior than a non-autistic person. However, an autistic person may have medical or psychiatric condition that does manifest in injurious behaviors – toward self, others or property. My point is that there is no relationship, other than coincidence, between autism and violence. A diagnosis of autism is no more predictive of violent behavior than is – say – being left-handed. Does that mean that Adam Lanza was not autistic? No. But will confirming that he was or wasn’t on the spectrum help anyone understand why he did what he did? Probably not except as it may be coincidental to things such as neglect, bullying, etc.

      Your comment raises a very important point though – a lack of services for adults on the spectrum. One in 88 — we MUST start a healthy, intelligent, on-going dialogue about a strategic plan to address the needs of a rapidly growing number of people on the autism spectrum and of those who care for them into adulthood and beyond.

      Thank you for your comment.

  24. Kate says:

    Well-written post, ProfMomEsq. This is actually for Crystal McCoy, who posted above – it sounds as though you have certainly been around the block in terms of trying to get help for your daughter (and I’m sure many parents can relate to that aspect). Have any doctors investigated PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disease Associated with Streptococcus) as a possible diagnosis for your daughter? Your mention of recent OCD diagnosis sent up a red flag. Sorry to be pushy, just trying to be helpful in case it has not been considered….

    • Crystal McCoy says:

      PANDAS has been considered. There is not much support for the idea in my area. I have went as far as to contact one of the lead Doctors in the PANDAS study at Harvard. They said due to the time lapse between when my child was diagnosed and her present condition, she is not eligible for treatment for PANDAS. To qualify it has to be within 6 months of onset at this time. They said that at a later time treatment may be available, but they have just started identifying and testing different treatment. It was brought up again at one of the hospitals for residential care, but they gave the same response. All the doctors have stuck with ASD. She is going Monday to one of the best research institutes in the country for a 6-8 week residential diagnosis, so I am hoping they they are able to pinpoint the real issues with her. She is a funny beautiful little girl, and watching her struggle within herself is hard. She has three smaller siblings in the home that also try to direct her to make correct choices. I appreciate the comment. I am always trying to get more information so I can make better choices for her well being. 🙂

  25. […] One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy ( […]

  26. Joy says:

    I am from Germany and I can’t stop thinking about it. Of course it is still on the radio and on the news here but from what I heard about it I really can say that there is obviously not so much speculation going on and that’s good in my opinion. For example, I have not heard any statement that said that this young man maybe had autism. This is nothing that is reported on our news. I just read on some blogs that it was mentioned in relation to the murderer on the US news.

    I hope and pray that something like this will never happen again. I am praying for all the families that lost their babies and for the families of the adults that were killed, too.

    Oh, and your daughter is absolutely lovely and adorable!

  27. As the mother of an autistic son myself, I commend you for saying what I didn’t have the words or energy to say myself. I will however reblog your post, because it’s important and needs to be heard. Thank you!

  28. Reblogged this on flyawayhomebook and commented:
    A lot is being said about the tragedy in Connecticut but as the mother of an autistic son myself, I hope you’ll take the time to read this post. Thank you!

  29. Tammy Sheehan says:

    I believe that Adam lanzo suffered a mental illness. I think they need to look into his past with his mother. This type of act makes me think he was abused by his mother, maybe even in front of his classmates as a young child. For him to murder his mother and these kids and teachers like this something may have triggered and he may have been reliving a traumatic time in his life. It doesn’t excuse what he did but this is just not normal. These people need to look further in his past. I mean really his mom was a teacher. He killed her first then went to the school and did this senseless act. I believe he was abused and probably bullied. No one will ever know the reason. There is no reason to do this to anyone let alone children. Adam is the only one who knows his reason. Autism spectrum sure is NOT the reason.

  30. Stimey says:

    Well said. Thank you so much for this.

  31. advocacine says:

    Reblogged this on Advocacine's Blog.

  32. stephenii says:

    Great post. You did a great job pointing out an unforunate issue of media coverage on this incident.

    I appreciated the post and your response to the comments because you combine your love and passion for your daughter with your knowledge, understanding, and intellect to get your point across.

    Well done.

  33. frizztext says:

    I agree completely: “…we don’t hear the talking-head doctors speculating that Adam Lanza suffered from antisocial personality disorder…”
    greetings by

  34. Thank you very much for this article. I appreciate it as my partner has Asperger’s, which is the particular part of the autism spectrum that was bandied about on no less than BBC news. Yet most of the people making these uninformed speculations aren’t qualified to diagnose and psychoanalyse violent criminals. They’re just irrationally pointing to how Lanza was different than the way we would like people to conform – shy, retreating, and socially awkward. But of course, look at all the very introverted individuals who don’t go out and commit mass murder – if there is anything to pathologise here, it’s some other undiagnosed mental illness.

    I think the fact that people are so ready to point out the way that outcasts do not conform to social conventions ought to be a rather weighty indictment against the expectations of society – and the extent to which we shun people who are not like us – rather than a warning against recluses. This is something I grow incredibly tired of when my partner has social difficulties – the issue, as I see it, is not that he has an insurmountable problem that sets him apart from the rest of us, it is that society is unwilling to accept variability.

  35. adminwho says:

    They’re looking for a scapegoat that’s why they’re tagging autism. They’re asking the wrong questions because it’s too painful to know the answers to what we have done to drive our children to violence. You’re brave and you have a beautiful girl. More should read this.

  36. Quirine says:

    A wonderfully written post and a good reminder. I have argued that mental illness needs to be addressed in cases like this and never once considered your point that autism is not a mental ilness. Thank you for writing. One point I’d like to make is that the man who did this deserves little recognition himself. To repeat his name is to engrave it on our minds. I didn’t know it until I had read this. Now I think it’s there forever.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  37. Madonna Christensen says:

    I regret that the writer stooped to calling the doctors “idiots.” I am the grandmother of a child with Down syndrome and another with autism. Daily I hear and read that we must not use the word retarded, or other names, and yet this mother of a special needs child resorted to name-calling. She could have made her point without slipping in this derogatory term.

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      I am sorry the word “idiot” offended you. That wasn’t my intent. Here is a link to the history of the word “idiot.” Although it briefly had clinical significance in psychology, it’s original definition actually described extreme folly or stupidity. See, here. It is, in my opinion, foolish and dangerous for someone who claims expertise to go on television and spew misinformation that lay persons will take as truth. That was the intent with which the word was used.

      • Madonna Christensen says:

        I know what idiot means, both clinically and the way it was used here. I not offended; I was simply pointing out that there is much emphasis today on hurtful words, and it’s ironic that you made this choice. Your words in this reply have more impact. “It is, in my opinion, foolish and dangerous for someone who claims expertise to go on television and spew misinformation that lay persons will take as truth.”

  38. Sharon Needham says:

    Well said! The amount of ‘filler speculation’ by so called experts is almost criminal.
    I have children and now grandchildren and have been horrified with the happenings and now to link with autism is absurd. I am not an expert just a simple soul with common sense the one thing that doesn’t seem to be common any more!
    So love to your beautiful innocent little girl and may the families at Newton find some peace.

  39. Perfect commentary. I have an autistic son and felt moved to write a similar piece over at my blog:

    Our children are beautiful, and don’t deserve the suspicion and fear that this will engender. Thanks for this affirming blog! Sharing.

  40. Vickie says:

    I love the description of your daughter at the beginning of this…I have a friend that had a son with cp and during the first few years of his life when she wasn’t able to respond verbally in a polite way to looks of ignorance she passed out a business card that stated his name, likes, dislikes, and personality finally ending with the statement “and I have cerebral palsy” it’s very important to educate the public about disabilities and children in general. In the reports I have heard though I did not get the impression that anyone was trying to say he did what he did because of a disability…unfortunately though at this time we know very little about him and the only information has been he is male, 20, is on the autism spectrum, and has a history of mental illness….and for better or worse we may never know much more than that

  41. americanreflection says:

    Thank you for your posting! The liberal media is long removed from the days of reporting actual news to that of perpetrating and spreading lies and false claims in an effort to satisfy the masses. My wife is an autism specialist, who works with children with this disorder and has so for many years yet she has never been shot or the victim of violence. There will be continued reports surrounding the thought process of this young man who forever destroyed the lives of many, all speculation as we will never really know why this happened, but what we do know is that it wasn’t due to autism!

  42. Meghan says:

    Thank you so much for this. Our kids don’t need their sweet lives to be any more difficult than they might already be.

  43. Pap Apa says:

    “No person is normal” – C.G. Jung
    And maybe no person has only one diagnose?
    I gess the parents divorse did have an inpact on his wellbeing.
    Makeing him more alone. It is hard for a boy to lose a father.
    Love the foto btw.

  44. crow says:

    Really? You are offended and defensive that they have linked autism to the shooter? Is it ok that people usually assume the shooters are mentally ill and call them crazy, maniac, evil, etc.? I have both mental illness and autism in my family. The stigma and racism of mental illness is constant. I don’t see how you can really make such a big deal that they are so far apart and sound like autism is better than mental illness. A disorder is a disorder, no matter what it effects in the body. There are plenty of mentally ill people who never hurt anyone, even untreated. Has there never been a case of an autistic person hurting another person? Do we really have to be so defensive about violence being linked to autism? If so, then can we stop stereotyping and judging all the mentally ill?

    • ProfMomEsq says:

      Crow – Yes. I really am offended that “they” (who I specifically identified in my post as psychologists and psychiatrists or others purporting to be “experts” and appearing on television and radio programs to offer commentary on the shooter’s medical profile) have inaccurately suggested or stated that the horrible tragedy in Newtown happened because the shooter was autistic.

      I don’t dispute that the mentally ill in this country are not diagnosed, treated or represented to the best of our abilities as a society. I read just yesterday that the two largest mental health care facilities in the United States are located in prisons. I find that appalling. And I think the answer to your question about whether “we can stop stereotyping and judging all the mentally ill” is a resounding yes.

      But my agreement with your comments ends there. I have no idea what you mean about the “racism” of mental illness. Not all disorders are the same; there is a profound distinction between neurologic and psychiatric disorders, both in terms of symptoms and treatment. It does not help and – in fact – hinders the quest for understanding, assistance and acceptance to insist on homogenizing people simply as “mentally ill”. And, yes, I am sure that an autistic person somewhere has physically hurt another person. But, that isn’t the question. The question is whether there is an objectively verifiable link between autism as a neurologic or developmental condition and the inability to control aggressive impulses or a tendency toward commission of a planned act of violence. The answer is no. The weight of evidence suggests that persons on the autism spectrum are in fact more likely to be law abiding, showing a strong preference for structure, routine, and rules.

  45. Jan says:

    Thank you! I have a son on the Autism Spectrum (Asperger’s) who is 22. He was a sweet kind-hearted child and he is the same as an adult. It hurt my heart so much when I first heard that Adam Lanza was on the Spectrum. Thank you so much for putting words to my feelings.

  46. Brenda Hall says:

    So well written! The media only cares about getting a report in the paper as fast as possible whether the report is accurate or not. I am a grandmother of a nine year old, sensitive, kind hearted, tender, sweet, cheerful boy, who has Aspergers. He protects all insects, animals and any helpless creatures he sees. Please don’t ever put him or any other child in the same same breath as a disturbed, mentally challenged killer!!!!!!!

  47. georgina says:

    Until everyone realises that we each have things in common with Adam there will be little progress in turning the situation round.

  48. […] One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy ( Here is a great response from a mom of an autistic child on why we shouldn’t be focusing on the misinformation being said about autism. […]

  49. Lynne Hronec says:

    I am a mother of an autistic child and I myself may be autistic, I DO NOT believe that being autistic had anything to do with this tragedy!!!!! it was his inability to seek help and his parents’ inability to see and get help for him. He simply had no respect for human life and no ability to FEEL. My heart goes out to all of the families! My heart aches and wonders what made that person SNAP!

  50. Bill says:

    My son is autistic, but help me out here: where in the media have there been bald assertions that Adam Lanza massacred 27 people because he was somewhere on the autism spectrum? That would be horrible but all I can find are articles saying how terrible it is to make that connection, not any that actually do try to make that connection.

  51. Reblogged this on iconobaptist and commented:
    Great post! That is all!

  52. […] read a beautiful post at ProfMomEsq by the mother of a 5 year old daughter on the autism spectrum.  She […]

  53. Debby says:

    As always you said it so very well. Human nature is to look for someone, something to blame – but please not at the expense of our children who already have so much of a battle.

  54. […] One Truth About Autism and the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy ( […]

  55. […] was blown away and deeply moved by the outpouring of support that came through my blog post about the Newtown tragedy.  Nearly 30,000 people read, shared or commented on that post.  If you […]

  56. […] As this blogger so eloquently explains, the fact that the Sandy Hook killer may or may not have been on the autism […]

  57. Sandra says:

    While I am not a parent of a child with Autism, I am a parent of a child with a disability, one that should have as much public awareness, if not more, than Autism, due to the longevity of the knowledge base, and that is Down syndrome. I too had that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach as I heard reports on the news even here in Australia that casually mentioned the “possibility of a diagnosis of Autism” in relation to the shooter. I know only too well the lack of knowledge of any disability outside of the circle of influence that works so hard to support our kids, family members, colleagues etc who live with a disability. Misinformation is an ugly thing and sadly, those who should know due to their Education, Profession or interaction with our kids, are often the least understanding of the application of that knowledge and yet they speak out their text book scenarios. Keep writing, keep sharing, keep working together for us all to hopefully one day, have the rest of the world take an interest in getting to know our kids. xo

  58. So glad you are sharing this. As a speech-language pathologist I have worked with many children and adolescents over the years with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. I too was concerned by this media link and the negative consequences it could have. You are doing a good thing here – educating, personalizing, and opening a forum to discussion about the topic.

  59. Kim says:

    I have a son with Aspergers and Adhd, my son came home to me and told me that one of his classmates wanted to ban all autistic kids and the killer had a right to kill those children. I have tried to get him out of that school (bullies) but I’ve been persecuted and segregated because my son has autism. It is heart wrenching sad and hurtful to see me and my son treated this way. I have nowhere to put him because all the private schools won’t give him a chance and if I put him in a public school, there would be a shark feeding frenzy. I can’t put him in another special need school because it’s too expensive and he copies all of the inappropriate behaviors. I’m stuck with this awful school. HELP!

  60. V.E.G. says:

    Two children with autism died in the worst massacre in an Elementary School in the history of North America. The two children are: Josephine Grace Gay and the English boy, Dylan Christopher Jack Hockley.

It's boring when I do all the talking around here. Speak now, while you can get a word in edgewise.

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