Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Not about the Autism

In the wake of the horrific events in Connecticut, so many of us are wondering how such a thing could happen.  News media have begun to speculate about the involvement of mental illness -- how could anyone NOT, with what has happened -- and there have been mentions of the possible connection of Aspergers and/or Autism.

 For those of us who have family members on the spectrum in our lives, this is frightening on a totally different level.  We know it's natural to want to find a simple explanation, or something to blame.  But understanding what autism spectrum disorders are, and what they are NOT, is important, in this situation, and for all of the people who live with it. 

Jill, a mom of a child on the spectrum and fellow blogger, expressed it beautifully and has given permission for her words to be shared.  Her original post is here: http://yeahgoodtimes.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-connecticut-tragedy-and-autism.html   Here is what she said:


Dear Community:

There has been much discussion online and in the news about the connection between the Connecticut school shooting and the fact that the shooter may have been diagnosed with autism. As our families and our community discusses this issue and tries to find a reason for this heartbreaking tragedy, I feel that it is very important to remember the following: There is no connection between planned, violent behavior and an autism spectrum diagnosis of any kind.

Autism is not a mental illness; it is a developmental disability. Many autistic people may have emotional regulation problems, which are impulsive expressions of frustration and anger, that are immediate and disorganized. They may lash out with threatening statements or behaviors, but these behaviors are impulsive reactions, they are not deliberate or organized plans. Once the situation has been diffused, the behaviors will stop. What happened in Connecticut required methodical planning of a deliberate and tremendously violent act; this is not typical behavior of an autistic person.

Right now we are all struggling to find a reason why this kind of atrocity would happen, and we can speculate about the mental state of the shooter; about gun control laws; about the current state of our country’s mental health system, or about whatever else that might help us make some sense out of this. Please know, and please tell your children, that even if the shooter was autistic, autism is not the explanation for this tragedy.

If anybody has any questions about autism, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you very much for your time,



  1. It is reckless and foolish to assume that anyone exhibiting "odd" behavior is someone with autism or Asperger's. I believe that among other things that we must change in this country, there needs to be a focus placed on mental illness and we all need to understand the differences between symptoms of a dangerously sick mind and mostly harmless variations on the norm. Maybe someone should have recognized the probably severe issues this young man was having instead of writing it off as "autism."

  2. I am so glad you posted this, Diane. This whole thing has been painful for our family as we keep hearing the autism link. We know it has nothing to do with the what happened to this disturbed young man.


  3. Thanks for your thoughtful post.