Autism & Violence

20121216-221822Firstly, Before i begin this post, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to those affected by the terrible events in Newtown, Connecticut on the 14th December. Such wanton disregard for human life is almost as shocking as it is tragic. The thoughts of people across the world are with those families and their friends whose lives are forever changed.

Over the past couple of days I have received several emails and many tweets regarding Autism and violence and violent tendencies. The subtext of these messages is linked to reports that the gunman in Newtown had been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and quite naturally people have been very curious as to any possible link between his diagnosis and his actions.

Obviously, I know nothing of this young man and his life experiences, his motives or his frame of mind. It would be remiss of me to comment on his mental state or the events that lead up to these appalling events; they are as unfathomable to me as they are to the rest of you and I doubt anyone will ever fully understand what it is that can cause a mind to break in such a way.

Where I do feel comfortable commenting is on the general behaviours of people on the Autistic Spectrum. As oft happens during the turmoil surrounding stories like these, the media, naturally looking for answers and explanations have published some poorly informed articles, which is a source of concern to me. In general people with High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorders, such as Aspergers Syndrome are no more or less prone to violence than anyone else. More often than not, people with Aspergers Syndrome have a tendency towards justice, a very strong sense of right and wrong and a natural inclination towards fairness.

Developmental Disorders like Aspergers Syndrome can be very difficult to diagnose, and are sometimes misdiagnosed, but much more importantly, they can act like a mask for other problems, like depression or paranoia. Whatever this young mans reasons for carrying out this horrendous attack, I doubt ASD is to blame, but perhaps it did contribute to some warning signs being missed. Perhaps we will never know.

Being on the Autistic Spectrum brings huge challenges every day. We live in a world poorly suited to our needs, among people who struggle to understand us almost as much as we struggle to understand than, and ourselves. I can only hope that these terrible events do not add to the unfounded stigmas already associated with Autism. I would hope that the media and politicians would now focus on the infinitely more pressing issue of gun control in the US, reducing the risk of another tragedy happening again.

Zen X