It’s been almost a week since I last posted an entry. I had hoped to elevate others’ moods (and my own) this holiday season with the last entry “Autism Night Before Christmas” but as with the universe, the plans of mere mortals often go awry.
I did not want to post something here until today because I wanted to be sure of my own convictions in light of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday. Not that I was unsure of them per se; I guess the enormity of the whole situation was overwhelming and numbing.
The inevitable link made by the media over the gunman’s possible Asperger’s diagnosis and his nihilistic action did not make sense to me. I am a parent of an Autistic child and work in a large residential setting for Developmentally Delayed adults, some with Autism, most with Mental Retardation and co-existing psychiatric diagnoses. While I am no expert in the field, the violent actions of the shooter did not fit into any ‘profile’ of Asperger’s that I had ever read about or come across. People with Autism are most-likely inwardly-focused, and are most likely to harm themselves and not others.
It did not even fit the profiles of those with typical psychiatric diagnoses such as Explosive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder. It does however, fit with Acute Psychosis; those typically described as ‘psychotic breaks’ triggered by a stressor. These, by and large, can occur to any one, whether they have a psychiatric history or not.
So what does this mean? It means the Autism community is again wrongly portrayed as possible violent offenders. It means people misunderstand what a ‘meltdown’ is, why it happens and what diffuses it. People are trained to try to have their explanations, i.e. the root cause of this tragedy, wrapped up in a neat little diagnosis with a bow on it.
This is not Autism. This is not Asperger’s. This is not any of the other ASD’s.
This was psychosis. This was someone ‘going postal’ because he felt slighted by his mother and that school. Was he bullied? Perhaps. Was he introverted? Perhaps. He was also, by all accounts, incredibly computer literate and taking college courses. He had his own motive (the stressor), the means (guns and ammo supplied by his mother’s hobby) and opportunity which I believe was planned: he had to plan to destroy his computers, retrieve the guns, load them, wait for his mother to fall asleep, dress and drive to the school, etc. This was calculated.
The horror of this tragedy is magnified by the guns he stole from his mother. These guns were legally obtained but I really have to doubt anyone’s intentions who buys an assault rifle for target shooting. In my opinion, that’s not marksmanship, that’s overkill; it’s like using a pipe bomb to clear a clogged drain. Would he have committed this heinous act if guns were not available? Perhaps; he could have used a knife or even a crossbow. This would certainly have spared many lives.
This is not about the 2nd Amendment, nor is it a commentary on how average Joes like you, me or the shooter’s mother can own an assault rifle because gun lobbyists have deformed the notion of civilians serving in a militia. If you bought your gun legally and went through appropriate background checks, I have no problem with you. As full disclosure, I do not own a gun.
Joe Scarborough of MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe” program and father of a child with Asperger’s, and who had received criticism for previous comments about the Aurora, CO shootings most recently issued a pointed and poignant commentary about gun control:
That admission took me by surprise, but this tragedy did not occur in a vacuum; its ripples have touched many. It has force people to re-examine what they believe in, and why they believe it. Clearly some things need to be done. I read this article which might just be the loophole that will spur real change: not only should the assault weapon ban be reinstated, ammunition availability should be restricted and purchases should be subject to the same degree of scrutiny as the guns they are intended for.
I was at a get-together this weekend and overheard many things regarding Newtown. One person attributed the shooting to the Internet and kids’ access to it, coupled with never being outside, being a nerd and not playing sports, etc. If given his druthers, any grandkids he would have would spend their life outdoors ‘not cooped up’, even if this tack was at odds with the parents. Yeah right.
Someone else attributed the tragedy to the shooter’s supposed “Ashbergers”, though she did not know what that was. Well-informed. Not.
Someone else wanted to buy a pellet or BB gun to shoot at targets in her backyard. She was advised to shoot a .22 caliber handgun instead as long as her neighbors didn’t mind. You can’t make this crap up.
I did not intend this to be a gun control post but it is. It is clear that despite in-roads in Autism Awareness, there are still many out there who have not heard the message.
Autism doesn’t kill people. It is not contagious. Spread the word.-Ed
The link below is for anyone interested in signing an online petition banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, started by the NY Daily News:
- Experts: No Link Between Asperger’s, Violence (abcnews.go.com)
- Groups: Autism Not To Blame For Connecticut School Shootings (fox2now.com)