Yesterday a madman went into a school and stole 26 lives from the world. 20 innocent children and 6 innocent adults. Before he did that he allegedly shot and killed his own mother. He turned the gun on himself. He came into what should have been a safe place, school and killed babies. It has left our nation grieving, angry and desperately wanting answers.
As reports about the shooting were flooding the internet, TV and radio- the speculation that the shooter had autism started being reported. Myself and thousands of other parents with children on the spectrum, and adults on the spectrum flooded Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social networking sites to proclaim their outrage that Autism may have played a part in this senseless massacre. Just like the Aurora CO theater shooting all over. That man was also said to have "some form of autism." I pleaded on my own Facebook page to please, please PLEASE not believe reports that the monster who killed all of those people, those babies, had autism and further stigmatize a portion of our society, adults and children. As a mother to a child on the spectrum I can without a doubt in my mind say that even if this individual was on the spectrum, that autism was not a key component in his insanity. Autism is not blatantly violent like this. Nobody can say what was happening in his mind, nobody can come up with a definitive answer for this madness. Autism IS NOT the answer to this horrific act of violence. Please, do not talk of this with others and say "he had autism" as if it is an answer. IT.IS.NOT.
There were so many comments, anger, pain, and fear colored many of them, and understandably so. People wanted answers, people wanted to know WHY? And by stating that this monster had Autism- the media effectively gave the public a reason. BUT IT IS WRONG.
One report said: "One former classmate who said he was familiar with the disorder described Lanza as having a "very flat affect," adding, "If you looked at him, you couldn't see any emotions going through his head." Others said his evident discomfort prompted giggles from those who did not understand him. Autism does cause issues in social interactions, but it is very rare that an individual on the spectrum to be violent. It is much more likely that they themselves will be the victims of violence of some sort. And this interview with someone who also goes on to say that he didn't really know him paints a very dismal picture indeed of Autism.
These things alone are not indicative of autism- or any other disorder for that matter. There is nothing as of yet that purports this man had any kind of disability, or that he didn't. But putting the Autism diagnosis on him was not only irresponsible reporting, it made Autism, which is already woefully misunderstood, appear to be something that was the cause of unspeakable violence, and created the very real possibility of witch hunts and individuals on the spectrum becoming targets of yet more violence.
The inevitable outcry for more gun control began. If our country had better gun control laws this wouldn't have happened. This is a fear based reaction that I totally understand. But it is not the answer. If someone is disturbed angry or just evil enough to want to hurt people, hurt babies, they will do it. Proof of that are the 22 children stabbed in a school in China, where they DO have strict gun control laws. I do not think that the kinds of guns he did have access to, that were part of his mother's legal collection, should be allowed in the hands of civilians. Semi-automatic and automatic weapons are not needed to protect oneself, family or property. This is my opinion anyway. But clamoring to curtail our 2nd Amendment right is not the answer.
Mental healthcare disparities and the fact that the healthcare system as a whole is broken was another thing being talked about. THIS is a problem our country CAN work to fix. There is no amount of legislation that can "fix" evil. There are people in this country that need help, their families need help, and they slip through the cracks. No, every single person that may need mental health care will receive it. But the amount of atrocities that are occurring and the perpetrators are being said to have mental health issues, is a very big statement about just how degraded the state of mental health care is. Astronomical costs for medication and therapies, finding doctors and worse, the stigma placed on families and individuals makes getting help even harder.
But even this is not an "answer" and it certainly does not heal the families who could not tuck their children into bed last night, who will have unopened gifts under their Christmas trees, and whose lives will never be the same. This does nothing to bring back those innocent babies whose lives were snuffed out. This does nothing to ease the pain of those left behind.
Those of us who watched this on TV will grieve. We will be angry, we will disagree with others on the question of Why? Those of us with children on the spectrum may even fear for our own children, young and grown because of inaccurate and inflammatory media.
I encourage people that blog, have Facebook, Twitter or any access to any kind of social media outlet to share FACTS about autism. Thanks to The Autism Self Advocacy Network for their statement that included "Autistic Americans and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people." Or the Autism Society's statement that "There is absolutely no evidence or any reliable research that suggests a linkage between autism and planned violence. To imply or suggest that some linkage exists is wrong and is harmful to more than 1.5 million law abiding, non-violent and wonderful individuals who live with autism each day. Stereotyping an entire group of individuals because of the actions of one individual is wrong and unacceptable. "
I don't have any answers either. But I can say with certainty and conviction that Autism is NOT TO BLAME. To say this happened because he had autism is like saying he did it because he was diabetic. IT IS NOT AN ANSWER. There is evil in this world folks plain and simple. And I think we all caught a glimpse of it yesterday.
- Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
- Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
- Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female.
- Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
- Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
- Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
- Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
- Dawn Hocksprung, 06/28/65, female
- Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
- Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female
- Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male
- Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
- James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male
- Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female
- Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female
- Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female
- Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male
- Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male
- Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female
- Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female
- Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female
- Lauren Russeau, 6/1982, female (full date of birth not specified)
- Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female
- Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female
- Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male
- Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female