As professionals in the field of autism and learning differences, it is our responsibility to provide support to not only the students we support, but the larger community that they tie into. In the face of tragedies such at the Newtown, CT event, we often have to work extra hard to ensure the general population is presented with the facts.
Below are some quotes and excerpts from leaders in the field of Autism and Learning Differences that aim to clarify the information presented by the media surrounding the event in Newtown, CT. Please share this resource with anyone who may benefit from learning more.
Michael John Carley, GRASP
Having Asperger’s or the autism spectrum in your life—as an individual, a parent…etc.—does not carry any bearing with whether or not you will become (for lack of a better term) “a good person” in this life. While the majority of statistics prove that we are infinitely more prone to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violence, we are not immune from becoming people capable of making terrible, horrible choices. No one is.
Michael McManmon, CIP Founder
Self-care is the most important thing you can teach these kids. Cognitive Flexibility is so important but you cannot achieve it unless you have an individual who has a good sleep diet, is eating healthy meals, has some form of sensory diet to release their physical energy and is at the same time learning the rules of social engagement and receiving the counseling to help them make good decisions and work through any childhood trauma or bullying.
Alex Plank, Founder of Wrongplanet.net
The repetition of damaging stereotypes means more needs to be done to address the myths and stigma around autism, which puts people who are already at a high risk for bullying in even more danger.
In the face of such terrible tragedy, we don’t need more senseless finger-pointing at an entire community of people. We need more than ever to find our common humanity.
Pat Schissel – Executive Director of AHA:
“In my experience, and in the majority view, individuals living with this diagnosis are most likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. There is no scientifically sound data to support a connection between this diagnosis and the violence that has left a community and a nation reeling.”
“We also wish to point out that, while making the connection between Asperger’s, autism and this type of violent act is completely erroneous, there is something positive in the fact that the individuals, parents, and professionals of the autism community are banding together to become a part of this national dialogue.”
Priscilla Gilman, Author and Advocate
Asperger’s and autism are not forms of mental illness; they are neurodevelopmental disorders or disabilities
Autism is a lifelong condition that manifests before the age of 3; most mental illnesses do not appear until the teen or young adult years.
Underlying much of this misreporting is the pernicious and outdated stereotype that people with autism lack empathy. Children with autism may have trouble understanding the motivations and nonverbal cues of others, be socially naïve and have difficulty expressing their emotions in words, but they are typically more truthful and less manipulative than neurotypical children and are often people of great integrity.
Dania Jekel – Executive Director of (AANE) Asperger’s Association of New England:
“Having Asperger syndrome does not preclude acts of violence, just as having any other condition, or no condition, does not preclude acts of violence. Some people with autism spectrum disorders have co-existing mental health conditions or other complex issues. Nevertheless, violence is not part of the Asperger or autism profile.”
When myths and misunderstandings are perpetuated, nonviolent people with the same condition suffer. It is painful and frightening to feel associated by virtue of a diagnosis with someone who has committed such a horrific crime.”
Laura Shumaker, Autism Advocate and Author
Studies show that individuals with autism have the propensity for reactive outbursts rather than planned violence.
The Autism Society:
No evidence exists to link autism and premeditated violence. Suggesting otherwise is wrong and harmful to the more than 1.5 million individuals living with autism in the United States.
Individuals with autism and those with other disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence than the perpetrators.
Many of the individuals with Asperger’s syndrome who have committed crimes had co-existing psychiatric disorders.
Race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are seldom, if ever, linked to the actions of an individual in a causal relationship. It is imperative that developmental disorders and disabilities be treated in the same vein.