Autism does not equal violence

The Complexities of the Connecticut Shooting

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by JaLynn Prince, President, Madison House Autism Foundation, and mother of a 23-year-old autistic son

Many components seem to have converged culminating in an horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week. Thus far, the thrust in the conversation of causes includes guns, movies, videos, bullying and mental health. Madison House Autism Foundation will be examining these issues in the future to hopefully add to a reasoned conversation because it is implied that the shooter was a young adult on the autism spectrum.

There is much we don’t yet understand about autism but as Dr. Catherine Lords, Director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian hospital, points out, autistic individuals seem to be significantly less likely to engage in violent behavior than the general population. And, as a parent of a beautiful 22-year-old son on the autism spectrum, I join millions of parents who can attest to Dr. Lords’ observations.

There is one aligned issue not yet being discussed however, that may have significant implications — the widespread lack of services for adults with developmental disabilities which can often result in isolation, confusion, and regression.

We should not confuse mental illness with autism. But the fact remains that there is another tragedy playing out for parents who have aging children on the autism spectrum: the critical need for supports for their adult children.

This is not the time to go into all of the details and if some good can come from this difficult situation, it may be a broader awareness of this national topic facing those aging with autism. In addressing the events in Newtown, CT perhaps other parents who are hurting may also benefit from this broader conversation. Let us not add to the confusion and misrepresentation but instead examine all of the issues that may have played into this weeks sad scenario so that we may learn, respond, and save anyone from having to experience this tragic loss again.

More to follow at an appropriate and informed time.

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