|The Newtown Fire Dept flag at half mast, courtesy of BusinessInsider.com|
How will I breathe when I go back to work? This week, when I walk into the elementary school at which I work, will it look different to me? Will I be able to look at the faces of the children I see and greet and hug every day, and be able to hold myself together? Will I be able to reassure these children that they are safe-- and really mean it? Will I break down when I'm unable to stop the thoughts that this shooting could have happened at my school? To my kids?
I'm sure I'll do whatever needs to be done, just as my co-workers will. But no matter what happens, being at work won't feel safe again for a long, long time.
So many things about this tragedy are beyond comprehension. No one, except for the shooter, can ever really know what would lead a person down a path that would end in massacring children. Doctors, neighbors, teachers, school counselors, and news anchors can spend countless hours speculating about the mental state of Adam Lanza, but only Adam could have told you why he did what he did. I have listened to many of the details given about this young man whom, by all accounts, no one really knew, yet about whom everyone seems to have plenty to say. Adam Lanza was obviously troubled-- any stranger could discern that from the events on Friday, December 14th-- but that is really all we will ever know for sure.
What troubles me about all the press this young man is receiving, however, is that many in the media are trying to link Adam's murderous rampage to his Asperger's syndrome diagnosis. Please, please, PLEASE-- could the media just once do their research before treading into waters they don't understand... While I, and parents like me, are out trying to spread autism awareness, the media continues to muddy the waters of understanding with ill-guided comments and suggestions about the relationship between autism and violence.
Asperger's syndrome, and autism in general, is not a diagnosis that includes elements of calculated violence. Autism is not a mental illness, but rather a development disability. Many people on the spectrum have difficulty dealing with their emotions at times, and can be prone to frustrated or angry outbursts. The key here is outbursts-- they aren't planned, and once the problem is resolved the anger diffuses. Aspies do not get angry and calculate revenge as a result of their Asperger's syndrome. People with Asperger's or autism are not prone to murder, and it is unfair to implicate that there may be a link between the two. In order to understand why Adam Lanza did what he did, we would need to know his whole person, not just that he had Asperger's syndrome, which is only a part of who he was.
I trust that you won't, but please don't assume that my children, and other children with Asperger's syndrome, are mentally constructed to turn into monsters like Adam. Think logically before jumping to conclusions about a whole group of people-- would it really be fair to judge all Aspies by the actions of one representative?! Especially if that representative does not exhibit behaviors typical of the rest of the group?! Unfounded statements made by the media make it harder for people with Asperger's syndrome to find acceptance in this world. Aspies already work so hard to fit in because of their disability, and loose statements linking evil violence to Asperger's only makes it harder for them. The events of December 14th have claimed enough victims already, without the media adding all Aspergians to list of casualties. Please listen to the news with a grain of salt, and understand that an Asperger's diagnosis doesn't mean "potential for violence".
I extend my condolences to the community of Newtown, Connecticut, and to the families affected by this horrible tragedy. I hope you all manage to find some semblance of peace again one day soon.
I also want to extend knowledge to those of you with questions about autism and Asperger's syndrome. If you have questions about spectrum disorders, or would like some more information, feel free to contact me with your questions. I would be glad to direct you toward the answers you are looking for.