18 December 2012

"If you've met one..."

“If you meet somebody with Asperger’s,” he said, “you’ve only met one person with Asperger’s.”
A wonderful and important point made by a young man with Asperger's syndrome during a discussion with his father regarding press reports that the Connecticut shooter was a "nerd" with Asperger's syndrome.
Tyler's point is worth us all noting: Don’t overgeneralize. Don’t stigmatize in a rush to explain inexplicable evil. Autism didn't cause this tragedy: Asperger’s is a blip on the far-reaching autism spectrum and no two cases are the same. Just as no “typical” person deserves to be tar-brushed with the evil acts of another, Aspies don’t deserve the bad press they’re getting.

Tyler’s form of autism makes it difficult for him to relate to people – to read social cues and easily express empathy. He is not prone to violence nor is he “missing something in the brain,” as so-called autism experts are claiming in the wake of the Connecticut tragedy. He is a gentle, loving 15-year-old who, like millions of others on the spectrum, is destined for a happy, successful life: college, marriage, a career and kids – whatever he wants.

I worried all weekend that the Lanza coverage would bother Tyler, too. “No problem, Dad,” he said after setting down the iPad and looking me square in the eyes (no small achievement for an Aspie). Relax, he said, “We both know this isn’t a problem.”
And this point from the via at The Dish:
Emily Willingham, also a parent of an Aspie, points out that missing social cues is nowhere near the same thing as being a sociopath, and that "autistic people are far more likely to have violence done against them than to do violence to others."


  1. "autistic people are far more likely to have violence done against them than to do violence to others."

    My whole family worries about my niece - a beautiful, 16 year-old blue-eyed blonde with high-functioning Asperger's - because she has the 'type' of Asperger's whereby she can't "read" people - their personalities or (especially frightening) their intentions. It's already gotten her into a couple of close calls with creepy men, both of which she avoided only by the timely intervention of friends she was with at the time.

  2. There's a great blog post here that spends a lot of time discussing the difference between Asperger's and being a jerk: http://captainawkward.com/2012/07/03/286-i-think-the-words-you-are-looking-for-are-i-am-breaking-up-with-you/

    Read the comments, there are a lot of people saying 'Hey, I have Asperger's/Autism, and behaving like that is NOT part of the diagnosis." There's another "So I've been diagnosed with Asperger's, what now?" post here: http://captainawkward.com/2012/07/19/303-i-was-recently-diagnosed-with-aspergers-and-im-kind-of-freaking-out-about-it/

    The tl;dr version is that Autism spectrum disorders = communication issues (among other things). ASD /= jerk, let alone sociopath.

  3. Thank you for posting this. When I was watching the news this weekend, and they were interviewing someone who was supposedly a family friend of the Lanza's, and he said that he thought that Ms. Lanza had said that her son had some form of Autism, Asperger's he though it was, my heart sank and it put a whole new dimension on this tragedy for me. Not only was I now weeping for those that were murdered, but now I was weeping for my 12 year old son, who is an Aspie, and who is by all standards a VERY big 12 year old boy. He is bigger than me now, gentle as a lamb, but so very socially unable. I am now worried that people are going to see him as a threat when it is so far from the truth. I typically take the time to explain to those that must know (such as the woman who cuts his hair, which is an ordeal like no other) that he has Asperger's, and then a brief description. While I realize that no explanation is honestly necessary, I have found that when people realize that he has a disability in certain areas, they will take more time and be more patient with him. I've prattled on, but again, thanks for posting this.

    1. You're quite welcome. Comments like yours help me justify the time I spend blogging.

  4. From the beginning, the media coverage of the horrific events in Newtown, CT has included a large number of "facts" later proved to be incorrect. Now comes the speculation as to the why and the medical and psychological dissection of the shooter. I sincerely hope that responsible journalists will not disseminate guesswork as fact or extrapolate one individual's act as indicative of possible behaviour of others. That's like saying, "Well he had brown hair, so people with brown hair must have certain tendencies."

    I know we all look for reasons in order to deal with what seems unbelievable, but I don't think there are any easy answers for what happened and we should all try not to draw general conclusions from very specific circumstances.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post about something we should all remember.

  5. While responsible journalists will not do what you fear, there are plenty of irresponsible "media" celebrities - I will not glorify them with the label of journalist - who will do exactly that. Anything to get ratings. Sad to say. People with Aspberger's are already tarred with the "potential mass murderer" brush.

    Thanks to Mel V (above) for those two links. If we could all post those links to everyone we know via email, facebook and twitter, etc, we would defray a lot of the flak that all people with Aspbergers must now be facing.

  6. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/dec/02/aspergers-syndrome-dropped-psychiatric-dsm

    interesting, if you haven't heard yet.

  7. Stan, as an aspie who has been reading and posting on your blog for a few years now... Thanks!

    Although at least here, there hasn't been so much talk about ASD with regard to this poor fellow as it seems there has been over there...


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