Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Asperger's Syndrome

Update: great op-ed about this subject.  Thanks to reader, Reader, for the tip.

The Newtown shooter was said to have Asperger's Syndrome which is on the spectrum of autism.  These people are considered the high-functioning end of that spectrum (even as they face very real and distinct challenges.)

One thing to make clear - Asperger's is NOT mental illness.  It is a neurobiological condition.  While some mental illness, like schziophrenia, does have a biological basis, Asperger's is not defined in that category.

After saying that, based on my own personal experience with Asperger's, I suspect the shooter DID have mental health issues in addition to his Asperger's.  It may have been depression, anxiety or bio-polar.

From news reports, it seems clear that he was did have a diagnosis of Asperger's and his high school knew about it.  His mother had to come to the school sometimes if he was having issues.  But all reports were that he kept to himself, that staff watched over him, the other kids were generally nice to him and that there was no evidence he was bullied.

(Indeed, Aspies are far more likely to be bullied or be victims of crime than be violent.  They can get easily frustrated but that doesn't usually play out in acts against others.)

The principal at his high school, being careful in what he said, did mentioned that perhaps after leaving the cocoon of protection in high school, the shooter did not feel as comfortable out in the greater world.  (He had, at some point, attended some college classes.)

Aspies generally do not like loud noises so I was quite surprised to read that his mother taught him to shoot (thinking it would teach him discipline and responsibility).

What is also clear is that we have cut way back on mental health services to the point where many mental health care professionals are almost frantic with worry.  Washington State apparently has one of the worst mental health systems in the country due to lack of funding.  


Anonymous said...

Don’t Blame Autism for Newtown



Anonymous said...

Where's the special ed in all this?

This is a great post that outlines some key issues.

"But there’s another broken system in America that has yet to be fully addressed in light of Friday’s incident: special education.

I venture to say that every parent of a special needs child knows of what I speak.

Certainly, here in Seattle, it is common knowledge that school districts fail to provide a free and appropriate education to every child it serves."

A great read, posted today on Seattle's special ed ptsa list-serve. It's very illustrative on the way we isolate students, especially students with Autism. How can we fail to provide adequate special education, fail to provide mental health services, fail to control guns in any way, and then be surprised when those things have devastating consequences?

-special ed parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you for that Special Ed parent. Great writing from Susan.

mirmac1 said...

Thanks Melissa for posting this. I get so disheartened by the misinformation spread by media idiots, and our own district leadership, with regards to children in special ed.

Dennis said...

Let me make sure I have this right.
A woman with a very troubled son keeps six weapons in her home including 4 assault rifles. She tells sitters to "never let her son out of sight". She then takes that son to a shooting range and shows him how to shoot a weapon designed for mass murder. His basement room is filled with posters of guns and tanks and he spends his time playing the ultra violent video game "Call of Duty" ! But somehow "Special Education" is to blame !!! Please.

Anonymous said...

Gee Dennis, did somebody "blame" special education? Isn't it obvious that multiple systems failed here? The world is going to have people with problems, including parents who make mistakes. What are we going to do about that? It's really easy to be a monday morning quarterback. But the fact remains, special education in SPS is an afterthought in every building, and kids everywhere are incredibly isolated. And many other are simply not educated at all.

Your idea? Blame the mother. Of course she should have been a way better parent than she was. Oh yeah. She's dead. It matters not a bit if she is blamed now. (How good a parent are you by the way?) Better yet. Blame the dead shooter. Obviously he's evil.

The thing is... all that blame doesn't prevent the next time.

-special ed parent

Anonymous said...

Here's a good article in the Times on this topic:

"For people with autism, shooting in Newtown brings unfair stigma"

Originally published Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 9:20 PM


Melissa Westbrook said...

At the Capacity Management Work Session which has gotten progressively crazier. Staff just handed out a looong list of possibiilites for NE middle school. This on December 19th.

This is quite the problem but boy are we confused (those in the room) and now they say they might do two of these at a time.

I will try to get an electronic copy of these "new" options which are NOT in the presentation posted before.

NE folks, demand another meeting RIGHT after school starts and an explanation. You have the right because these are very complicated and trying to shift through the impacts is going to take awhile.

I will try to post complete notes by AM tomorrow.

Dennis said...

Special ed parent-
If the killer of those 20 children is not evil , I don't know who is.
And like it or not, his Mother's "mistake" of allowing him to play violent video games , teaching him to use an assault rifle and presenting him with easy access to that deadliest of weapons IS directly responsible for the death of 20 children.

Anonymous said...

Do you know that for a fact? Like it or not, guns are easy to get. Mom just made it a little easier. And video games? There really isn't evidence that they create violent urges. But you still shirk the problem. What are WE going to do given that weapons are so easy to obtain? Your answer is we will do nothing.

special ed parent