Adam Lanza and Autism: An Unfortunate Connection


Adam Lanza

ABC News

While still in shock and disbelief from yesterday’s deadly school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I was closely following a real-time feed from ABC when the following was posted to its timeline:

"Ryan Lanza, 24, brother of gunman Adam Lanza, 20, tells authorities that his younger brother is autistic, or has Asperger syndrome and a “personality disorder.” Neighbors described the younger man to ABC as “odd” and displaying characteristics associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder."

My heart sank after reading this update as I immediately knew yet again, those within the autism community, including myself, would have their work cut out for themselves in educating a misinformed public due to yet another high-profile case involving violence and Asperger’s syndrome (a high-functioning form of autism). Case-in-point, The Independent, one of Britian’s national newspapers, reported this morning that Lanza possibly suffers from “Asperger’s disease.”

In January of this year, there was the Los Angeles arson case and then in July, there was the Aurora movie theatre massacre.  Now, unfortunately, we have another instance in which autism and violence are being mentioned in the same breath.  This time, however, it is now tied to one of the most heinous acts of mass murder carried out in American history.  It’s important to note that in all three of these cases, each of the suspects were thought to have Asperger’s by the media and others.  I have yet to see any reports from an actual physician or psychologist confirming these armchair diagnoses.

While the facts of the Newtown school shooting are still emerging, it’s appearing that Lanza may have had a host of psychological and emotional issues.  However, if a high-functioning autism diagnosis is eventually confirmed, everyone needs to remember the following: Adam Lanza carried out these horrific acts in spite of his Asperger’s, not because of it.  

As investigators begin to peel away the layers from this young man’s life, I think we’ll learn that many other underlying factors contributed to his actions.  I refuse to speculate what those might be, lest I be guilty of stereotyping others (divorce victims, gamers, etc.) the same way autistics have been stereotyped thus far, both in this case and others.

Additionally, there is no evidence to suggest that those with autism or Asperger’s syndrome have a propensity to commit violent crimes.  In fact, one study actually disproves this theory altogether and demonstrates that those with autism spectrum disorders are no more likely to commit crimes than their neurotypical counterparts (Barnhill, 2007; Griffith, 10 May 2006).

Further adding to the confusion, the American Psychiatric Association is set to release its DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition) in May of next year.  This is considered the standard-bearer for classifying and diagnosing mental disorders.  In it, Asperger syndrome has been completely removed as a separate condition and merged together with other forms of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).  This will undoubtedly further muddy the waters when it comes to the general public’s view on autism, what it is and how it affects those who have it.

My son, who has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism, currently attends a mainstream school.  My fear is that due to the incessant media reporting about Adam Lanza’s possible autism, many of his teachers and fellow students will, through no fault of their own, subconsciously look upon him with an element of distrust, speculating whether or not he too is capable of committing similar acts of violence.

The autism community is finally starting to emerge from the "Rain Man" shadow that was cast nearly 25 years ago and the last thing we need is a new stereotype that paints those with the condition as mass murderers. We have too many other battles to fight and do not need this one as well. 

It’s my hope that the media will begin to responsibly report on the Connecticut school shooting and its potential autism connection in the coming days and weeks ahead.

A good start would be to properly reference autism as a disorder and not a “disease.”

50 Responses to Adam Lanza and Autism: An Unfortunate Connection

  1. Cathy Davis says:

    I understand your point of view… however, how do we know that Adam wasn’t stemming? I.e. replaying some story he’d read or some video game or film? In any case, I also have personal experience with Autism/Asperger’s – true, it’s a disorder… or really probably a birth defect that may be at a genetic level. But you can’t deny that people with this disorder don’t really feel emotion or empathy towards others. I’ve known a family member with this disorder for all his life (he’s 17 now) and I feel no closeness to him whatsoever because one can’t really connect with individuals such as these. They are in their own world. Additionally… these individuals can get very frustrated when rules aren’t followed or another person is disrupting their inner play (stemming). They love stemming. That is their entertainment, and their friend… because almost always, they have no friends. Their ability to continue stemming is their everything. They don’t feel any empathy toward others because they don’t relate to others. And they have no want or need to relate to others either. And isn’t this one of the traits of a psychopath? I’m not saying that all children who are autistic are psychopaths, but the lack of empathy and not relating to others is a common factor. Couple that with an access to guns… and possibly encouraging the use of guns or shooting for an individual like this is surely playing with fire and/or a timebomb. I have always been disturbed by this boy I know… he’s just odd. And, I know he doesn’t really care about people, it’s so obvious! He’s just there, in his own world, and people are either annoying to his world, or not. And that’s it. There are many autistic children now becoming adults. They DO need to be protected from anything that could cause violence – guns, knives (this boy I know pulled a knife on his sister because she interrupted his stemming!), and they do need to have a guardian and be assessed and have a careful watchful eye on them all the time. I do truly believe that.

  2. libertydockaren says:

    If indeed the shooter had Asperger’s, it wouldn’t be the syndrome that caused him to do what he did, but likely the report that he was on medication as reported in the Washington Post http://tinyurl.com/cp3mdg8

    Sadly, antipsychotics are used to quell problems in Asperger’s syndrome and autism in general and are well known to cause violent, murderous rages as do the antidepressants and sometimes Ritalin. Every mass shooter where the information is available was on a psychiatric med.

  3. Cathy, your reponse is affirmation that my article was needed.

    While I appreciate your feedback, some of your comments are alarming at best. To conflate psychopathic behavior with autism is a serious misunderstanding of both disorders.

    Also, I’m not quite sure what you mean by “stemming.” I’m assuming you’re referring to “stimming,” as in self stimulatory behavior. If you are suggesting that committing mass murder is a way for autistics to satisfy the need to stim, then you are grossly misinformed.

    Again, I appreciate the reply but it only reinforces the misunderstanding of autism that currently exists by the public-at-large.

  4. Mike Pittman says:

    We have an autistic son. He is 19 and one of the gentlest people on the planet. He is a high functioning autistic – and not Aspergers. Our daughter, his sister, makes her living caring for a set of severely autistic, fraternal 17-year-old twins. None of these kids could no more plot and plan such an act than they could care for themselves. They live in the moment. They do not have the executive functioning skills to carry such an act out. Our son is incapable of driving a car, yet he can read and write and do math. He can, under supervision, do some nice woodworking. He fell on one of his 18 month old nieces once and was beside himself for several hours because she got some scratches and bruises.

    When our son “stims”, he paces, gestures and talks to himself. He is not even close to violent behavior.

    Perhaps Lanza had a mild form of asperger’s, but it wasn’t what caused this. There were a lot of other things going on in that head.

  5. Melanie says:

    @Cathy Davis

    Saying that ‘you can not deny that people with this disorder do not feel emotion and empathy towards others’ is like saying all children on the spectrum are obsessed with video games. Some of the most caring, compassionate, empathetic people I know are on the spectrum. It is just that – a spectrum. The effects for each child/person vary greatly and to cast a myth such as that is doing a huge injustice to the autism community.

  6. scallywag says:

    Breaking news reveals that Adam Lanza had vociferous arguments with 3 of the 4 deceased teachers a day before at the school. It is not understood at present the nature or why the arguments even took place, although it is known the 4th teacher survived because they failed to turn up to class which implies Lanza had a real beef to deal with as now investigators believe the altercation inspired Lanza to come back the following day to unleash his venom….

  7. Mike Pittman says:

    Our son definitely has empathy. Like I said, he was almost inconsolable when he accidentally hurt his niece. Of his 10 nieces and nephews, he has a favorite. he calls her “Bunsy” because she reminded him of a bunny when she was little. She is the only one that can get away with messing with his stuff.

  8. Leslie says:

    Gary- thank you for taking time to write such a thought provoking, intelligent article. It is concerning that others will make assumptions, assign blame, and form conclusions based on misinformation rather than try to understand that this is not about autism. It is about a boy who needed help and did not get it.
    BTW: if it is believed, as in the above comments, that it is impossible to have any sort of “connection with ‘these kinds of people’ “– a real connection is highly unlikely.

  9. Duncan says:

    “individuals such as these.”

    Cathy, your logic seems a little flawed there.

    I can confirm that people with autism do have friends btw :-)

  10. JediWoman says:

    Thanks for this great essay! I almost laughed out loud when I read the comments by some that the Lanza kid was “autistic” and therefore his mom shouldn’t have had weapons in her home. I sometimes wonder if America is populated by simpletons. Just as the people who have blamed this on:

    abortion/video games/sex and(or) violence in movies/absence of prayer in schools/gays/gay marriage/liberals/progressives/Obama/the rapture/antipsychotics/whatever other lamebrain cause they can dream up

    The investigation is ongoing. At this moment, investigators are tight lipped for obvious reasons. The things that people are hearing through the media have no credibility whatsoever; as they are from sources that will only speak on condition of anonymity – meaning there is no way to verify that what they claim is ever true.

    A few things are common to all of these shootings: The shooters usually are far above average in intelligence. They are often alienated from the larger peer group. They often were bullied and feel as if their teachers/adults didn’t take appropriate action to stop it. They were often obsessed with violence. These kids will often tell their friends how they feel but hide their feelings from adults. These kids are frequently identified as nerdy. And these kids all feel a sense of rage. They ARE encouraged by other school shooters. (In fact Park Dietz has implored the media not to provide national coverage of these shootings bc when one happens, another follows usually within a few weeks). These shooters all seem to have a desire for infamy and embark on these shootings as a way to commit public suicide.

    See the BBC video here: http://www.taginc.com/dr-park-dietz-on-bbc/2012/07/

  11. Sharon says:

    Cathy, YOU are disturbing. What bollocks! My son has Asperger’s, and he is very caring and loving. What they mean when they say there’s a lack of empathy in autism is that people with autism have trouble figuring out what other people are thinking and feeling. That’s it. And it appears you suffer from that.

  12. Frankenstein's Monster says:

    @Cathy, as someone with Asperger’s I find your comment to be extremely hurting.

    Reading your post I must assume that you met some people with Asperger’s and that you were genuinely appalled by the ‘outlandish’ behaviour and apparent lack of emotion many people with Asperger’s seem to display. I must assume that in this disgust, they (we) appear to you as some kind of monsters, in the same way people reacted to deaf persons in the 19th century (or shall I compare it to a villager’s torch-wielding against Frankenstein’s monster?). We (humans in general) always fear and loath what we don’t understand or know.

    But please consider: Assuming that people with Asperger’s are basically heartless psychopaths is extremely ignorant. I for one do have very intense feelings, sometimes they are even too strong to bear (especially when they are caused by the loneliness that comes with my condition); Our feelings are just detached from our conscious minds and yes, we/I actually have trouble predicting people’s emotional reactions to any given situation (including my/our own).

    However, most people with Asperger’s do need and want to have normal human relationships but we have difficulty in expressing our feelings to others in the same automatic, subconscious way ‘normal’ people do. We therefore have problems with interacting with others and to reach them emotionally, but we want to – and we suffer from our handicap in doing so as much as we suffer from bullying and mobbing.

  13. Joann says:

    Cathy’s response is exactly our fears. First of all it is STIMMING
    Short for self stimulation.
    My 17 year old with aspergers has empathy. He feels sadness
    He still cries over his grandfather. He loves his siblings
    And pets and protects them.
    All cases are different and usually combined with other diagnosis
    Adam Lanza probably had major emotional and psychological issues
    ASD was just one piece of the puzzle.
    Our children can do great things but not if they are feared by those with lack of knowledge
    Thank you Gary for writing this. I will share it and continue to educate

  14. Caroline van says:

    @ Cathy – perhaps your lack of closeness with your family member with an autistic spectrum disorder is more due to your inflexibility and lack of desire to become part of his world. Also, I think in years to come you may understand that individuals with autism have a tremendous amount to offer society, we just don’t see it yet because there is such a preponderant societal desire for everyone to be the same. Furthermore, autism is certainly not a ‘birth defect’, these individuals are simply wired differently from the main stream, personally I have never coveted the label of being ‘main stream’; how terribly dull. I challenge you to do some reading about your family member, take a course or two, increase your awareness of the disorder and you may find that indeed there is a way to connect and you may even be enriched by the experience.

  15. Robina D'Arcy-Fox says:

    I read with intensifying sorrow and horror the comment left by Cathy. A sickening dread filled my gut.
    A little bit of misunderstanding can start a wildfire of fear and her piece had all of the makings of something awful.
    I was all set to reply from my point of view as a parent of a child who has a hard wire issue with social recognition skills but is not autistic and as an aunt to a teenage boy with Asperger’s until I read the extraordinary responses that followed.

    I want to say Thank you. From the bottom of my heart for the kind and measured tones you have all taken to word your replies. When my son goes to school on Monday, at 7.5 years old , I am fearful of his reception. I am afraid people will look upon him as a threat or a menace. He has never hurt anyone. He is loving . Sweet , caring ,funny and lively. He also has a problem expressing his anger appropriately and understanding it’s impact on others. I am in tears writing this . Because no mother thinks their child will grow up to kill anyone …Fear will move us so quickly away from love .

    So Thank you.

  16. Alice says:

    I am a retired teacher and school counselor that has experienced many students with Autism and Asperger. They are very intelligent and tend to focus on things that get their attention. Some display uncontrollable behavior and outburst but are not violent in any means. Many of these students are successful if they have people who treat them with respect, kindness, and concern for their well being. Do I think that Adam Lanza had some form of Autism? I would say no! He seems to had suffered from psychological imbalances possibly to have been able to perform such a devastating act of violence. I am not a doctor of psychology by any means but have studied in the field of human behavior/education (BS) and (MSC).

  17. k says:

    Cathy, how do you know what he feels? just because he doesnt express emotion, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have/feel them. Your viewpoint is scary.

  18. Bob Hein says:

    Cathy, I too am disturbed by your response. It shows that there is a slice of the population that will have an immediate and destructive impact on current study and public awareness of Autistic Spectrum Disorders. I too am a parent of a child with ASD. He is highly-functioning and is brilliant in history, math and the sciences. The only problem he has is that he cannot interpret the emotional cues and subtleties that go along with emotional empathy. Foes that make him a monster ir a walking time-bomb? No, it does not. In fact, he is one of most loving, compassionate individuals you would ever meet.

    I feel that the ASD community as a whole is going to face a lot of Cathies in the next few weeks. I see it in the reporting of CNN, ABC, CBS, Businessweek and a handful of other media outlets. We will all have to deal with our own personal pitchfork-wielding townspeople when our family members are labelled.

  19. Shauna says:

    The comment by Cathy, and unfortunately the first on this blog, is just simple ignorance of ASD and associated disorders. What I hope will emerge is more information on the pharmaceuticals used to treat a number of diagnosis and misdiagnosis of various troubles of our children today.

    I am in no way dismissing the responsibility of the shooter. But we also have to look to the other contributing factors. After all, by all accounts this was a good family with one brother who fit very easily into society. ASD is not the main feature of this story or we would have aleady obliterated our entire population, statistically speaking. Let’s look at the whole picture before judging.

  20. Amanda says:

    Cathy, my son has autism and his very affectionate and shows emotion, you are doing exactly what shouldnt be done Judging all children on the spectrum! Disappointing! Educate yourself!

  21. Kurt says:

    @Cathy.

    All people with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t feel emotion or empathy? Are you for real or just trolling? Where did you ever hear such awful misinformation? That would be like saying all people whose names start with “C” are pathologically ignorant, stupid and mean. Okay, one of them might fit that bill, but it would be tragically unfair and wrong to slander all those people with that profile.

  22. Gary says:

    Thank you Gary Porter for writing what my wife and I have been worrying about since this broke Friday. Our 15 yr old has Aspergers and we are worried that people are now going to relate mass murder with AS. Things are already so hard for us. You would not believe the problems we have had with teachers mistreating our son and misunderstanding him. We had to bring a lawyer to school several times to straighten out a few teachers that were giving our son a raw deal and discriminating against him. I’ll bet that this boy Lanza was on medication and I’ll further bet that the drugs caused this behavior and not Asperger. Doctors and drug companies are the cause of much misery and even murder all in the name of money. We belong to groups and almost all of the parents of kids on the spectrum are medicating their kids which I and my wife are totally against. When this story is told, I’ll bet this Lanza was on heavy medication. Also, society rejects these children. they are discriminated against as soon as they start school and it continues through out life. The hurt is profound in these people. They are always rejected because they do not interact smoothly. It builds up and problems arise. I wish people would be kind. A little kindness from peers and teachers, kindness and understanding would go a very long way to make their lives easier. I feel sorry for Adam Lanza and his family. I work in schools, I know what goes on. My heart also breaks for the babies that were killed. They are beautiful at that age. Anyhow, you wrote a good insightful article. Thank you

  23. Rose says:

    Isnt it possible that although not every one with ASD will become angry enough to kill people that Adam had issues with emotional regulation that stems from his Asperger’s Syndrome? Isnt it possible that IF his family was unstable that it was hard on him because there may have been less routine causing him ASD related frustration. Isnt it possible that his mother was meticulous or demanding trying to care for him and keep things in order or attempting to act in his best interest and against his ASD rigidity. Isnt it possible that his ASD related perspective taking struggles would cause him to misunderstand her intentions and cause him to act out against her? Isnt it possible that in his literal world there was a connection between her love of the other children and his perceived love of him? As a parent of an ASD child and a wife to an adult and a counselor I would never want people with Asperger’s misperceived but the world should be properly educated NOT lied to about the possibilities. The possibility that his reaction was linked to his ASD related limitations and life experiences exist. Even if NOT everyone with ASD will act out this way.

  24. random chick says:

    My reaction was to throw my hands up in frustration and say, “Great, like they need more people thinking that they’re violent!” So, be assured that at least one person reacted with sympathy instead of stereotyping. :D

  25. Maggie Flowers says:

    Terrified. My heart plummeted when I saw articles mentioning Aspergers as a factor in these horrible killings. My 13 year old has Aspergers. How sad, that some actually believe these children feel no empathy. My child is kind and gentle. He cares about animals, and actually covers his ears when he learns details of pain inflicted on a human being. It actually seems to cause him physical pain to hear of it. He does have difficulty figuring out how others may feel about what he says, and terrible difficulty with knowing how to converse with others his age, but lack of empathy? Never! I am horrified that people believe this. Ignorance. Unbelievable ignorance. And will my child now suffer because of this ignorance? Because he will be viewed as the odd child that sits in school, reading books, as a “ticking time bomb?” Sickened and scared by the impact this could have on all the children with ASD.

  26. Sharon says:

    Rose is right. But the same would be true if he had PTSD, bipolar, traumatic brain injury, fetal alcohol syndrome; or if he grew up in poverty, was sexually abused, was neglected, was witness to a violent crime, etc. All of us are broken. Do we need to start viewing everyone with suspicion? Would that help?

  27. Susan Moffitt says:

    My heart sunk at this too. That “lack of empathy” belief is an outdated appreciation of autism. These kids are hypersensitive, if anything they feel too much, and are frequently overwhelmed by their awareness of other’s feelings and emotions.

    “And a personality disorder” is no throw away line, but the key to his motivations, seeing that the term includes schizoid, paranoid, borderline personality, and antisocial pathology.

    We don’t know much at this point, but I am struck by the shooter’s apparent isolation. It seems like he and his mother were holed up together with no
    network of support. By all accounts there were no money worries, which makes it all the more unfortunate. Maybe the mother grappled with the stigma of having a mentally ill son. An element of denial may have been at work to lead her to teach him to shoot guns. The spectre of gun violence is fresh now, but currently mental health as a public health crisis goes hand in hand with the access to weapons.

  28. Kaitie D says:

    People on the spectrum without a doubt have true sincere emotions. My brother who is two years older than me has a severe case of autism. My brother and I are very connected even though he can barely communicate. He is the sweetest boy ever. He has become so aware of emotions-which doctors say he never would be able to do. If he ever sees me crying, he comes to me until I’m alright-and sometimes even begins to cry himself. He laughs when others laugh or when he thinks something’s funny. He gets sad if he hears yelling. He gets concerned if someone talks in a worried or angry tone. He is such a caring a sweet person. All people on the spectrum are very different from each other. Adam Lanza may have suffered from Aspergers. That isn’t the reason he did this horrific act. But maybe we need to consider…perhaps he was bullied for being different, maybe he didnt have emotional/mental support. Nothing excuses what he did. But maybe society’s view on dissabilities should change. Maybe we need to understand that it is our moral duty to help and support those who cannot help themselves. Maybe things like this can be prevented.

  29. Martin says:

    People with Aspergers, like myself, lack Cognitive Empathy but not Emotive Empathy. Saying people with Aspergers have no empathy is just wrong, that’s all.

  30. Roxanne says:

    He was obviously and sadly misdiagnosed. His mental illness was not a Personality disorder, but a Psychotic disorder.

  31. Robert C Benson says:

    Gary G. Porter get a clue before you decide to ever write anything ever again.

  32. Mary says:

    I have a son with Asperger’s.he’s 15 and in hi school.. he does have times he is mad and frusterated with people in his life (like mom and dad, kids at school,sometimes the media-tv news reports) Aaron does have times he has a tempter.. he was taught right from wrong, good and bad, and what is OK and not OK to do when negitive feelings or people are with him. With that, right now with all the media coverage and pain these families are having, LET THEM GRIEVE… we are a community of family memebers with a disorder that is A SOCIAL ISSUE.. so we all know that Aspergers/Autism are NOT the main reason here.. stop trying to find a reason and just pray and find way to support these families.. if anything the best u can do is grab that aspergers/autistic child and try to hug them or show them u are there.. I know Aaron don’t like ME hugging him, but HE COMES TO ME AND HUGS.. Just love your own.. stop point fingers at why..

  33. Kelli says:

    To plan and execute this massacre and the processes leading ip to Friday (trying to buy a gun on Tuesday) is not consistent with true autism spectrum disorder. A lack of Executive functioning would make it impossible. While the killer may have had spectrum -like behaviors, using the label autism to explain this mass murder is simply going to cause misinformation, prejudice to the 1 in a 100 kids currently diagnosed or showing symptoms, and confuse two very different things: autism and mental illness. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING!

  34. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry, but I need to add my own input to some of these comments posted.
    I am 17 and have high functioning autism.
    Cathy Davis’ comment:
    But you can’t deny that people with this disorder don’t really feel emotion or empathy towards others.
    Yes, I could deny this all day. One could question if you really do have a personal experience with this “disorder”.
    As one directly effected by this, I can tell you that I love my family deeply, and would never ever think about doing something as terrible as Adam did. I enjoy video games and really anything that has to do with computers, but again, I would never every thing of killing innocent children. And if you are trying to compare autistic traits to one of a psychopath, you ma’am with all do respect, clearly do not know what you are talking about.

  35. Melissa says:

    Adam Lanza was severely mentally ill. He did not suffer from an autistic disorder. His parents were in denial. His mother’s guns should have been in a gun safe. He shot one child after another multiple times in cold blood and at close range. Do not compare him to anyone with an autistic disorder. His parents are assholes.

  36. Micki says:

    I have read all the reply’s, both negitive and positive. I have cared for lots of children with disabilities thru the years, it seems the last 20 have been autistic, I have found there emotions to be as ours, all different, I’m not a pro, or a dr. but I think I read people fairly well, there was more going on with this young man than what they are reporting, it is unfortunate that the media thinks only of the headlines, they do not look deeper until the damage has been done.

  37. Spooked says:

    Being the parent of an eight year old, high functioning autistic kid, I have a more fundamental concern. Let’s step back and look at the root cause that led to this tragedy. One could enumerate several, like gun control, child upbringing, but let’s focus on the autism portion since this is a forum for the latter. If Adam indeed had some type of special need, I question what society did for him earlier in his life despite being cognizant of his needs. The fact that his mother home-schooled him is somewhat indicative that the school was not challenging enough for his capabilities or was dissatisfied with the school’s intervention programs. Why not prevent instead of feeling sorry after such tragedies happen? One way that could have prevented this tragedy from happening was for society to do something about it instead of just saying ‘he was quiet or a loner’ after the fact. Parental issues aside, one way to do something is for schools to step up, recognize a kid has problems, and work together with families to implement programs that would address the kid’s needs. I see several special needs kids being thrown out of their IEPs these days due to budget cuts. This means more kids, some with huge potential, will come through their lives with unaddressed needs. Is this the future that we want for these kids,some with huge talents, like Adam himself based on articles that I read? I am not saying that because of these unaddressed needs, they will become another Adam Lanza. Rather, society will be missing out on great things some of these little people can do for society. Do something NOW, not tomorrow. Foster talent growth and prevent such tragedies from happening.

  38. Robert C Benson's Mother says:

    I disavow ever had a son named Robert C Benson

  39. Leslie Musick says:

    It seems quite probable that sexual molestation by one or both of his parents may be hidden under the guise of mental illness textbook labels. There are many (not sure the exact number) young people who have some type of autistic disorder who do NOT go out and murder classrooms of innocent children. This guy was obviously seriously mentally disturbed. An important question to ask his father and brother is was he sexually abused???? He killed his mother and then killed children in classrooms where she taught. There’s meaning in these choices. The father and brother should be required to undergo polygraph testing. There’s far more to this than a stamp of mental illness.

  40. Jen says:

    The ignorance surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorders (and mental health) is deeply disturbing to me. I have a son with Asperger’s and a daughter with Bi Polar disorder and possible Borderline Personality Disorder.
    From the time they were little, both of our kids have shown an immense capacity for empathy toward others. We would get notes home from the teachers(of both kids)describing a kind act that they had displayed to one of their peers or that they’d gone out of their way to make someone feel welcome and accepted. Both have won awards not for academics but for citizenship. A human being is far, far more complex than a label.
    Labels are useful diagnostic tools and for understanding but it goes deeper than that.
    I am sure Adam Lanza had a host of other disturbances going on, but one thing is clear; he did not benefit from any help he was receiving for his problems.
    I don’t know the facts, but as a mom I can’t understand why more wasn’t done for Adam if Nancy felt he was unraveling and getting worse? Perhaps more details will emerge and maybe we’ll learn that he was treated for psychosis or had a hospitalization. I don’t understand why as a mother you would think it was a good idea to take your disturbed son for target practice with sophisticated weaponry, but maybe she wasn’t in touch with reality herself. Nancy sounded as if she had issues of her own and perhaps wasn’t able to cope with her son all on her own. I can’t help but feel compassion for the killer’s family too, as difficult as that may be for some people. I guess I try to see the good in everyone. Maybe with the right help, Adam could have went on to live a full life and be a contributing member of society, instead of making the terrible choices he made on Friday. To say he was evil seems simplistic and inaccurate. What he did was evil, that is indisputable but whatever drove him to kill we may never know.

  41. Sue says:

    I am very disturbed by Cathy’s comments. This viewpoint is clearly from a person that knows nothing about autism and should not be running her mouth on topics she knows nothing about. I have a nephew with autism and he is very loving and affectionate towards all his family. Maybe nobody likes you Cathy and that’s probably why you get treated badly by everyone. Its uneducated fools like Cathy that perpetuate these negative stereotypes and they should just keep
    their traps shut. I am so tired of the media using autism as a scapegoat for bad behavior, it was the individual and not autism that committed these heinous crimes. And its not “stemming”, know what your talking about before you write something.

  42. April says:

    Great essay, i never understood how people can associate asperger/autism with mental illness. Also, autism and psychopathy have nothing to do with each other.Autistic people have “mind-blindness” which makes it difficult to understand what other people are feeling which can make them naive.Psychopaths/ people with antisocial personality on the other hand don’t have a “conscience”, they can understand other’s feelings (and are often excellent manipulators) but simply don’t care about them.

  43. Sad says:

    Autism is a spectrum and as such there are many variations in those diagnosed with autism or Aspergers — whether people want to admit it, some have the ability to be loving and feel emplathy toward others but others do not. For those of you who have loving family members with Aspergers, count your blessings. Not all families are that fortunate. There is nothing more heartbreaking than to be a parent of a child who is incapable of showing love. Our 23 year old daughter was diagnosed with Aspergers 10 years ago and is relatively high functioning academically, but she has very limited capacity to feel empathy toward others or show any affection or love for anyone, including her family. I remember one incident not long ago, when several children had died in a tragic fire and I said “How terrible that those children died.” Her response was “Why? We don’t know them.” When I heard about the shooting in Connecticut, my first thought was how could someone be so devoid of feelings for others do that to all of those little children? When I heard he might have Asperger’s it was like a kick to my stomach. Do I think his Aspergers caused the shooting in Connecticut? No, of course not — he clearly had other issues. But, do I think that a lack of empathy that is characteristic of some with Aspergers could have, when combined with his other issues, played a role? I don’t know.

  44. Twix Raider says:

    @Sad: Empathy is not telepathy, some people need just a closer relation to others to develop feelings for them. It’s not impossible on long range, but a concrete trigger is needed, like a picture or a video. Your daughter is not emotionally blind, but shortsighted. And she is your child, not Adam Lanza. You must not let it happen that his behaviour makes a monster out of her. Now that this most ugly stereotype about Aspies exist, you have to double your efforts to take care of her, the world of the Normals is difficult enough for her already.

  45. Laina says:

    @ Cathy, you’ve already had lots of responses but I just wanted to chime in as well to say that you’re totally wrong, and your comment made me wonder if it was you who lacked empathy for your fellow human beings.

    @ Susan Moffitt, I would say to you what Gary already said: if he had a personality disorder other than apd, than this likely wasn’t because of that, and armchair diagnosing based on vague and shaky reporting. Most personality disorders aside from apd and sometimes npd don’t make people more violent, cruel, or less empathetic.

    @ libertydockaren: Actually anti-psychotics are more tranquilizing than stimulating, and are sometimes used to treat anger, outbursts, and wild mood swings.

  46. deborah caswell says:

    I married into a family whose members included ones with early onset schizophrenia, psychopathy and aspergers. They lived far away and I only saw them twice a year. Alot of family was around when I visited and I did not realize the severe level of mental illness for years. I am 55 years old now and I have a daughter with aspergers who is 20 years old. I did not have any more children. My ex-husband’s grandmother was completely disowned for marrying into this family and the country people claimed that the family had “bad blood” or as we would say now bad genes. My best guess in that Adam Lanza had comorbidities. When you combine IQ’s in the 140′s, aspergers with zero theory of mind, zero central coherence and perfect executive function along with a little psychopathy or schizophrenia it can become a very rare but deadly mix. I have watched 35 years of it now. The death of my ex-mother-in-law of a stroke at 65 was like the death of Hitler on a personal level. My ex-mother-in-law was valedictorian of her senior class and secretary to the man who later became the president of Duke Power. She married her retarded daughter to an illegal immigrant who only spoke about 12 words of English. She did not give the daughter birth control. The illegal immigrant thought that the daughter had money. I am now taking care of my ex-sister-in-law who is on SSI for mental disabilities. I am surprised that her child survived until DFACS took her away. My ex-brother-in-law has adopted his niece who is developmentally disabled due to neglect. I believe that my ex-mother-in-law had aspergers. She couldn’t understand emotions and seemed like a person without a soul. She also suffered from some form of psychosis. We raced to her home when she decided that her daughter was no longer retarded and should get married. She honestly believed that her daughter was no longer retarded. She couldn’t understand why we were so upset. In the end there was nothing we could do but try to clean up the mess.

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
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