Deadly Rampages and The Rocky Road to Adulthood
Once again, our nation has been rocked by another young adult conducting a murderous rampage that ends multiple lives, including his own. My heart sank when the shooter in the latest tragedy, Elliot Roger, was identified as having Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Barely past Sandy Hook with Adam Lanza, and now this. Even with some news accounts presenting a disclaimer that Asperger’s is not an indicator of violence, the link is still embedded in the public’s mind. The assailant, Elliot Rodger, clearly was mentally ill and was supposed to be taking Risperadone, an anti-psychotic medication, yet Asperger’s is the only diagnosis put on the public airwaves. Is Asperger’s somehow considered somehow more palatable, less charged than naming a loved one as having a psychiatric condition?
An underlying theme in both the incidents at Sandy Hook and at Isla Vista is a transition to adulthood that failed miserably. Adam Lanza was isolated in the basement of his mother’s home to the point where she herself never even saw him towards the end. Elliot Roger was alone in the midst of a vibrant college town, unable to connect to anyone and a ticking bomb of rage and self-pity. Adam Lanza languished too long and Elliot Roger was overextended. As parents, we make constant choices for our AS children and it’s difficult to forgive ourselves the ones that go badly. Children slipping through the cracks is easy, filling in those cracks is not.
With my AS twin sons now eighteen, I am profoundly aware of this precarious time in which our kids are a poignant mix of child and adult. In some ways they are so mature, but in others regressed. The future is murky, but I try to take it one step at a time.
Resources do exist to help. Here in Seattle DO-IT is a program that gives wrap-around services to individuals with disabilities to ensure their social and academic success in college. The program is linked to other colleges globally. Additionally, here is a link to a list of universities recognized as having great services to incoming students with autism.
Autism After Sixteen is another website with valuable information for autism spectrum individuals aging out of public school programs. The Autism Advocacy group has a website with lots of suggestions about education and employment.
The current epidemic of children with autism is going to become the epidemic of adults with autism. While some inroads have been made, more resources are needed to make sure our children can safely cross that bridge when they come to it.