Autism as Excuse: The Social Fallout of Newtown Shooting

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Article first published as Autism as Excuse: The Social Fallout of Newtown Shooting on Technorati.

Child with autism hiding beneath his full-sized Mickey Mouse stuffed animalThe tragedy of December 14th, the murder of 20 children and 6 adults, has spurred a lot of feelings. I was devastated, worried about my own children, and concern for the families and children in Newtown, Connecticut. And then, based on hear-say, major media outlets have latched onto the possibility of the shooter having Aspergers, a form of autism. And while the White House and members of Congress prepare drafts of legislation to limit gun sales, this sigma of "autism kills" is slowly starting to take hold as reported by CNN. And that scares me, scares me more than you can know.

You see, autism is a very mysterious disorder. No one really knows a whole lot about it, other than those with autism tend to be "weird". They stand out socially, are often targets for bullies, and live with a lot of anxiety. Because they are so different and unable to defend themselves, they become easy targets, and not just by bullies. I see fights against gun control trying to redirect the stigma of unhinged murderers toward the alleged autism of the shooter, even though there are no confirmed reports (as of this writing) that the shooter intact had autism.

Of course, as experts have constantly cited, autism is not a psychosis, meaning autism does not "cause" violent behavior, psychotic episodes, and therefore will not cause someone to become homicidal. The evidence presented by parents, therapists, psychologists, neurologists, and psychiatrists all state that those with autism are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else.

But, as the original article from CNN stated, children (and most likely parents) are already looking to blame autism for the shooter's actions. Once adults start to believe it, as with various unsubstantiated claims to the cause of autism, politicians will begin to believe it for those votes. Once politicians start to believe things, true or not, it becomes ingrained in law.

I don't know what political fallout will come of this horrific tragedy. Most likely there will be some restrictions for firearms and ammunition. That's a good start. But behind the scenes, more kids with autism will be bullied. More kids with autism will be denied schooling services, healthcare services, and support services. All because of an assumption made based on unsubstantiated claims.

And that, more than the inability to purchase a semi-automatic assault weapon with the ability to shoot over 200 rounds in a single clip, is what scares me.