Being Autistic Does Not A Killer Make


I genuinely intended not to touch the Sandy Hook massacre with a barge pole; there are bloggers and reporters who are far more professional in their writing on such matters than I. What happened is mind-bendingly, inconceivably tragic and horrible; I was going to say nothing more than that on the subject, other than sparing many thoughts for the victims and their families.

However, sensationalism, accusations and mud-slinging always follow these events. Something was bound to yank my chain eventually – I even knew what misguided rumours were going to start flying before the first stone was cast.

Adam Lanza was obviously a deeply troubled young man.

By all accounts, Adam Lanza was a loner who nobody ever really knew.

Nobody really noticed that Adam Lanza existed – not until he committed this atrocity.

All of a sudden rumours are rife that Adam Lanza was on the autistic spectrum – because every autistic individual is a loner, a nerd, a geek and/or completely devoid of emotion and as crazy as a bat in a hen house, right? Because you’re suddenly a medical expert who can put a label on somebody you never even spoke to, right?

Wrong. In casting these aspersions you are making Lanza into some kind of an anti-hero, and putting a terrible slur on the autistic community at large – most of whom do not have a bad bone in their bodies.

Stigma:

Those of us on the spectrum already have enough trouble with stigma. According to historical folklore “medical research” we’re aloof; we don’t care about others because – apparently – we lack empathy; we’re temperamental; we’re stuck in our own little world; we’re “just weird”; nobody can understand us because we don’t wish to be understood.

That is not even half of what we have to contend with. Admittedly, some or even all of the above can be true for many autistic individuals, but others (like myself) are open and gregarious by nature, and very likeable (if a little nerdy/geeky) if you give us a chance and don’t dismiss us as a lost cause. You met one autistic person who was slightly abrasive and/or socially awkward; that doesn’t mean that we all are.

I am autistic; I am not, however, the next Rose West or Myra Hindley. I am having a very difficult time here, trying to equate being a suicidal mass murderer with being autistic. I know a lot of autistic people – including my son – and none of them would ever intentionally cause harm to a living being.

In blogging about this I am stepping way out of my comfort zone and I accept that I have made myself open to attack in airing my feelings. Please be kind; I am not casting aspersions in general – I’m just upset about the people who are hopping onto the autism bandwagon.

Adam Lanza may or may not have been autistic. We will most likely never know the truth in that regard. However, we do know that he was troubled, angry and – ultimately – crazy. What Lanza did had nothing to do with being on the spectrum or not.

My heartfelt blessings to the beautiful children and brave teachers who lost their lives in this immense tragedy, and to their families.

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About The Hairy Housewife

Media volunteer for Epilepsy Action (UK) and advocate for both epilepsy and autism awareness. Seamstress, cross-stitcher, sci-fi lover, ukulele player and Chelmsford's own Pickling Pagan who wants to inherit a TARDIS when she grows up. In the process of writing an as yet unnamed book, with anecdotes and information about being epileptic and autistic - and seeing the funny side! Also an entertainment journalist for What Culture, where I write about Doctor Who.
This entry was posted in Adam Lanza, Attitudes, Autism, Autism Awareness, Crime, Current Events, News, Sandy Hook, Tragedy. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Being Autistic Does Not A Killer Make

  1. There are a lot of mis-conceived ideas about all sorts of illnesses and a lot of people will mis-guidedly apply them to these situations.

    Unfortunately we can’t tell people to not say these things because then they’ll start crying about their freedom of speech. :(

    • Missus Tribble says:

      Yes, I agree. However, I firmly believe that you shouldn’t label a person because they committed a hideous crime – especially when it rubs off on individuals who are decent human beings and simply wired differently.

      • Quite. One of the folks I follow on here, Halfway Between the Gutter & the Stars, made a post some time ago about Borderline Personality Disorder. A recent post of hers quoted a comment someone had made on her post, having a huge go at her because he’d married someone with BPD and had a bad experience. Reading between the lines, the person he married was probably not a particularly nice person to begin with and the BPD just made it worse – but it gave him no right to post what he put in a comment on Halfway’s blog about how he hates all people with BPD and that they should all be shot. It’s like taking the fact that Hitler was a vegetarian and turning it into “all vegetarians are mass-murdering despots”. Unfortunately the world is full of eejits who will do just that. It makes me all “Sad Pony”.

  2. I have to admit; I’ve been avoiding reading much on these killings because I find it hard to deal with the general reporting and screaming headlines that go on at such times.

    I do want to say thank you for your intelligent, insightful and personal writing. Although I do not know what those particular stigmas feel like, I know other people that do and it makes me glad you found a way to express this so eloquently. Thank you.

  3. willowdot21 says:

    Well said , well said.

  4. argylesock says:

    You say this so well.

    • Missus Tribble says:

      Thank you. He obviously had severe issues, but people should never automatically point the finger at any one condition.

  5. purpleaspie says:

    Unfortunately, the media are not inventing this “diagnosis” merely because he was a loner or awkward. An anonymous police officer claims to have found evidence of the diagnosis of Asperger’s, his brother said he “may have been a little autistic,” his mother’s neighbours say that she told them he had Asperger’s, and his former high school classmates have mentioned it. While none of them is an expert in autism, it does sound like a strong possibility that he may have been on the spectrum. However, being on the spectrum does not make him a killer, and I think that we should all make our voices heard on that subject.

    • Missus Tribble says:

      Absolutely – it isn’t the spectrum that made him do it. *Something* tipped him over the edge into insanity and irrationality, but being autistic wasn’t the reason.

  6. develish1 says:

    I’ve been avoiding reading about the whole thing to be honest, because I knew something like this would happen.

    Every time there’s a tragedy like this friends, neighbours, the media, and even complete strangers, rush to find a “reason” and something or someone to blame.

    Often some form of illness is used to explain things, and when I say “illness” I mean any tag they can use to blame something misfiring in a persons head, whether it really is a genuine mental illness of some kind or not.

    My own condition (Depression) also has plenty of stigma attached to it, so I can understand how distressing it must be for you to have your condition lumped in with this tragedy, and in some way “blamed” for it. Sadly people simply cannot accept that sometimes there really isn’t a reason

  7. Deb says:

    Thanks for sharing your insight. It was upsetting, reading some of the articles and comments and on behalf of my children I felt angry that they had been so misrepresented by the media. If anything, my children have experienced more hurt from other people than anything they’ve ever done in their young lives. I wish those who were damming autism would think about the affect their words are having on families like ours.

  8. Sarah says:

    Unfortunately, I think people *want* to identify him as having had autism or Asperger’s Syndrome or something so they can blame the condition and make it easier to pinpoint someone else who’d do this, in order to keep themselves safe.

    Years ago, perverts and child molesters were supposed to be “men in dirty macs”. They weren’t priests or doctors or bank managers or teachers – they weren’t “like us” so they were easily identified. Then the truth came out, and people were forced to realise that child molesters could actually be that nice family man who lived next door or that nice woman who runs a childcare facility. It’s impossible to identify the monsters in our midst because they look just like us. And if we can’t identify them, how can we defend ourselves against them?

    The same thing is happening with people who commit these atrocities. If they can be identified as having had X condition, then it means it they can be stopped. Maybe one day we will be able to identify and help people before they snap in such a horrendous fashion, but it’s not going to be so easy as X condition means “potential killer”.

  9. Pingback: Goodbye To Compass | Wine And Roses From Outer Space

  10. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Strong and wonderful post, Missus. Just wonderful.

    re Adam, I wonder really should he have been indulged with home schooling? Seems to have fed his isolated existence. Too sad.

    Great post.

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