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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Shooting: Reactions Continue

The purported link between ASD and the tragedy in Newtown keeps inspiring pushback.

Connecticut's medical examiner has asked scientists to study Lanza's DNA even though there is little reason to believe it will yield useful information.  Business Insider reports:
So far, the strongest evidence that genetics play a role in violent behavior comes out of research on MAOA, a gene that produces a substance called monoamine oxidase. Studies from the early '90s showed that abused children with certain variations of this gene had problems regulating their aggressive impulses. But University of Pennsylvania criminologist Adrian Raine questions how crucial MAOA is in determining who actually becomes violent. University of California San Francisco geneticist Robert Nussbaum also worries about the potential for genetic discrimination:
It’s a shot in the dark that’s unlikely to show anything. If they find something associated with autism, I’m afraid that it might have the effect of stigmatizing autistic people. I can see a whole morass coming out of this
.Richard Farley writes at The Daily Beast that the linkage could hamper efforts to secure employment for people on the spectrum:
“Shooter Reportedly Had Autism.” As soon as it scrolled beneath the “Breaking News” banner on television, I knew our work had just gotten quite a bit harder. At Birch Family Services, where I serve on the board of directors, we have spent the better part of the last year trying to develop partnerships with financial services companies and others to employ—even for no pay—higher-functioning young people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), including Asperger’s syndrome (AS). It is, even in the best of times, a tough sell, and even before the Newtown shooting, these were not the best of times. Financial firms are downsizing, and employees with ASDs have special needs. Usually these needs are not much more than tolerance and understanding of social deficits that often make their interactions with us a bit odd and uncomfortable until we get familiar with them. “Is he dangerous?” was not a question we had addressed in the PowerPoint slide deck we pitch employers with.
Jo Ashline writes at The Orange County Register:
This is my son Andrew. He loves the ocean, bounce houses, garbage trucks and his brother Ian. He's been known to say "Yay," "Woohoo," and "Whee" in the same sentence. He's taught me more about life and love than I ever thought possible. This is autism.
This is the first time I'm truly afraid for him.
Afraid of what may happen to my son with autism at the hands of a stranger; a stranger who has chosen to buy into the media-fueled misinformation that individuals diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder are dangerous and capable of horrendous acts of terror and violence.
 I have felt a palpable shift in the air toward people with autism on the heels of the tragic events in Newtown – especially since news reports began to surface irresponsibly linking the shooter's possible Asperger's diagnosis with the horrendous acts he committed that fateful day.
Unfortunately, many people choose to let the media do the thinking for them, and this means a lot of misguided individuals will now consider my son – and others like him – as a threat to their safety.
From The Stamford Advocate:
Andrea Leonardi, director of special education and pupil services in Fairfield, also worries about the fallout. She said, though her district's major goal in light of the shooting has been ensuring the safety of students, she's also been concerned about the negative image being portrayed of those with special needs.
"We're concerned about students with Asperger's who might be thinking `What does this mean about me?' " Leonardi said. 
From The Maine Sunday Telegram:
Peggy Schick of Topsham was furious when she heard early news reports describing the Connecticut school shooter as having Asperger's syndrome.

"It made me sick as soon as I heard it," said Schick, whose 16-year-old son was diagnosed with Asperger's, a mild form of autism. "People who aren't informed about autism are thinking, 'Oh! That's it! That's why this happened.' (But) it's like saying 'He was tall,' or 'He had red hair.' It's an irresponsible, uninformed response.
 Schick said she worries that her son will take away the wrong message from the shooting stories.
"It makes me worry that he's going to think that he's more prone to violence," Schick said. "He has enough to contend with, and now he has this to contend with?"