Parents say no link between autism and violence

December 18, 2012 1:14:10 PM PST
Since a gunman took 26 lives - mostly those of children - in Connecticut Friday, there has been some reporting in the media about his mental state - including that he might have suffered from autism, or a condition similar to Asperger's Syndrome.

But parents and advocates for those affected by these disabilities across the country are speaking out, concerned that now people are mistakenly linking them with violent behavior.

Here in the Triangle, Linda Griffin is the parent of an adult with mild autism.

"My son is intelligent, witty, compassionate, extremely honest, and just a cool guy," she told ABC11 Tuesday.

One thing he's not, she said, is violent.

"My son has never been violent. He is very compassionate. Does that mean people with autism never get upset?, no, but premeditated violence? I've never heard of that," Griffin offered.

Like other parents of autistic children, Griffin said she's worried about the associations being drawn between the Newtown school shooter and those who suffer from autism or Asperger's Syndrome.

The Autism Society of North Carolina says there is no evidence or any reliable research that suggests a link between autism and planned violence. It also says stereotyping an entire group because of the actions of one is wrong.

"Individuals and families affected by autism do have some challenges that a lot of families don't face, and this stigma by associating autism with this type of violent behavior just creates more issues," explained Autism Society of NC CEO Tracey Sheriff.

Sheriff pointed out that there's been no diagnosis for the shooter that's been confirmed by authorities based on medical or school records. And, he said, even if it is confirmed, that's not to blame for his actions.

"That type of violence that was perpetrated is not characteristic of folks with autism and Asperger's Syndrome," he said.

Instead, Sheriff said it's more likely that mental illness played a role, which is different from autism and Asperger's which are labeled as developmental disabilities.

To get this message out, the Autism Society released a message on its website, hoping to clear up misconceptions and protect people from being victimized by incorrect stereotypes.

Click here to read it

For more info on the Autism Society of North Carolina, call (919) 865-5063 or go to www.autismsociety-nc.org.

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