There are no words to express the sorrow we at Autism Today feel for the families of Newton Connecticut. A loss on an unimaginable scale has taken place and we grieve along with everyone touched by this tragedy. It is essential that we understand how to help our children through this time and that we educate the community with solid information about autism as well.
It has been reported that the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School had autism. In the weeks and months to come there will be much more information about his condition, but today it has never been more important to understand that autism / Asperger’s is not a mental health condition. Autism is a neurological condition that now affects 1 in 88 of us. As a community, we can help other understand that and decrease the stigma of violence a lack of empathy that may be attached to autism through coverage of this terrible event. Please talk with your friends, family, and neighbors about autism and what it is and isn’t.
If you have a child with autism who has heard about the shooting, what should you do? I believe the best thing we can do for our children is assure them they are safe, allow them to ask questions, and remember that your child looks to you for answers and stability. Keep your answers simple and direct and allow them to lead the conversation without over stimulating them with too many facts at once. Limit their exposure to news events for a while to decrease anxiety. Many children, both with and without autism see news events as “happening now” even though the event is simply being replayed. Finally, take care of yourself. As a caregiver for an autistic child your ability to cope and provide positive guidance will ultimately depend on how well you take care of yourself and your own anxiety.
We wish you and your family the best during this very difficult time and we welcome you to call us if you need support or help in finding resources you can use.
Karen Simmons and the Autism Today Family