Autism and The Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy

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

  • Nancy Power says:

    My hearts go out to the families of Newton, Connecticut. My heart is heavy for them.

    • Azhar says:

      Dear Karen, my son also victim of autism and he is one of the most disciplined in the school and as well as at home he is taking care of his younger brother and helps her mother in kitchen. Violence and autism are not correlated, What about rest of the incidents occurred in the world, are all terrorists and violent groups are autistic. kindly do not mingle up.
      We are all and my son was shocked to listen that some people are correlating.
      The matter is very sensitive and needs to straight the record.

  • Pam Thompson says:

    My son does not know anything about it and I want to keep it that way as he is only 10 and may not understand if I told him anyway. I too worry that those not educated in the spectrum may think that autism is a mental illness and that individuals on the spectrum are capable of dangerous sociopathic behaviour which as you know is not true.

    I will take any opportunity I can to set the record straight regarding the differences between mental illness and a diagnosis of autism. We have come so far

    in educating the public about autism but there are still some misconceptions out there that need to be cleared up.

    Pam Thompson

  • Enrica says:

    Dear Karen,

    This is very important to me. Our children do not need the stigma of violence and lack of empathy attached to them, just because they have autism. They are very sensitive and aware of things surrounding them even if they do not comment on them. We must protect them, love them and help them, not group them with a diagnosis of mental condition.

    I have forwarded your email to my family and some friends, one of which has
    made the comment: “That could have been Anthony”. Anthony is my beautiful
    grandson almost 13yrs old, and he has autism, together with OCD, High
    Anxiety, ADHD, etc. and he is on several meds.

    He is the sweetest child, but yes, sometime he can be aggressive. I know
    that he was never aggressive or defiant before he started the meds, and he
    has tried so many to address his focus, his OCD and anxiety. SO many meds,
    changes of them, tried new ones, tried them all.

    I agree with you that the media and the so-called expert have to address the
    Autism Spectrum as a neurological condition and not group it with mental

    My heart is broken and I hug all my grandchildren, 10 of them, but my
    oldest, Anthony, is my heart and I love him unconditionally. He knows about
    the love of God will protect him and he wants to get better, and become a
    normal child.

    This terrible tragedy has now more innocent victims: the ones that have a condition under Autism Spectrum.

    Thank you for all you do, and my deepest wishes for a safe Holyday.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Grandmother to a very special child, my angel Anthony.

  • Karen,

    I am from Brazil, and we had 6500 people sending message to a local TV program, in order to open a special time to deal with these subject, as all became confused.

    Yes, our worry is that there will be a back lash for innocent people with autism/aspergers. It is sad that many autistic people are more likely to be victims of crime or bullying than so called normal children . M kid is on the spectrum and he is very kind , sensitive and happy kid. Many thanks for your support.


  • Kristy Merchant says:

    Being the mother of a 7 year old daughter, and an Autistic 12 year old son, along with two other teenage daughters, this tragedy has hit me on multiple levels. It has made me thankful to the Lord as a parent, a friend, a daughter myself, a sibling that my friends and family are all safe. It has also saddened me deeply and my heart goes out to all of the victims and the families of the victims. It has shown me, both the violent capabilities of mankind, but also the strength of communities. It is so sad to think that we in this day and time have been able to bring comic books to reality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making light of this in any way. I’m more thinking of the heroes vs. the villains, that now plague societies and towns all over the world. The Colorado Shooter of the movie theater prided himself for being “The Joker”, this is where I get this reference. Now, Sandy Hook Elementary, although suffering so much loss, has found that heroes do exist.

  • elliott says:

    I think we need to support more information and programs related to young adults and parents dealing with the struggle to become independent. I believe this may have played a role in how Larza viewed himself and others in this tragedy.

  • Melinda says:

    My 16 year-old son with autism is in a juvenile detention center because he damaged other people’s property. I could have been evicted.

    I have been crying out for help in the community, like the police, the hospitals, the schools and family. The government took away these programs from autism/aspergers or other special needs children. The public school districts are allowing these students to attend the same schools as the “regular” students. They placed these kids in a very restricted classroom setting. My son really wants to be more at an integrated level. The high school continues to punish him. The high school principal acted like he does not want to deal with adolescents like my son. When my son gets suspended, I demanded to pull him out of the school. They want to place him in a much lower functioning classroom setting. They keep demoting him. He couldn’t participate in sports or social activities. The high school doesn’t want to promote that for those students.

    Ever since he started high school, he engaged anger and became extremely violent. I sent him to a detention center because I felt that he needs serious consequences or “a wake-up call”. I am so afraid for him to come home with me because he will repeat his bad behavior activities. What if, he violently attack me? I don’t want to have any guilty conscience. I am demanding for a cluster to take in place. He is a good kid, but his violent behavior is out of my power. I am doing every in “my will” to get some serious help for him.

  • Jbabcock says:

    Words cannot express the sorrow we all feel for the Newtown community. I understand the need for people to try to make sense out of this tragedy. People right now want to make changes, come up with laws and some try to find blame. People are asking me questions about the liklihood of students with autism in my community going out and doing something similiar. As an autism specialist and educator, who is also the parent of 2 children with autism, we cannot play the blame game right now. People with autism are people first. The actions of one person cannot be placed on us all. Do we need to continue to develop programs for our older, higher functioning students? Yes! Do we need to free up time in their school schedules for social skills training and for reaching out and supporting our teens with autism? Yes! Autism does not go away after the age of 5, when early intervention is gone. So many times, our older kids do not get the educationa dn support they need to help deal with autism. They have to take the classes and get the credits they need to graduate. We assume that they will get the help and support from somewhere. I am not saying that this would have made a difference in the life of this young man or his family, as I do not know him, but I do know from working in a high school and meeting with families of our teens, that it is difficult to find the time during the school day to address the issues of autism that are ongoing and will affect them for a lifetime. High school kids with autism still need our help and support. Adults with autism still need our help and support.

  • Theresa Khoo says:

    My son, 17 now who has Asperger was going thru a rough time at age 11. He was bullied so much by one boy, Mitchel with his friends. The teachers and principal at that CBE school only punished my son because my son had meltdown. I finally took him out as he was sucidal. I placed him in a private jr high school but low functioning academic because they have counselling program. Finally found a Catholic High School, the principal and teachers are so wonderful gave him many opportunity to participate in swim, debate. He is happy now. They had an autism specialist observed him a few years back and suggested he has anxiety due to the past experience with bully. He nows takes 50mg Zoloft to help him. Have you tried medication? Combined with therapy, it will be easier life for him. Which country do you live? Please don’t give up on him. It took almost 5 years for him to get over the bully experience.

  • carrie says:

    My Heart goes out to the families as well. This Killer did not Kill because he was Autistic . He had a condition of the Heart he was filled with Anger and hate. My Daughter is 15 and is Autistic and she get mad angry throw a fit mostly when she hears the words NO! Lol but she is the most Loving caring little girl she is always thinking of her little sister anytime her sister gets a cold she wants to nurse her anytime she is at a store she buys something for her sister not herself. Kids with Autism are miss understood!!

  • Katie W says:

    Keeping warm thoughts as we approach the holiday season. My heart goes out to the families and victims of this tragic incident.

  • Catherine Crouse says:

    I ran off a copy of the article because it was very informative. I believe we will all profit from this experience and that is the correct attitude. It is a tradgedy, but if we have this knowledge it will never happen again. Education is the answer, by educating people all over the world we can save the world! CAT

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