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Story published: 01-09-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Experts say autism is not connected to violent acts

By Paula Walter

The recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th that took the lives of 27 victims has raised concerns and speculations about the shooter and an autism diagnosis. Some of the media outlets jumped on a possible connection between the horrific acts of violence and the mental state of Adam Lanza, who shot 20 children and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life. His mother was found dead at their home as police began their investigation into the atrocious carnage.

As in any heinous event, speculations and rumors often swirl around before all the facts come to light. While there are reports that Lanza may have been autistic and suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, as well as a personality disorder, it is unclear at this time what mental issues or disorders Lanza may or may not had.

The Autism Society has provided references on their website that dispute any myths about the those living with autism and the potential for increased violence. According to the site, there is no evidence to link autism and acts of premeditated or preplanned acts of violence. Autistic people and others with disabilities are more likely to be victims of crimes than the one carrying out the crime. Typically, many who have Aspergerís often have other mental health issues.

Autism is the name for a group of brain disorders that present with problems in social interaction, behavior and communications with others. It also includes repetitive behavior, such as body rocking and resistance to change, among others. Approximately 40 percent of individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder have average and even higher than average intelligence. It is also reported that 30 to 50 percent of those with an autism diagnosis also have seizures. Those with Aspergerís often have trouble interacting with others, become overly obsessive with specific ideas or things, and may experience delays in both their motor and social skills.

At this time, it is believed that one in every 88 people suffer from some from of autism and its many spectrums. The percentage of those affected by this brain disorder has risen ten fold in the past 40 years. It is reported that autism is four to five times more likely to occur in boys than in girls. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 54 boys in the United States receives this mental health diagnosis. Reports indicate that over 2 million people just in America deal with this disorder everyday.