The terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has stirred up old debates about Second Amendment rights, violent content in video games/movies/TV, and treatment of the developmentally challenged and mentally ill. Such debates always seem to have great impetus, only to fade as we move on to the next event. The real time nature of our 24 hour media means an increased appetite for new content. Sometimes this translates to an incomplete or even distorted picture of actual events. Early reporting on the Connecticut shooting alternately described the gunman as having “some form of autism” and as mentally ill. While psychiatric comorbidity can be present with Aspergers, they generally are non-psychotic. Misinformation about comorbidity could easily lead to unwarranted stigmatization of this population, further complicating treatment.
The incident in Newtown must become a teachable moment for parents, caregivers and healthcare professionals working with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to combat such misinformation. Below are some quick facts that may be useful in any discussions:
- Aspergers is a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) not a mental illness.
- 1 out of every 88 American children is born with ASD and 75% of those are classified as Aspergers/PDD Not Otherwise Specified.
- Aspergers is a high-functioning form of autism marked by repetitive behavior and difficulties with social interactions, but without the language delays of ASD.
- Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues facing ASD/Asperger, with onset at adolescence or young adulthood.
- 1 out of every 15 individuals with Aspergers suffers from depression.
- Aggressive behavior takes the form of impulsive outbursts of anger,with difficulty in cooling down.
- Aggression in Aspergers is in the main reactive not proactive.
- No links have been shown between ASD/Aspergers and violence.
While Centra deplores the senseless event that has put Aspergers in the forefront, we recognize the importance of shedding light on the syndrome. We strongly support the endeavors of every healthcare professional to combat stigmatism and provide quality care for their patients. If you are a PT, PTA, SLP, OT, COTA or RN interested in work with ASD/Asperger individuals contact us at 800 535 0076.