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Expert: No Link Between Autism and Premeditated Violence

IMAGE: Experts say there is no link between autism and planned violence.
IMAGE: Experts say there is no link between autism and planned violence.
December 17, 2012

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - As the nation looks for answers to why a gunman killed 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school, some former classmates have said they thought Adam Lanza had a form of autism. But experts say it's important to point out that there is no connection between the disorder and planned violence.

Denise Sawan Caruso of the Autism Society of America says any suggestion that autism might have had an impact on the mindset that led to the shootings is harmful to the more than 1.5 million law-abiding, non-violent individuals who live with autism each day.

"Having somebody do something as terrible as this and then saying across the board people with autism should be feared, especially with the number of individuals who are diagnosed with autism, could have terrible impact on treatment, awareness, understanding of the disability."

Sawan Caruso says in cases like this it's crucial to get accurate information, to avoid falsely stereotyping an entire group of individuals. She adds that attention should be focused on being there for loved ones of the children and teachers whose lives were lost.

The shooter has been described as shy, socially awkward and anxious, which Sawan Caruso says are traits of autism, but also of many other disorders. She says individuals with autism tend to live in the moment and are more spontaneous. They are unlikely to plan an event as complex as this. She adds that horrific crimes such as this bring mental health to the forefront, along with the debate about whether enough is being done to help those affected by a mental illness.

"Every time something like this happens, we all question that. If this was mental illness, was it identified? And what kind of treatment was available and was it the right and effective treatment?"

This tragedy highlights the need for more research and better education of all mental-health disorders, Sawan Caruso says, especially with children and young adults.

"This tragedy underscores the need for us as a society to continue to support families and individuals living with autism and mental-health disorders."

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NV