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Putting the Pieces Back Together: The Aftermath of the Newtown Tragedy

Published on December 18, 2012 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 2 months 4 weeks ago


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The Center for Autism Research (CAR) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia works to make rapid progress in understanding the underlying causes of autism. CAR’s mission is based on the principle that effective treatments for autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, will only emerge with increased understanding of the causes. Our ultimate goal is to discover which treatments work best for which individuals, based on genetic, brain imaging, and behavioral profiles.

There has been quite a bit of coverage in the media regarding the diagnosis of the suspect in the Newtown, CT, school shootings. CAR has prepared the following response for those who may want more information about the link between autism and violence as well as resources for talking about the shooting.

Our thoughts and hearts are with Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Newtown, CT community as they cope with the tragedy of last week’s shooting. While nothing authoritative has been made public about Adam Lanza’s mental health, there is speculation that he may have been struggling with several psychiatric disorders, including an autism spectrum disorder. This has raised concern about a possible connection between autism spectrum disorders and violence.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by difficulty with social communication, building and maintaining relationships, intense interests, and repetitive behaviors. While individuals with ASD do sometimes show self-injurious behaviors or episodes of outward aggression, there is not a higher rate of planned violence, delusions, hallucinations, or psychotic symptoms than in the general population.

The tragic event that occurred in our country last week has left a community reeling to provide support for the families, students, and teachers who were directly affected. In an effort to try to understand such a shocking event, we believe it is critical to recognize that the actions of one individual should not translate to widespread assumptions about the autism community or any other group of individuals with mental health disorders. The autism community is devoted to advocating for medical, educational, and social equality for its community members. We hope this advocacy will not suffer any setback as ASD is highlighted in media coverage related to this devastating event.

The Center for Autism Research and CHOP are committed to continuing to support the autism community. We offer the following information and resources for helping individuals with ASD process what has occurred in Newtown, CT:

What resources are available to help parents discuss the recent events with their own children?