I feel like I have an obligation to write about the tragedy of the Sandy Hook shooting. I’m so overwhelmed that I’m not entirely sure where to start. There’s not exactly a beginning… and I feel like some of the things I want to say will come off in a chastising manner. I’m not really sure I’ll be able to temper that, to be honest.
I feel a responsibility to post because I live in Connecticut; because I have a seven year old daughter in elementary school; because I’m a mother; because I have strong feelings about this tragedy; because I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depressive Disorder; and unfortunately, because news outlets are reporting that the shooter “may have” had some mental health issues and then that’s immediately followed by “and Autism.” Then it’s clarified that it’s thought that he may have had Asperger’s Disorder, a type of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I feel as if I can’t express and write about what I need to write about until I get rid of the giant pink elephant in the room: that the shooter may have had Autism Spectrum Disorder and also been mentally ill. First and foremost, let me state in no uncertain terms that Autism is not a diagnosis of mental illness. Can it be a co-morbid diagnosis or diagnoses with other neurological disorders and/or Depression Disorders and/or Mood Disorders and/or Oppositional Defiant Disorder and/or Bi-Polar and/or Schizophrenia and/or Psychosis and/or ADD/ADHD and/or OCD and/or Anxiety Disorder and/or other Psychological Disorders? Yes. I’ve written about this before. It’s very possible and very common.
Except that just like the great majority of neuro-typical people don’t go out and commit mass murder or murder their loved ones or commit crimes that land them jail, neither do people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and comorbid diagnoses.
I have a child on the Autism Spectrum. She has many developmental delays, including social delays. It’s often like raising a toddler or a preschooler, especially with her emotional level and impulse control. She’s not inherently violent and she’s not a bad girl. She’s sweet, charming, intelligent, funny, beautiful, shy, talented, artistic, and vibrant. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. That’s not to gloss over the difficulties of raising a special needs child who will be a special needs teenager, a special needs young adult, and a special needs adult. I’ve often shared our difficulties here, so I won’t go into great detail again in this post.
Mainly, I don’t want to keep feeling as if I will be put into a position of having to defend my autistic daughter. I don’t want to feel as if I’ll be put into a position of having to defend my parenting of her to people who have never met her and only know that she’s autistic. I don’t want to have to worry that people who already know her to suddenly become wary of her or fear her simply because she has Autism.
If that young man were mentally ill or had Autism Spectrum Disorder or any other neurological Disorder, then I hope that people will be smart enough not to paint the rest of the community that shares that characteristic with the same brush. Because I can guarantee that his having any particular neurological disorder is not what “caused” him to do what he did. While I will not blame his mother’s parenting or even his parents’ divorce, I WILL say that this young man’s entire life had to have led up to the decisions that he made. His world must have been a very dark one whether he was mentally ill or not. Whether he had Autism had nothing to do with it.
But I will say this one last time in this post: It has NOT been confirmed that the Sandy Hook shooter had mental illness nor Autism of any kind. This is only based on the speculation of gossip and comments that were supposedly made to the police by the shooter’s brother whom he hadn’t seen in two years.
Maybe now I can move on with the business of mourning and processing.