In Defense of Asperger’s Syndrome

As a mental health counselor and a former teacher, I feel compelled to comment on last month’s tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary for many reasons. I work with many children/adolescents with Asperger’s Syndrome. I also have a brother with Asperger’s Syndrome and have been around individuals with this all my life. The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, the news reports that the shooter had a “personality disorder,” and then the subsequent reporting that he had Asperger’s Syndrome have given Asperger’s Syndrome a bad rap. Asperger’s Syndrome is NOT a personality disorder. It is a developmental disability that impacts social and communication skills. It is not a mental illness and it does not preclude violent tendencies. I am willing to bet we will find that Adam Lanza had a co-occurring disorder that contributed to his violent actions. While people with Asperger’s Syndrome are generally highly intelligent people with a quirky style of interacting and sensory issues that make social skills a challenge, they also tend to be sweet, funny, and fascinating. They are honest to a fault, set in their ways, and very concrete and literal. The many individuals I know with Asperger’s enrich and brighten my life daily. They often have a lot they can teach us too!


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