Concern over Autism stigma after Newtown

January 3, 2013 1:43:26 PM PST
Adam Lanza was thought to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now, there is fallout for other kids with the same diagnosis ? a new stigma that they could one day cause a similar crime. One Mom is speaking out about this new concern.

Debra's son is 12 years old and has Autism. When he learned that the Newtown gunman was a loner and didn't have close friends, he started to question himself.

"My son said to me 'wait, is that me?" said Debra, "and it hit me, 'oh my god, no, no."

Dr. Michelle Dunn, director of the Montefiore Autism Center says she has received calls and emails from other parents with children asking the same thing.

"They are saying, 'wow, I'm kind of that guy', or, 'I have that diagnosis, could I grow up to do the same horrible thing and end up killing people?'" said Dr. Dunn.

The gunman Adam Lanza reportedly had Asperger Syndrome - a condition on the spectrum of Autism. Immediately people wondered if that played a role in the violence. Now, there is pushback, and countlss tweets saying, "Don't blame Autism for Newtown".

"There's really no association between Asberger Syndrome or high-functioning autism and this kindof premeditated violence," said Dr. Dunn.

However, Dr. Dunn says that it is true that children with the disorder may act out - yelling or throwing themselves on the floor.

"They might even hit you, or a kid might try to bite you, but basically when the tantrum is done, it's done," Dr. Dunn adds.

Now there is concern of a new stigma, that kids will be bullied or won't disclose symptoms which can stop them from getting support.

"I would just hope that other people and children with autism would not continue to question their own selves," said Debra.

This is currently an ongoing challenge, but the message now for these kids is reassurance - that they can trust themselves.

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