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The Truth about the Newtown Tragedy and Asperger's Syndrome

The Truth about the Newtown Tragedy and Asperger’s Syndrome

By: Rabbi Dr. Yisrael Rothwachs

All of the recent speculation blaming Asperger’s for the shooter’s homicidal behavior in last week’s Newton, CT tragedy is outrageous. I understand that this horrific tragedy has ignited a host of social and political dialogues with the intention of assuring that the innocent have not given their lives in vain but have somehow allowed us as a nation to improve. At least one dialogue, however, has unfortunately brought some people to revert to misguided ignorance, leading to the legitimization of bias and stigma. Priscilla Gillman, in her NYT article, “Don’t Blame Autism for Newtown”, thoroughly lays out how the media’s desire to understand Adam Lanza has falsely led to a generalization that there is a connection between Asperger’s Syndrome and a predisposition to precalculated carnage. As advocates for individuals with special needs, it is our collective duty to fight misinformation and biases. We shall not allow the actions of one who ruthlessly took the beautiful souls of innocent children to be the catalyst for others to take the opportunities and voices away from thousands of children and adults diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Instead, allow the victims of the Newtown massacre to elevate our national discussion to one that is free of stigma, sympathetic to all people, and focused on the more relevant issues, including improving our understanding and treatment of individuals who suffer from mental illness.