In The News: Did Asperger’s Syndrome lead to Sandy Hook elementary Shooting?

I know I speak for everyone here at Palm Partners when I say I wish the families and entire Newtown community my deepest condolences and love. The shooting massacre that occurred was senseless and unnecessary. This should not be happening.

I still can’t believe it whenever I see headlines about mass shootings at the mall, schools, work, public places and anywhere really. It’s a sad thing when someone goes off into the dark and decides to take the life of others and their own. It makes you wonder and question everything.

There are many unanswered questions in the wake of last week’s Sandy Hook elementary school shooting which left 20 children and 7 adults (including the gunman) dead. The number one question being, “Why did this happen?” What drives a person to commit mass murder and even worst kill children? It’s hard for most people to wrap their heads around such thing. I, for sure cannot comprehend it.

The media has been all over this story since it broke and claims of Adam Lanza’s mental health have come into question. At first the media was reporting that he had a history of mental illness and now an unnamed source within the police investigation is claiming that he had Asperger’s Syndrome.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.

According to Autism Society, individuals with Asperger’s Disorder usually want to fit in and have interaction with others; they simply don’t know how to do it. They may be socially awkward, not understanding of conventional social rules, or show a lack of empathy. They may have limited eye contact, seem to be unengaged in a conversation, and not understand the use of gestures.  There is no speech delay and most individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome possess average to above average intelligence.

President Obama Makes a Statement on the Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

Some are questioning whether the shooters’ Asperger Syndrome had anything to do with this gruesome act of violence. Can an individual who’s anti-social, clumsy with normal to high levels of intelligence automatically be prone to mass murder?

Experts say no.

“There really is no clear association between Asperger’s and violent behavior,” said psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“I think it’s far more likely that what happened may have more to do with some other kind of mental health condition like depression or anxiety rather than Asperger’s,” Laugeson said.

There is much that we don’t know about what propelled the 20 year old to murder his mother then go on a shooting rampage in an elementary school but it once again puts mental health on the forefront. If this young man was troubled and needed help, was it offered to him? What can we learn from this? How can we help people before they decide to do such a heinous act?

We might not ever know exactly why people commit mass murders but we do know it’s a male dominated act that doesn’t occur very often. According to a 2007 TIME article, “the rate of killings in the U.S. involving five or more victims — one generally accepted definition of a mass killing — represented less than 1% of all homicides 25 years ago, and still does today. Among kids, the overall violence figures are actually plummeting, with the number of children under 17 who commit murder falling 65% between 1993 and 2004. Mass killing, says Diane Follingstad, a professor of clinical and forensic psychology at the University of South Carolina, “is a low baserate thing. It just does not happen very often.” 

I think it’s crucial as family, neighbors, friends, and associates that we try to listen to each other as much as possible and offer assistance when we see or get the inclination that someone might need mental or emotional counseling. You never know whose live you’ll save. The federal school study after Columbine found that in more than 75% of cases, at least one person had knowledge of the killer’s plans. In 40% of cases, that knowledge actually included detailed descriptions of precisely where and when the attacks would happen.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for Alcohol and/or Drug Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at www.palmpartners.com.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/violence-aspergers-syndrome-adam-lanza–newtown-shooting_n_2312545.html

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1612694,00.html