Wednesday 21 February 2018

'No autism connection' to Sandy Hook massacre, says expert

Women embrace at a memorial for the Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut in 2012
Women embrace at a memorial for the Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut in 2012

Pat Eaton-Robb Connecticut

An expert has told a commission looking into the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre in Connecticut that there is no data linking autism with increased violent criminal behaviour.

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza (20) opened fire at Sandy Hook, killing 20 children and six adults. Lanza, who had killed his mother earlier in the day, later committed suicide.

A Yale professor had diagnosed Lanza in 2006 with profound autism spectrum disorder, "with rigidity, isolation, and a lack of comprehension of ordinary social interaction and communications", while also displaying obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms.

The Sandy Hook shooting commission is considering whether Connecticut's mental health policies, particularly in the schools, are adequate, among other things. "Having autism, having an autism spectrum disorder, having Asperger's syndrome does not mean you are likely to commit a violent crime," said Matthew Lerner, a psychology professor at Stony Brook University.

"There is certainly no association between any of the features that we know about autism and the kind of planful mass murder as discussed here."

Scott Jackson, chairman of the commission, said: "There was concern within the advocacy community about tying developmental disabilities to this great tragedy. I want to say very clearly that is not the intention. This is an issue that needs to be discussed. It deserves to be discussed in public." The commission is expected to present recommendations at the end of March.

Irish Independent

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