Lu Etta Loeber: Clearing the air
December 22, 2012
In the days that have followed since the horrific school shootings in Connecticut, I have been asked by many in this community if autism played a role in what happened to those who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The purpose of this letter is to answer some of the speculation about what is being said and written about this lifelong disorder.
First, we don't know for sure if this young man was on the autism spectrum. Second, autism is a neurological disorder affecting areas of the brain such as social interaction, communication and sensory issues. It is not a mental illness.
Our kids and young adults that are on the spectrum do not fit the profile of the madness that existed in this young man's mind. In the days and weeks to follow, we no doubt will hear more about his background. What is important is that we don't make the judgement that someone who has been diagnosed on the spectrum possibly would or could act out in such a horrifying manner.
Today, through our programming and services, we are addressing with great success the many challenges that accompany an autism diagnosis. We offer the skills and the tools for our kids to communicate their needs and learn the socialization interaction skills that help in relating to their peers and their families. They learn how their conduct affects others and how to regulate behaviors.
Ninety percent of children with developmental disabilities are bullied in some fashion. We don't want the perception to exist that an autistic individual is anything like the person who committed the unthinkable act of violence. All of our kids need to be safe. Please offer your prayers to the families that have lost their loved ones, and tonight hug your child a little tighter.
Lu Etta Loeber
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Executive director, Yampa Valley Autism Program