responding to fear with facts


Screen shot 2012-12-14 at 7.42.17 PM

Right in the middle of the comments on that post tonight was this one.

“It’s not a myth and you know it. It may not be the case with your child but a huge majority lack that feeling for others and themselves while being oddly disconnected and at the same time brilliant. We have a big problem coming up with these kids and it is very very scary.”

And someone ‘liked’ that comment.

And then someone else did too.

My post this morning about how dangerous it is to allow society to dehumanize our children? To allow the misperception that because they don’t necessarily express empathy in the way that we expect to see it then it must not exist to stand unchallenged?

Here it is, my friends.

This is the result.

Our children — our beautiful, delicious, and yes, challenged children — are something to be afraid of.

Capable of atrocity.


THAT is terrifying.

Please, raise your voice. Be a light in the darkness. Speak the truth. It matters. More than ever before, it matters.

For hard facts on Autism / Asperger’s / mental illness and crime:

Paula C Durbin-Westby

Wandering Stars Fact Bomb

Radical Neurodivergence Speaking

For my post today – expression of empathy as an indication of its existence:

Expression is Not Existence and Other Big Truths

For how this type of speculation affects our autistic friends and family:

Autistic Hoya’s All I Want to do is Weep

For ASAN’s Statement

Media Reports Regarding Newtown, CT Shooting

Please click on the links. Read the posts. Share them. Respond to fear with facts – and love.

And above all, pray for peace for those who face unfathomable loss tonight.

Our hearts are with you.

27 thoughts on “responding to fear with facts

  1. Two of my boys have Aspergers. I know a dozen or more other children on the autism spectrum. None of these children could have done something so horrible. And I have never met anyone (child or adult) on the spectrum who could bring themselves to hurt a young child.

  2. the person who committed these murders is so far outside my realm of comprehension, I just can’t fathom someone capable of not only thinking up these acts but following through on them. My heart is broken.

  3. Thought about your post from a couple of days ago on empathy while at school today (where I work). One of the students with special needs poked a teacher on the hand with a pencil. D, a 12 year old boy on the spectrum who’s working at about a first grade level in his academics, who avoids making eye contact, and who often cries and hits himself when he’s upset, looked up at the teacher and with sad expression said “Oh Ms. A., are you ok?” He looked genuinely distressed for her. Sure looked like empathy to me, and absolutely warmed my heart. I needed that today.

  4. the problem isn’t quickness for “experts” to jump to a diagnosis, the problem I personally feel might come from a lack of control by the parents, or guardians of people who are obvious mentally disturbed or challenged. for example a girl that goes to my school has aspberger’s she is obviously out of control she has no one that teaches her to filter, she is emotionally disturbed very religious and sexually obsessed. but my brother that is less functioning has none of those issues. so someone on the spectrum might be capable of that, but so is anyone else.

    • … but so is anyone else.


      By no means do I wish to imply that people on the spectrum are incapable of perpetrating violence. I simply want to make the point, as ASAN did so eloquently that people are individuals and must be judged as such. And that in no way, shape nor form does autism in and of itself equate to, lead to, or bear any relationship to violent behavior.

      • I actually completely agree , today I was watching fox new and the reporter pretty much led the “expert” into a spectrum diagnosis .

  5. I spoke to my daughter’s neurologist about this after the theatre shootings because people were quickly jumping to the spectrum conclusion. His response was interesting. He said that it was extremely ignorant to draw that conclusion and showed how little the media knows about spectrum disorders. He told me it is part of the nature of most people on the spectrum to follow rules and not act out in this way without severe provocation. I am devastated for everyone involved but think people need to take a step back before becoming “armchair psychologists”.

    (ed note: pls note this comment has been copied from the screenshot page)

  6. Totally agree and will speak up when needed.

    Love you,

    (ed note: pls note this comment has been copied from the screenshot page)

  7. I hate to admit it, but earlier today, in the early stages, I felt the dread build. I was just waiting to hear the first one say the “word.” I became more concerned when I heard the possibility that this was not a disgruntled father, but rather a son. For whatever reason, I feared it would go there. And, even though I knew it could/would happen, it still took my breath away when I saw your confirmation post on Facebook. I am sharing info and links with my friends and family. There does not need to be any more tragedy added to this horrible day.

    • I felt the same dread… and sure enough, here it comes. If you google Lanza and autism it’s all over the place. I hope we can be all over the place, too. I love the title to this blog post, “responding to fear with facts.” It’s much more polite than responding to fear, ignorance, and unprofessional media reporting with facts,” which is MY polite version!

  8. No. Here is the truth: someone in the World will always be capable of this. That person might have autism as well as whatever sent them over the edge, they might have schizophrenia as well as whatever sent them over the edge…and so on. Maybe, just maybe, in some rare cases it was the ASD or schizophrenia or whatever that enabled them to cross over that line of sanity and morality, likely not, but maybe. But the truth is, the very basic truth is, that with better gun control the United States would not have so many of these horrible stories of injustice to tell about. Let us please for a moment remember the name of Trayvon Williams, the boy with a pack of skittles and an iced tea. There is ALWAYS going to be someone capable of murder, of suicide of hatred and violence. Why/how can we sit idly by and not admit that the gun laws are lacking, that the gun laws enable these very dangerous people to get their hands on weapons of (dare I say) mass destruction!? Another comment in that same thread was from a woman from Canada (I too am from Canada) who spoke about how this is not about gun control – and all I could think was “seriously?”. Yes, hug your loved ones. Be grateful for yourselves and be mournful for those that have lost someone dear, but please see that gun control in the States has to be dealt with. Isn’t it time that the people that give such easy access to these weapons that have killed so many over the course of the years, so many children, have to be held accountable too?

  9. Please don’t confuse my comment as a disagreement to your post. I’m angry about what I think us so plainly obvious and I truly feel that bringing up his “disability” (if in fact there is one other than being a murderer) is a mask to keep society from seeing the real issue at hand here. This boy is dead among those he killed. He can’t be questioned and punished. But someone is still accountable. We have no idea if his parents were good parents or not, and I think bringing that up is a moot point. It doesn’t matter if he had disabilities, it doesn’t matter if he was angry, or incapable of empathy, or if his parents were “bad” or “good”. I’m angry that the media has honed in on a small completely irrelevant (and possibly wrong) part of this Lanza boy. I’m angry because I can just hear those ignorant comments from ignorant people saying things like “well you know…he was retarded, he had autism” or “he had Autism, people like that can’t feel anything”. I’m angry because there is absolutely nothing that can help those families right now. Nothing. I can only hope those people did not die in vain. I hope the gun laws change.

  10. Firstly may God embrace all those little children, I simply cannot comprehend the sorrow, hurt and pain for all those families. I am sorry but as a British person it seems very clear that the gun laws need to be reviewed, the fact of the matter is the sheer scale of loss of life is due to guns. Those poor poor souls had no chance due to the weaponry.

    I remember reading an article about a criminal saying to fire a gun, one is detached because of the distance between the victim and the assailant rather than using a knife as a weapon. There isn’t an emotional connection as if it were the bullets responsibility not the person firing the gun.

    Please please please sort those gun laws, yes a person is to blame but whoever it may be would be less like to cause that scale of damage if they did not have a gun, I am a secondary school teacher with two sons one is on the spectrum and attends a specialist setting.

  11. After Ms. Bazelon starting off the week, who could have predicted the horrible tragedy that would be the sadly linked end to the week.

    I’m not sure I would have given the quote, about our children amounting to a scary, scary future, the light of day. Racist, ableist, or any stereotyping harmful remarks should not be given oxygen. They are not worthy of a quote on your blog. I can understand you would want to address the horrific statement, but to quote gives some credence. I don’t know, but that’s just how I felt reading it.

    Such a sad day. Prayers for those mamas, daddy’s and sisters and brothers who have lost a part of their world today.

  12. I read the headlines this morning as I sat next to my beautiful autistic child and my heart sank. This tragedy of 26 is being rapidly expanded to a tragedy of thousands. Thank you, Jess — for stepping in while the rest of us were still processing our shock. You are a model we can all turn to and for that sliver of hope amid all this chaos, I am truly grateful. Thank you.

  13. It is just as hard for me to imagine that the killer could share my neurology as the neurotypicals find it for theirs. The only difference is that they have the power to make people think he had mine and that it means mine is to blame, and I can’t.
    What his neurology actually was is irrelevant to this statement.

  14. At the moment I do not care if it was a madman on the spectrum or off the spectrum. I am not interested at this moment of how any community is perceived. I only care about praying for these poor families I care about the safety of all of our children I care about doing everything possible to stop this from ever happening again. I pray our nation has the sense to do something about the lack of gun laws to stop a madman that is off on or upside down of the spectrum from ever causing such pain again.

    Mom of 2 autistic children but most importantly a mom

    • Of course you ought to grieve and cope in the wake of this nightmare as seems best for you. I hope you are able to take real action to help change the gun culture in the US, because it is tremendously important, and I wish you luck in it.

      But neurodivergent people, at least, certainly do care how our communities are perceived, even/especially in the wake of a tragedy like this, as misperceptions about us lead directly to mistreatment of us, scapegoating of us as the source of violence. It’s not like it’s some superfluous PR thing to worry about, it’s not a matter of reputation, it *is* “the safety of all of our children.”

  15. You need to get on the HuffPo stat with this, if you haven’t already. Your words matter and there you will hopefully reach many more.

  16. Thank you for giving all of us a voice. You put it all so well. In the midst of comprehanding the news the word “autism” pops…how dare they…
    People need an address for their bewilderment, pain an answer to why, a way to hve logic to the unspeakable horror.
    Shame on the reporters who have no clue.
    Mentioning Autism or Scizofrenia as a maybe explenation is a crime. It makes the struggle of all of our wonderful kids and families so much harder .

  17. Pingback: Look into those eyes and tell me different.

  18. One of my favorite all-time quotes is by Lao-Tzu: “Nothing is more difficult than competing with a myth.” This is true for anyone who is not considered to be ‘normal’ in society, whether that be someone on the autism spectrum, someone who has an alternative sexual/gender identity, some one with an extreme level of intelligence, or some one with an addiction. The stigma associated with being divergent from social norms is one of the greatest dangers in American society today, as ‘deviants’ are considered to be less than human.

    I say this as someone who taught kids on the spectrum for 4 years and had to constantly deal with the questions of people who did not understand that autistic kids are still kids. I would always refer to my students as my teachers in conversations because they taught me more about life than anything I could teach them. And you know what? Such phrasing was met with raised eyebrows and cynical looks….

    You want to know what’s wrong with American society? It’s not just the incredibly violent, gun centered culture we have. It’s also the extremely narrow-minded and ignorant culture we have fostered by labeling anything even the slightest bit different as wrong/deviant/perverted. One only needs to look at the growth of the DSM every time it comes out to see what I’m talking about.

    I will always fight the good fight for those who are the outsiders in this society.

  19. Pingback: We are not like this | Aspergers and Me

  20. Reblogged this on valerie r lawson and commented:
    I’ve been hiding deep in my writer’s cave over the past few weeks, but this tragedy and the issues that have risen as a result have had a direct impact on all of us. I can assure you that my son is so loving and so empathetic that is very difficult for him to see anyone in pain. He is bothered when babies cry. To say that he lacks emotional connection to the rest of us because he lacks the communication skills to express himself is just plain ignorance.

    As always, Jess expresses this and shares more resources on her blog than I ever could, so I’ve reblogged her post on the subject here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s