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Conn. shooting casts unwanted shadow on Asperger's, autism

December 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Adam Lanza, a troubled man accused of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, was quickly linked to Asperger's, a form of autism.

"They're very smart, it's just that they don't have that great of social behaviors," said George Way, 19.

Way is autistic and participates in Family Adult and Child Therapies, or F.A.C.T., along with other high functioning young adults. Since the shooting, they and their parents have been trying to explain a condition which is often misunderstood.

"No, I am not a psychotic murderer," said one young man. "I would never dream of doing something like that."

"The last thing I want is people to think, 'Oh wow, here is this kid with autism, I bet he is packing a gun,'" said parent Jim Abrahams.

The young people with autism at F.A.C.T. see Lanza as a mixed up kid, yet efficient at executing a plan.

"I have seen how there is a focus on achieving a goal, sometimes the goals aren't able to be achieved, but the drive is there," said William Wagnon.

The perception of danger hurts the autism community, which struggles to be included in society, especially teenage social circles.

"They might unfairly ostracize someone from a group, or bully someone because they are scared of them," said Matt Asner, who heads Autism Speaks of Southern California.

The guns and video games Lanza had access to may have been the only joy in his life, at least according Abrahams, who says he sympathizes with Lanza's mother.

"Perhaps what she was doing was trying to find something to connect to this boy with, and the only thing she could find was guns," he said.

With Adam Lanza, they say there are no easy answers.


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