Compassion Extended to Many Victims: Newtown, Connecticut

There are many victims as the result of the unexplainable tragic violence toward the children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School by Adam Lanza. I am one of millions of people who are emotionally affected by the event and in mourning. I extend compassion through prayer to the suffering parents, friends, and neighbors who lost the precious lives of children and their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut. Also, we must not forget Lanza’s mother Nancy who is also a victim. She is portrayed as a very positive mom who was focused on getting her sons what they needed and what they wanted. We must acknowledge her too.

But there is additional danger lingering and if we are aware, it can be stopped in its tracks. The media reports that Adam Lanza may have had an autism spectrum disorder or an obsessive compulsive disorder. This weekend, autism groups quickly made statements of caution to bring attention to and redirect a dangerous inaccurate presumption, that is, ‘violence is linked to autism.’

Because I am an autism transition specialist and work in creating positive post school outcomes for students and young adults on the autism spectrum, and because I have an adult son with autism, I am making a plea to all including the media to refrain from tying Lanza’s crime to his autism.

As a mother, I fear the backlash that can come out of negative responses from this tragic event and our history indicates it can. I think about the effect of the media on some of my clients who have autism or other mental health conditions and how they may become frightened because of other people’s dangerous projections, e.g., ‘You might be violent if you are autistic.’

I assert, that no data exists that connects criminal violent actions to autism. In reality, people with autism are more likely to be the recipient of violence, thus suffering greatly as a victim. We must be aware of making harmful speculations and inaccurate negative comments because if we don’t, they can spread like wildfire and have destructive effects on persons with autism.

I have shielded my son from watching TV during this time, however, he is aware of the event. I did my best to briefly explain this horrible thing that happened and we need to pray for the families. It is indescribable what they are going through at this time. The loss of so many innocent lives is heartbreaking. At this time, attention must be focused on those who lost a loved one. I extend my deepest compassion and prayers of comfort to them.

Jacquelyn M. Marquette Ph.D. 
Autism Transition Specialist