The Other I

December 17, 2012

Asperger’s Syndrome misunderstood

It is certainly understandable that so many people are trying to understand the gun spree during which Alan Lanza murdered twenty 6-and 7-year-old children and six women before turning the gun on himself.  But I have been appalled over recent days to see how many reputable sources are suggesting that Lanza suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome as if this explains his psychopathic behavior.

Albert Einstein probably suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome.

People suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome are not intrinsically psychopathic murderers.  Lanza may very well have been suffering from Asperger’s, but it is no more of an explanation of his behavior than it is to say that he was unusually intelligent, or that his parents had been divorced, or that he had brown hair.  Asperger’s is a learning disability in relation to understanding the feelings and thoughts of others.  It is not a mental illness.

The evidence available to the public at this point does suggest that Lanza was suffering from both Asperger’s Syndrome and mental illness.  But they are two completely different things.  Asperger’s is a relatively new diagnostic category and sometimes difficult to identify.  It is a terrible misunderstanding of those individuals who do suffer from this learning disability to shout “Asperger’s!” in relation to this tragic incident.

But even the diagnosis of mental illness is an incomplete explanation.  Psychiatrists and psychologists recognize that the form mental illness takes in an individual is shaped by the values of the culture in which it is manifest.  For a period of time in the 1950- and -60’s, an unusual number of Puerto Rican women living in New York were diagnosed as schizophrenic.  Diagnostic levels returned to normal with a better understanding that some manifestations manifestations of grief or anger were seen as quite normal and acceptable in some Hispanic communities and were not intrinsically pathological.

And so we individual Americans who would not ourselves in a million years walk into a class full of first graders and shoot them all can still ask if there are deeply held American values which are reflected in our recurring gun crime.  Our country was conquered by the gun.  Our heroes of the wild West ruled by the gun.  We shoved the Indians onto reservations at the point of a gun.  We finished World War II by dropping two atomic bombs on Japan.

Why is gun crime so prevalent in America compared to other countries where just as many people have guns?  Do we think America is great because we have the biggest weapons?  Is someone an achiever because he has the fastest gun in town?  Are guns really our best protection?  Is this our strength?

Or also our weakness?

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5 Comments »

  1. A propos, I think: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother-mental-illness-conversation_n_2311009.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false
    ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America

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    Comment by pianomusicman — December 17, 2012 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

    • Yes, truly a propos. The story seems to me to illustrate a terrifyingly American expression of mental illness. The statistic that since 1982, in the 61 mass murders involving firearms in the US, 43 of the killers were white males, only one was a woman, and the great majority were with weapons obtained legally can give us some ideas of what we can- must – do. We need to do something about mental health treatment, instead of sending these people to prison. Can we learn? I’m sure these mass shootings will go on until and unless we do.

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      Comment by theotheri — December 18, 2012 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  2. In past 6 months, more Americans killed by guns than COMBINED total of dead Yanks in Iraq, Afghan & all terrorist acts of past 25 years from the NY times). in Australia they banned automatic weapons and since they have done so 18 years ago, 0 mass killings. but i am absolutely sure that gun control or taxing bullets at 1000 dollar each will stop some of the killings, but will not extinguish the problem. and i agree, mental illness is not the culprit there are mentally ill folks all over the world – the world is not saddled with this problem like we are. yes we were founded with violence but so was Ireland and Canada that is not the cause either, i do not think. i cannot remember the name of the Norwegian who murdered so many last year and i refuse to look up his name but he was not mentally ill. what is it? i am convinced it is children who are not taught to take responsibility for their actions. the teacher is to blame the other kid – the doctor – the principal, the neighbor ANYONE but the individual. i have a cousin who was a school administrator – she calls parents of these children helicopter parents – or worse – stealth bombers. much of her day was dealing with these individuals rather than on programing, caring for the children in her care. rather than blaming the other kid for a fight (and it may be the other kid’s fault) they do not problem solve with the child – what he/she may have done to contribute to it, skills to deflect it, skills to smooth it over once done. parents go to the school demanding retribution. parents at sports games beat up the referees who make an adverse calling on their child. children are trained to be the center of the universe. of course they are sorely disappointed as they face the reality. so many these days eschew responsibility – at work – in our communities – others left the rubbish – it is the republicans it is the democrats it is the blacks it is the gays one could go on and on. there is little consequence for children not putting away toys, rather than dealing with it, the parents put things away. children are not trained to say i am sorry, are not made aware of OTHERS feelings. recently i was with a child who made a fuss about not wanting me to touch her things. she went to the mother who asked me not to, the child was “sensitive” about it. the child has been taught it is her book her chair at the table, her doll. entitlement is key here. on the other hand children are taught only voice positive feelings toward their siblings. see how he loves his sister. really? no legitimacy about feeling jealousy, of feeling displaced, and then no training on how to DEAL with that. perhaps later, he will just shoot her. REALLY?
    then we have these narcissistically wounded individuals with no coping skills grow up. they are bombarded with violent video games movies etc which then gives them a way of settling the score. they can at last become vindicators. this is were ready access to weapons comes in they are so available here. recently a young man in China went into a classroom to murder the children. he went in with a knife. no one was killed.
    and then – there is the media. so far the Connecticut police have not released the contents of the latest murder’s computers. we do not need to make them heroes this is what they are looking for schools offer the most notoriety they go after the most vulnerable – the biggest splash their face and name are plastered all over the news. truly i think the name/face of these individuals should never be published especially when they are killed in the process. just to say that the killer is dead. period no name no face no nothing.
    i know i am on a rampage here – the more we want to know the particular person’s reasons the more we endorse it.
    i heard a well known broadcaster and son of the governor of nyc say we should have armed guards at all our schools REALLY and how do we stop this guy who blasts his way through a window with an automatic weapon? do we turn our schools into armed camps? our movie theaters? our parks? our churches? omg
    i do not care that this man was autistic or came from a divorced family or had brown hair. what i do care about his how we are raising our children what i do care about is that we do not encourage them to see themselves as part of the the greater world and they have to take care of it if they truly want to be happy how many children are encouraged to volunteer to pick up paper off of the ground, to give a seat to someone in need on our buses/trains to hold the door for someone to knock on a closed door and WAIT for a response or invitation to come in – to ask to borrow something to ask a mother before going into her purse. LITTLE things. to say i am sorry and to see how it made the other person feel when they did whatever they did. ok enough already but i would really like to hear from others what they think on this. we HAVE to do something and banning guns (as much as I hate them) or barricading our schools is not the simple solution.

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    Comment by kateritek — December 17, 2012 @ 6:42 pm | Reply

    • There aren’t any simple solutions, are there? But you are pointing in the direction of what we can – what we must – do if we want to change this terrifying cycle. One, as the link suggested in the above comment, is to stop sending people who need treatment to prison. And get them treatment before the problem escalates to mass murder. There are centers where this kind of treatment is available and effective. But they are both expensive and too few.

      Perhaps, too, we could find ways of teaching people how to protect themselves effectively without needing a gun. As it is, I heard last night that one bereaved parent in Connecticut actually went out and bought a gun after the shooting at the school, on the grounds that this seemed the only protection against the kind of crazed behavior that had killed their child.

      Some research on whether people with guns are murdered/mugged/burgled/assaulted less often than people without them would also be instructive, wouldn’t it?

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      Comment by theotheri — December 18, 2012 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  3. AS is stands for Aspergers Syndrome. It is neurobiological type disarray and it is found in each age group people like children, younger’s and adults. Aspergers Syndrome affects the basic life skill like communication, interaction with others and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Aspergers is completely related to the autism spectrum on. Aspergers is well know pervasive developmental disorder and it is known to hamper or we can say that it hamper a person who are suffering from this syndrome form study, interaction with others, communication and frequently speaking. Generally it is characterized by communication problem with others difficulty in relating with other people, can’t avoid repetitive body movements hate changes in routine deep think about certain topics and strange play with. Many people are don’t know about the these type problem in earlier days, people usually emphasized more on health instead of wealth in their life, and like to live a healthy life. But nowadays people are not aware about their health and running behind money. `

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    Comment by Ocie Ernster — February 10, 2013 @ 12:24 pm | Reply


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