In my third and concluding part we are going to look at how Autism Spectrum Disorder is purveyed through the media, taking in two mass murder cases, and the critical necessity to faster and more effective ASD recognition to prevent such tragedies.

Public awareness of autism through the eyes of the media

The awareness of ASD in the public eye has created a stigma against people with severe cases of autism.

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Over the last four years, Asperger’s disorder has become the center of attention in America due to the acts of violence committed by people with ASD (i.e. the shootings in Aurora Colorado, Newton CT, & University of Southern California etc.)5.

Mental health disorders

One of the key facts across the board in these incidents was that each gunman had a history of mental health disorders.

Based on the reports from the news on the background and history of their illness, it seems that these people did not have access to early intervention.  Most of the services that were available to help with their disability did not come until much later in their lives.

James Holmes, Adam Lanza and Asperger’s disorder

In the case of James Holmes and Adam Lanza, it was demonstrated that these two individuals had a severe case of Asperger’s disorder but were high functioning people.

John Holmes was a medical student in a rigorous neuroscience program at the University of Colorado.  Holmes displayed behavior such as depression and isolation leading up to the shooting in 2012 in the movie theater.

Adam Lanza was also diagnosed with Asperger’s disease.  According to the accounts of people in the community of Newton, CT that saw him; he displayed severe behaviors of anti-socialism and negative integration into the community.  His mother attempted to give Adam services to help him cope his disorder instead of committing him to an institution, but proved to be unsuccessful.

Adam obtained a gun in his home shot his mother and then traveled to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT and killed over 20 people before fatally turning the gun on himself5.

Importance of recognizing negative ASD behaviors to prevent tragedy

It is vitally important that people with ASD have early intervention when they are children.

Educating the family about the signs and behaviors of ASD will help facilitate the family to seek a referral to a psychologist for an early diagnosis.

This will allow the child and the family to be able to access services and educational plans for their future.

autism violence_2Recent education through research and accurate diagnosis of a person with ASD has made the general public and mental health care professionals aware of ASD and the impact it has on society.

Based on events illustrated in the media surrounding the events incorporating Adam Lanza and John Holmes; there needs to be more extensive research done on ASD.

Early intervention and diagnosis

This is the key to helping people with ASD to adapt and integrate themselves into society.

The ADA and the rehabilitation Act of 1973 are good beginnings for the work that needs to be done in order to represent people with ASD.  Applying the principals outlined in the ADA will help prevent discrimination in public schools, colleges, and the workplace.

The signs and behaviors of children and young adults with ASD needs to be public knowledge so that members of the general public (especially fellow students and employees) can help these people be successful in the community.

Interventions such as positive organization of thoughts and acquisition of a career can help people with ASD be productive in society.

Recognizing behaviors such as extreme depression, isolation and negative social behaviors can help identify a problem that a person with ASD has and help prevent acts of violence towards people in society.

Early intervention and proper societal integration through early education and services to children with ASD may help avoid future violence and effectively problem solve these mass shootings committed by people with autism.

Connect with Expert Keith Chittenden 

References:

1. Barnard J, Harvey V, Potter D, Prior A. Ignored or Ineligible? The reality for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The National Autistic Society report for Autism Awareness week 2001.  2001. London, UK.

2. Adreon D, Durocher JS. Evaluating the College Transition Needs of Individuals with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic: 2007; 42: 271-279

3. Van Wieren AT, Reid CA, McMahon BT. Workplace discrimination and autism spectrum disorders: The National EEOC Americans with Disabilities Act Research project. Work: 2008;  31: 299-308

4. Fleischer DJ, Zames F. The Disability Rights Movement: from charity to confrontation. Temple University Press. Philadelphia, PA. 2001

5. Olmstead D. Weekly Wrap: No, Adam Lanza Did Not Have Asperger’s.  Age of Autism. 2014. Accessed on 5/28/2014

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