This question is from Christina V:
The media has made a big deal about Adam Lanza having Aspergers. Do you think it contributed to his attack on Sandy Hook?
Thanks for the question, Christina.
I believe that we don’t live separate lives. Our beliefs, values, environment, family, faith, upbringing, hobbies, disposition, physical makeup—it all mixes together to make us who we are and in some way influences our decision making.
Having said that, there is not a single bit of evidence to suggest that Aspergers was responsible in any way for making Adam Lanza murder 26 innocent people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In fact, we know it wasn’t his Aspergers because there are millions* of people throughout the world with Aspergers and they do not attack our schools. If Aspergers was the cause for violent behavior then we would be suffering thousands of school attacks each year and that is not the case. I think that when the media makes a big deal about his Aspergers they are trying to intentionally or unintentionally imply that this must be the great ‘why’ he did it. Instead, I think it only proves the point that they don’t know anything about Aspergers or what it means to have a child on the Autism Spectrum or even why people are attacking our schools.
Adam Lanza didn’t leave a reason for his actions (or if he did, it hasn’t been released by the Connecticut State Police). Most attackers don’t leave any explanation and when they do it tends to be completely out of touch with reality. Case in point, Cho from Virginia Tech left a recorded message stating his reasons. He declared vehemently that he had suffered terribly at the hands of society and because of that he had no choice but to murder 32 innocent people. That is completely untrue. He never suffered at the hands of society or his peers and no one needs to murder innocent people to set things right. It may be exactly what Cho believed but that doesn’t make it true.
What we do know for a fact is that those who are attacking our schools have accepted the idea of using violence to meet their need—whatever that might be. The Secret Service calls it the Path to Violence and it has four distinct stages that every person committing an act of targeted violence will transition through. The first stage is IDEA followed by PLAN, PREPARE, and then ACT. If you don’t accept the idea to use violence then you will never travel down the Path to Violence and you will never be a threat to our schools. For whatever reason, Adam Lanza accepted the idea to use violence to meet his need and the moment he did, he became a threat. It was also the moment that we had the best chance to get him off the path to violence, before he started to plan and prepare for the attack. This is why parents not only have to understand the path to violence, but also watch their children closely and act as soon as indicators of danger are observed.
While nothing could ever justify such a horrific act, every person who commits an act of targeted violence has a reason. It is seldom if ever because they have been bullied (another mistaken belief) and never just because they play violent video games (another mistaken belief) and never because they simply own guns (another mistaken belief) or because they are poor (another mistaken belief) or come from broken homes (another mistaken belief).
I wish I could give a definite reason why Adam Lanza attacked Sandy Hook, but most likely we will never know. What I do know for certain, it was definitely not because he had Aspergers.
*The exact number of those with Aspergers Syndrome is unknown. Estimates range from 0.2% to 0.71% of the general population in the US alone. (Asperger’s Association of New England).
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