Autism Awarenessby Jaws, ireport.cnn.com
December 18th 2012
When I first heard about the shooting, I was in shock like anyone else. The following morning, I read an article in a local newspaper which had a caption of a photo of the shooter, saying that he had Aspergers, which is a form of Autism. I also have Aspergers, and I continued reading the article profiling the shooter.
My immediate thought was, 'Oh my God, I know why this happened'. CNN has several articles that echo my theory. My immediate thought- before those articles appeared- is that this man, throughout his entire life, has had to deal with the same social awkwardness I did. From the sounds of it, no one really paid attention to him and did not know him, so of course, they say they are not surprised.
Autism did not cause this shooting. Mental illness did not cause this shooting. What caused this shooting was a lack of understanding of what Asperger's and Autism is, and what those on the Autism spectrum go through. We are alienated from our peers. At first, we alienate ourselves because we do not know any better. We say and do things that are inappropriate because we do not know that they are inappropriate or why they are inappropriate. Then, society alienates us because they do not understand why we do not understand.
I do not understand why I did not understand social roles and rules. Today, I have a much better knowledge of how society works and what I should say and how I should say it than I did as a child. This knowledge came over ten years of trying to understand society. Today, if you met me, you would think I'm a bit odd but you wouldn't guess that I have Asperger's. Because we alienate ourselves at first, and then society alienates us, we have no good reason to seek out friendships other than the basic human need to belong. It is unsurprising to me that many with Autism and Asperger's alienate themselves by choice. Their interactions have been so negative that they see no reason to try anymore, and I doubt Adam was any different.
What happens when people seclude themselves from society? They form ideas about things that are not terribly accurate. These ideas become beliefs, and these beliefs form how they interact with the world and understand the world. This is another misconception: I very much doubt that Adam planned his attack. The details do not indicate that so far. He had lots of ammo on his person, and he went through the front door. This tells me he did not want to do what he did, he wanted to be stopped.
He then proceeded to the closest classroom, leaving himself wide open to ambush and anyone with any suicidal courage to converge on him and stop him. From a tactical standpoint, the choices he made tell me that he snapped and got very angry very quickly over several days, dwelling on whatever angered him and running through his options. He probably carried out several scenarios in his head before he picked the one he carried out. He chose the scenario where he would be most recognized by society. He finally decided that since he couldn't be normal, he'd be the most nefarious person anyone around him knew and go out with a bang.
I understand why he secluded himself and did not seek out recognition or interaction. I do not understand his final choice to kill many innocent people, but I do understand all too well the years that brought him to his point of desperation.
People on the Autism spectrum do not want to be pointed out and be special. We want to make a difference. We want to belong, and we want to be normal. We want to blend in, because all too often our social interactions do not allow us to live a normal life. We are told we should be medicated or talk to someone rather than having someone just be our friend and tell us how much we're loved. We want what anyone in their right mind wants: We want to be loved. And we are stubborn people. If we want something, and we have a good reason for wanting it, we will not stop until we either get it or are dissuaded to the point of giving up on other things we desire as well.
For many of us, we don't talk so good. We write or type very, very well and pick up on details and this makes us very good at academics. But we don't talk so good. We stumble over our words and we feel really awkward. You can do something about this.
Do the world a favor in this time of grieving, mourning, and discussing: Reach out to someone that seems awkward. Be their friend. Love them and tell them that you care about their life and what they're going through. Tell them that they can be themselves around you. You can make a difference and prevent the sort of tragedy that unfolded in Newton. You can be a hero to someone in need. And all you have to do is be a friend.
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