Look Me in the Eye, Adam Lanza, and Discrimination

The news came out a few days ago, with the unsealing of search warrants in Newtown, CT.  Police took a variety of things from the Adam Lanza home.  It was obvious why many were taken:  Adam's journals, some swords, guns, ammunition, computers, and more.

Near the bottom of the list, three books were listed together:  Look Me in the Eye, Born on a Blue Day, and an NRA Pistol Guide.  Since then I have not stopped wondering . . . why did police pick up on those books?  Were there handwritten notes inside?  Were they in a prominent spot in Adam or his mother's room?  Were they the only books in the house?

We may never know.

What we do know it that the continued reporting of Asperger's in the same passage where mass murder is discussed ties the two together in many writer's minds.  Ultimately, that leads to discrimination as others with Asperger's are perceived - even subconsciously - as potential killers and so denied opportunity or targeted for bullying and harassment.

Here are a few links to places where I discuss that.  I encourage you to keep the dialogue going, and remember that there is more at issue here than what some call "bad reporting."  It's indicative of widespread ignorance that can and does lead to mistreatment of innocent people with autism - adults and children alike.

The Springfield Republican (newspaper)

CBS TV, Hartford (video)

Channel 3 TV, Springfield (video)

I welcome your comments, and as I said, I encourage you to spread the word that Asperger's and autism do not belong in the same sentence as "mass murder" or any similar phrase.

John Elder Robison


Sister Cindy said…
Thank you mr. Robison for all you do to educate the public about Aspergers. I am the mom of a 25 year old with Aspergers who struggles daily to find his place in the world. It troubles me to think that my kind gentle son may be looked at as "dangerous" by people who don't understand and don't want to understand Aspergers. I hope everyone reads your books and hears your message--thank you for going on the news and for being an advocate for us.
forsythia said…
Our dear, sweet, and yes, sometimes bratty, grandson has been diagnosed with Asperger's and I hate to think of such as innocent set loose in today's wacky world. Right now, he is struggling to learn to roller-skate. At the class, I ran into a mom with an HFA son. She said something humorous about autism: "When you've met one autistic child, you've met ONE." Each one is different.
Mary Lynn said…
Autisim and mental illness is no reason to hurt anyone. I love these posts by the way and I tried to message you on facebook but I think a virus is going around charging people money to message. I know it's a long shot considering you're a busy person but I thought I'd share my thoughts and I didn't mean for this to become shameless, self-promotion

I'm writing to tell you that I was really intrigued by your facebook post the other day about how your book was found in Adam Lanza's room. I am actually writing a book myself about suffering from bipolar disorder and how I was once compared to the Columbine killers because I was arrested when I was 19 for terroristic threats. I've actually gotten in touch wih some members of the Littleton community including Sue Klebold (Dylan Klebold's mother) I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to move forward with a project comparing myself to him and raising awareness that labels aren't an excuse to commit mass murder. Here's an essay I wrote: http://hellogiggles.com/conquering-my-inner-monster Thanks for your time.
suzanonymous said…
I'm happy to see the major news outlets haven't picked up on this supposed connection. If you get a chance to see the Nova on Rampage Killers (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/mind-rampage-killer.html), they explore the rampage killers of the past. Yes, at one point there is a kid whose mother is only worried will become a mass murderer (he keeps pulling knives on her). She's taken him to a number of specialists and they let the multiple diagnoses over time stream across the screen. One of these is AS. I think they spent entirely too much time in the program on that one child, who has killed no one.

They did extensively cover one killer, Andy Williams, (rampage killed two, injured others) including video of him as a small child. He did not seem like a kid on the spectrum to me.

The program outlines the traits that, when together dramatically raise the correlation to mass murderers: youth, male, anger problems, have their own world view, are fascinated with weapons, and I think there was another one which slips my mind (perhaps grandiose fantasies).
Ryan Juster said…
My name is Ryan j, I'm 28 and I have aspergers. I want to thank everyone for their awareness in this matter. How it is correlated into this particular event is that people with Aspergers tend to zone in on a particular "hobby". It can be profitable or make that persons life miserable. I also think that the common trait of lack of empathy, strong compulsions and the absence of fully thinking it through can create something wonderful if channeled for a positive goal. Take Einstein and Steve Jobs "SUPPOSEDLY". Thanks again guys. If you would like to discuss this more feel free to send me a msg.
zonairish said…
My son had aspergers. He has since passed away. the brain is very difficult to decode. However, these young men who performed these acts also appear to have schizophrenia. I believe all these brain disorders are related somehow. Just not sure how.
suzanonymous said…
Re: my faulty memory of the NOVA program above, the sixth factor was substance abuse, not grandiose fantasies (although I can't help thinking many mass killers do have grandiose fantasies).
Dale Bryant said…
EisI saw your new book "Raising Cubby" reviewed on TV, trotted down to my local bookstore but decided to start with "look me in the Eye", and I swear to you, though the situations are quite different, so far you might be talking about my life! I am to be 70 in August, but only started thinking "high-functioning autistic", or Asperger's just this past year. I have never taken test, in fact, those professionals I have so far talked to about it seem quite uninterested. At this stage of my life I guess it does not really mean anything, except if I really were diagnosed, it would answer a whole lot of questions. My next problem, now that I have entered possibly the last couple decades of my life, is how to further deal with the loneliness? I will finish the book and read the others with great interest. Dale B.
suzanonymous said…
Autism Spectrum Quarterly, Spring 2013 issue has an article about why AS and violence are unlikely companions plus a reprint of a comment or letter to an editor along the same lines.

If you look at the long list of things the police confiscated from the home, the three books are dwarfed by the huge amount of weaponry. The press is able to talk to a book author, not to weapons, so they seize on this. Especially with these "nice sociable boys" who recently bombed downtown Boston, I think this supposed Asperger's connection will continue to dissipate.

Thought you might like this I found online: a hoodie that says "Asperger's is not a crime."
Jeff Rimlenin said…
Here is a very interesting post (or rather psychologist's commentary at the end of the post), where she indicates that we owe a lot to people with Asperger's. See On Correlation between Asperger Syndrome and Violence

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