Autistic student: Don't judge me for one man's actions

Friday, March 1, 2013

Editor's Note: The following editorial is the first in a periodic set of columns to be submitted by the Greencastle Community School Corporation.

The goal of the series is to celebrate diversity and promote understanding.

This piece was written by an autistic student and his mother in reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, which were allegedly perpetrated by a man on the autism spectrum.

My name is Tanner and I am autistic. I heard that a man that did some really bad things has autism, just like me. They say that he was always alone and didn't have many friends.

I don't have many friends either, but I am OK with that. Talking to people makes me uncomfortable and I get confused real easily.

I also don't like it when people touch me. I try to tell people that but sometimes they don't understand.

Please don't be afraid of me because of what one man did. I know that I am different and I'm OK with that, but are you?

In the aftermath of the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary, many parents with children that fall on the autism spectrum are worried with fear and concern of the misunderstanding and speculation that has been circling the topic of autism.

It is a fact that Adam Lanza, the alleged shooter, had a diagnosis of Asperger's. It is not a fact that it was because of this neurological disorder that this tragedy occurred.

It is more common for those with autism to be the victims of actions such as bullying because of their traits associated with the autism. Unlike many other disabilities, those with autism do not have distinct physical features that alert others to their disability and because of this are often viewed as odd and withdrawn.

One out of every 88 children has or will be diagnosed with a form of autism that falls under the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The spectrum is extremely broad ranging from low-functioning (non-verbal) to high-functioning (Asperger's), with no two people being the same.

It is also common to have one more associated medical conditions in addition to the autism. Some common associated medical conditions include genetic disorders, seizures and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Some of the signs and traits of autism include but are not limited to difficulty with social interaction, advance intelligence in specific areas of interest, challenges with communication, repetitive behaviors and sensory processing problems.

It is understandable that media outlets have focused on Adam Lanza's traits of being withdrawn, advanced intelligence and social awkwardness.

These can be looked at as concerning, for those who do not fall on the spectrum. For those who do, these traits are a lot of their everyday lives and for many not by their choice.

It is imperative that we as a society educate not only ourselves but our youth on this increasing epidemic.

As we have seen in recent months, fear rises from the unknown. But we have the opportunity to educate, inform and succeed as a community.