Tragedy
 
When I first heard of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook, I literally didn’t believe it.  With all the bizarre apocalyptic talk in regards to the Mayan Calendar, I thought maybe someone started a horrible rumor.  But it wasn’t rumor.  It was a real, heart sinking tragedy that took the lives of children inside an institution built for growing young minds.  Not knowing how to react, or what to say, I did what most people did; I signed an online sympathy card, I read news articles, and I liked Facebook posts that showed sympathy and love for the victims and their families.  Filled with sadness, uncertainty and fear, I stood in silence wondering what I could say.  I reacted as a sympathetic American.
 
It didn’t take long for the media to start in on the experts as they ripped apart the shooter’s life to find a cause.  When we experience a tragedy of this magnitude, we want to ease our pain with explanations, and if possible, with justice.  We ask questions like; Why did he do this?  What can be done to bring justice to the victims families?  How can we prevent this from happening in the future?  As an American, and a parent of school aged children, I asked these questions too.
 
 
 
Then it happened.
 
Reports began to flood the internet that Adam Lanza, the 20 year old shooter, had Asperger’s Syndrome.  Story after story hit the airways as the major news conglomerates scattered to find “experts” on autism, education, mental health, and psychiatric medications.  Arguments ensued and fear crept in, like a damp, heavy fog that obscures the shore from the sailor.  Before the 72 hour mark following the massacre, Asperger’s Syndrome was being blamed for the violence.
 
Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of America began to report an increase in calls to hotlines over concerns of the autism link to violence.  Autistic individuals became fearful of leaving home as the hate talk flooded the comments portion of internet news publications.  I became so overwhelmed with the hatred, fear, and attacks that I began to shut down.  

In an attempt to stay connected with those who read my social media posts, I wrote, “We must be careful when we say ‘mentally ill.’  There’s a big difference between mentally ill and disabled.  Autism is not an illness, it’s a perspective on life that is neurologically influenced.  I’m not ill.  I’m me.  I hold hands with autism.
 
I really had no idea what to say or how to react.  The fact was there was no official report that proved Adam Lanza had Asperger’s.  I began to wonder if this was some sort of publicity stunt to validate the recent decision of the APA to remove Asperger’s from the DSM.  After all, who would want the diagnosis if it were to be associated with violent behavior?  My mind bounced from thought to thought trying to understand how I, an Autistic American, was now under attack.  I was now afraid.
 
 
 
The only thing worse than tragedy, is the injustice that follows.
 
We have been here before.  We have sat in the judgment seat and strung together loosely correlated events, only to assume causation.
 
Remember when it was thought AIDS was a gay disease?
 
Remember when it was thought that the black color of an African-American would rub off?
 
Remember when it was thought women were too stupid to learn to read?
 
Remember when it was thought that Jews were an inferior race?
 
Remember when it was thought that men placed a whole being in a woman, for the woman was just an incubator?
 
Remember when it was thought the world was flat and at the center of the universe?
 
Remember when it was thought the world would end on December 21, 2012 because the Mayans said so?
 
The human race, in order to fulfill a void in their own lives, seek reasons to the unexplained.  When we add fear to that basic human motive, we dilute our logic and begin to accept myth in its place.  Like a mental deer tick, the myth grows by rooting itself into fragments of logic and reason.  As it grows, it secretes into us an illness, better known as illusionary correlation.  This is a cognitive function where an erroneous inference is made about the relationship of two events.  Even if the two events are infrequent, the mind searches for more pairings of similar events, reenforcing the bond between them.
 
The stereotyping of autistic individuals as prone to violence has produced an atomic sized social blast that will live a half-life for many years to come.
 
 
It’s never too late to say you’re sorry
 
What can help us heal?  What can help us refocus our attention on the points of the Sandy Hook investigation that may lead to real answers?  How can we restore faith in the autism community?
 
Easy.  Every major news publication and television broadcast that jumped on the “Adam Lanza had Asperger’s” bandwagon, should issue a public apology to the autism community.  Knee-jerk reactions are expected when dealing with the enormous grief that follows unexplained tragedy, this we understand.  Autistics are human.  Autistics are compassionate, and we are empathetic to the families who lost a loved one.  But these grieving families do not want their loss to be dirtied by hate bantering and stereotyping of a group of citizens.  We all want answers and actions that prevents such violence from happening again, but we don’t want to grow hate.  
 
The grieving families and the autistic community deserve an apology from all the major news networks and publications.
 
 
Autistic communities around the world should bond with a single action
 
I’m autistic and proud, but I am also deeply hurt by the children who died at Sandy Hook.  Therefore, on Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 9:30 pm Eastern Time, I am going to turn off my outdoor lights and burn three candles on my front porch:
 
One candle for the victims of Sandy Hook.
 
One candle for the unity of the autistic community.
 
One candle for hope.  Hope that love, not fear, will burn brightly and lead our nation into tomorrow.
 
 
Autistic or not, I invite you to join me.  Burn your three candles and post the photo of it on my Facebook page.
 
 
Let’s show the world we care for this tremendous loss.  Let’s show the world that the autistic community is strong, even in silence. Let’s change the world, one porch at a time.  
 
Laura
 
 
 
 
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