Aspergers Violence and the Adam Lanza Shootings in CT

In the wake of the recent shootings by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT there had been a lot of speculation that  it may have stemmed from the fact that Adam Lanza has Asperger’s Syndrome. Because of this there is a lot of fear that people are going to thing that all Aspie’s are gun-slinging killers and many parents are concerned that their children may face discrimination because of the issue.

We thought we would write a short post as we had a few requests from people on our mailing list to comment on a this issue.

First, we would like to say that when something like this happens, there is a tendency for the press to sensationalize events. People look for something or someone to blame . The conclusions that are often made in this time don’t necessarily stand up. In this blog by John Elder Robison, he raises the point that correlation does not imply causation. In the same way that most of the gun related violence is performed by Caucasian males its difficult to say that all caucasian males are killers.

Second, while there is research to suggest that people on the Autism spectrum have a slightly higher rate of aggressive behaviour and outbursts, it is a kind behavior that is not characterized by premeditated attempts at Mass Murder. Examining crime statistics also we can see that the violent crime rates for adults with Aspergers are 1.3% compared to 1.25% of the population as a whole. If we examine deeper into the statistics also we can see that the majority of this kind of offenses are actually related to property offences.

Thirdly, its unclear whether Adam had actually been formally diagnosed with Aspergers. Psycologist Dr Beth Weiner recently commented that have studied the behavior of Adam seem to indicate that its more likely he had a antisocial personality disorder than Aspergers. According to Dr Weiner, “If you bump into someone with Asperger’s in the hallway, they might not process it correctly and they might lash out, but they don’t plan out something in a premeditated way.”

One thing is very clear about the whole event is that both Adam and his mother clearly had a few issues that were also unrelated to Aspergers. We hope that the media eventually sees sense in the wake of this incident. Its not fare to discriminate on an entire group of people just because of the actions of one individual.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below


Mark Blakey

Mark Blakey is the founder of the Aspergers Test Site, after a successful career working in IT Mark wanted to share what he learned from his own diagnosis. He is the author of "Emotional Mastery for Adults with Aspergers" and "An Introduction to Aspergers Syndrome". Having received lots of questions from parents with autistic children, Mark went on to found Autism Parenting Magazine. The magazine has become an essential resource aimed at improving the quality of life for families effected by Autism. Its a monthly publication containing lots of helpful articles to help develop social skills, manage challenging behavior and improve communication.

  • Dorothy says:

    thank you , this is helpful

  • tom smith says:

    Thank you,This was helpful.

  • Ruth says:

    Nicely put. Ascribing blame is an immediate side effect of shock, anger and grief. It takes some time to sort through a tragedy on any level. We may never know and that’s something we have to accept.

    • Ron K. says:

      Just as it is inaccurate to “blame” Aspergers or Autism for his actions it is also inaccurate to blame the tools he used. Regardless of your position on private ownership of firearms, concentrating SOLELY on that aspect of the crime distract from the issues that are at the root of the problem; the prevalence of violence to solve issues being a major one. Every firearm everywhere could be collected and destroyed but it would not solve the violence issue; only the tool would change. Banning swords in England did nothing to end violence there but now the once ubiquitous outward symbol of knighthood is denied to people of honor and good will.

      Banning the tool used is a non-sequitur response. Dealing with the prevalence of violence is too hard to define, let alone take effective action against. Therefore we take cosmetic action and call it done.

  • H G Wells says:

    Humans require labels. And if a label is given for them to use, they will use it. This is why it is impossible fully to eradicate bias/prejudice.

    The media linked the killer to Aspergers.

    Some NTs will invariably use that as a carte blanche condemnation.

    it is easier to pint and fear than to understand.

  • Theresa says:

    I work with people that have varying dual diagnoses, it doesn’t matter who you are or what your circumstances is,anyone is capiable of doing this if they don’t have the proper supports in place. People with Aspergers are more harmful to themselves than others.

  • Andrew says:

    Whatever manifested within Adam Lanza to warrant such violence, it definately wasn’t Aspergers. Perhaps society should start looking at the environmental impact all the negative crap being marketed is having on people. After all, at some point, we’ll all be accountable for our actions.

  • Adi Cox says:

    It is clear from the tone of what has been written above that we should not include Adam Lanza as an Aspie. I really do not care for the label Aspie or Asperger’s, it is a man made disorder that even the DSM 5 is distancing itself from. My concern is that people who are slightly different from the norm get this label of an Aspie which just serves to create an intolerance for a diversity of people, until we end up with more averageness and mediocrity so that bland people who dare not stand out can feel good about themselves. Adam Lanza was crminally insane to do what he did, period.

  • KWB says:

    The DSM-5 is including Asperger’s under autism spectrum—where it already is. The only difference is that I will be called autistic instead of asperger. The DSM-5 is removing the separate name because the difference between HFA and Asperger Syndrome is whether or not there is speech delay. All else is the same. There will still be a label—just a different one—one with huge social stigma still attached to it. Yay. As for Adam Lanza? Never heard of him.

  • Dita says:

    I do not think for one minute the killings had anything to do with Aspergers.
    It is not a fact that he even had Apies at all.
    This was a very disturbed young man.
    His father seems to have failed in his duty to care for Adam,and pretty much ignored him. Pathetic.
    His mother was very odd, I read when she divorced she wanted custody of Adam but was ordered to complete a parenting course first, suggesting the powers that be knew there were problems with the mother. She isolated Adam and controlled him obsessively. He was lonely and had no idea how to make friends.
    There is no evidence to suggest he was ASPD or was a psychopath. Both these conditions manifest themselves early. He had no record of violence.
    His mother was paranoid,a doomsdayist IMO a narcissist. She had a stockpile of guns that she was proud of. (Why) Then she taught her very disturbed son to shoot. The mother was a nutcracker.
    I think this mother drove her son insane.
    How do I know? Because my mother was a destructive narcissist I understand how that boy felt and why he did it.
    Thats why his actions were NOTHING to do with ‘possibly’ being Aspies.
    Mental health issues were not dealt with. The idea that mothers always want the best for their children is unfortunately wrong (in a minority of cases)

  • Dita says:

    Something else I am not clear on, this alleged inability to feel pain. Was this a condition confirmed by doctors? or another assumption, like the assumption he was Aspies?
    It is said he did not feel pain, then its said he would deliberately harm himself ‘to feel pain’ a contradiction surely?
    Is it maybe more likely Adam Lanza was in emotional pain and was actually a self harmer?

  • Mahesh says:

    I very true media should understand and learn this incident happen due to some other issue asperger are not harmful people rather they are gifted for the society to bring new revolution

  • nahni says:

    I think associating this mass shooting with his illness is just a naive way to explain this incident.

  • Julie Humphreys says:

    This is useful. Thank you.

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