A Note from Ivymount School in Maryland regarding the Newton Murders
Tuesday December 18th, 2012
Dear Ivymount Families:
We have received requests from parents to share a perspective on autism in relation to the tragic incident in Connecticut. We know that many of you serve as ambassadors in your community to educate about autism and to help your friends, neighbors and colleagues to better understand autism spectrum disorders.
The following was prepared by The Ivymount School’s psychologist, Dr. Steven Kane:
Many questions are being asked about the role of mental illness in the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. Although news reports have raised the possibility that the shooter had an autism spectrum disorder, experts have been quite clear that autism had nothing to do with his violent behavior. The violent act he committed was rooted in a severe mental illness, not autism.
The U.S. News and World Report’s online HealthDay report quotes Dr. Geraldine Dawson, who said: “There really is no evidence that links autism or Asperger’s to violence.” Geraldine Dawson is chief science officer at the nonprofit advocacy group Autism Speaks and a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The notion that a lack of empathy in this violent act implicates the shooter’s alleged Asperger’s disorder mischaracterizes the social-emotional deficits that are central to the autism experience. Individuals with autism exhibit difficulty understanding nonverbal social cues and reciprocating in social relationships. This does not mean they are emotionally indifferent. Individuals living with autism are capable of deeply-experienced feelings and concern for others. Many are socially motivated but lack the skills to effectively manage complex social relationships.
We hope that you may use these clarifications to educate others about autism. We also invite you to visit these helpful Autism websites:
We have added an additional resource that was researched by Ivymount’s Mental Health Department that you may find helpful in your discussions with your children.
Today, and likely periodically this week, the Montgomery County
Our entire staff was present this morning to welcome your children to school and we had a productive and successful day.
Sincerely, Jan Wintrol Director, The Ivymount School & Programs
Stephanie deSibourAssistant Director, The Ivymount School & Programs
RESOURCES for Helping Children Cope with Tragedy: