My kids were with me on Friday, December 14. It was my birthday, and the opening night of the Nutcracker, in which they both performed. And they were with me all weekend as the fucked up media started attesting that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome and implying that this drove him to be a killer. (Newsflash, not even. Take a look at John Elder Robison’s extremely well worded rebuttal of this outrageous theory.)
Now, I’ve started to see Facebook pictures showing real kids with autism, talking about the gentle, wonderful things they love. Calling itself Autism Shines, it’s an effort by parents and the autistic community (and oh hell yes there is such a thing) to rebut the cruel false assumptions being spread.
In fact, the mother who first asked about the panic button said, “After all the work we’ve done in the last twenty years to educate people, after all the progress we’ve made, to see things slip backwards so fast is disheartening.”
We looked around the foyer one more time.
We were afraid for our children. Yes, we do fear that someone with a gun could come through and wreak havoc. But we also fear the bigots and misleaders and the danger they present. We have to. Our kids are autistic. Our school exclusively serves students with Asperger’s, high functioning autism, and ADHD. Most of the children at that school are on the spectrum. All of them have a disorder that makes typical classroom function hard. Most of them have been isolated, ostracized, or outright expelled from schools that serve neurotypical children.
Yet these are some of the sweetest children I know. They rush to comfort their friends (even if it means dashing out of a lesson). At school functions, the high schoolers shepherd the lower school kids whose parents can’t attend. They are bright and quick to cooperate, as long as they understand the reason. Some are verbal, and some are not. They work hard to achieve things that might seem simple to others.
And they are in real danger right now, not because of the horror one man rained down on innocents, but because of the contemptible bigotry and idiocy that has followed. The threat of a gunman is meager here. (As it is everywhere. As it was at Sandy Hook.) It’s possible, yes. But it’s far more likely that the voices of fools will be heard over the opposition. Several intelligent media groups are fighting the trend, arguing that Asperger’s syndrome has nothing to do with becoming a killer, that there are no statistics connecting the disorder to such heinous behavior. But I worry that their words will get lost.
So I have something to tell you.
My children have Asperger’s Syndrome, and it horrifies me to be talking about them when twenty other kids and six adults will never go home again. The inappropriate media focus is a source of anguish for me. The conversations about gun control and access to mental health are appropriate and long overdue. Don’t give me bullshit about killing with fertilizer and cars. We regulate both things, as well we should. And don’t let the media distract you from the real conversation, which is about Newtown, Connecticut, which will never be the same.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.