Expert: Asperger's not linked to violence

Dec. 22, 2012 at 10:07 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- To suggest a tie between Asperger's syndrome and violent, sociopathic tendencies is to undermine the research on autism spectrum disorder, a U.S. expert says.

Michelle Rowe, executive director of the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support at Saint Joseph's University in Pennsylvania, said as investigators begin to piece together a profile of Connecticut school massacre gunman Adam Lanza, much is being speculated about his possible Asperger's syndrome diagnosis.

Asperger's syndrome is considered to be on the mild end of autism spectrum disorders. People with Asperger syndrome have difficulty primarily in three areas: social interaction, engaging in repetitive behavior and rigidity in thinking, and a focus on rules and routines.

Some people with autism spectrum disorders, including those with Asperger syndrome, are classified as high functioning -- meaning they do not have the delayed language acquisition and cognitive development typical of many people with autism spectrum disorders. Often, individuals diagnosed with Asperger syndrome have normal or above normal intelligence, are frequently able to be educated in mainstream classrooms and hold jobs.

"We know that children and adults with autism are often misunderstood," Rowe said in a statement. "Small talk is not especially easy. Those on the spectrum have trouble understanding sarcasm. They struggle to understand basic social rules -- how to take turns, how to make eye contact. We also know that people with autism are not sociopaths. There is no evidence or research that suggests a link between autism and planned violence."

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