Monday, December 17, 2012

An author with Asperger's Syndrome writes about his life and the Newtown tragedy!

The author is Matthew Rozsa, a Ph.D. student in history at Lehigh University, who talks about his life experience with Asperger's Syndrome in light of the heinous crime committed by Adam Lanza in Newtown!

Reports are that Adam Lanza, the perpetrator of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Ct, suffered from Asperger's Syndrome.

While that may or may not be true, according to the author of this article Asperger's was not the cause of his actions but that "Because so many have endured so much worse and not become monsters, a man with autism who reveals himself to be a monster would have been one even without it."

My Lifelong Struggle With Asperger's Syndrome by Matthew Rozsa

"How am I supposed to begin an article describing what it's like to be autistic?


I use the term "autistic" because, although I was officially diagnosed as a child with "high-functioning Asperger's Syndrome," the American Psychiatric Association recently voted to remove Asperger's Syndrome as a separate classification and instead place it under the broader diagnostic umbrella known as the "autism spectrum disorder." I'm writing this article because Adam Lanza — the mass murderer who killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, — 20 of them children — has been reported to have had Asperger's Syndrome.
For the record, I have no idea whether those reports are true, and since none of us can know until more information comes out, I won't bother speculating. Instead, I want to shed light on what it's like to be high-functioning autistic — for the sake of convenience, I'm just going to continue calling it Asperger's — if for no other reason than to add an informed perspective to what is rapidly becoming the topic du jour in the news cycle.
So where do I start?
Let's begin with the most important point: Asperger's was not responsible for what Lanza did in Connecticut. Even if it turns out that Lanza was actually diagnosed with Asperger's — even if it is revealed that his struggles with Asperger's played a role in why he acted as he did — it will still remain true that Asperger's was not responsible for his actions. Asperger's causes obliviousness, not maliciousness. How you process the world around you is a result of your neural wiring and life experiences. Whether you choose to do good or evil is a product of your soul.
"How you process the world" is a key phrase here, because that's really what Asperger's boils down to. Although there is a great deal of variety in how it impacts different people, the common thread that binds those with Asperger's together is how our brains process social signals sent to us by other human beings. Experts have found that communication is only one-third verbal, with the two-thirds that are nonverbal including such diverse elements as body language, gesturing, tone of voice, and facial expression. For the vast majority of people, fluency in both these aspects of communication is so natural that they take it for granted, with a sizable chunk programmed into their instincts at birth and the rest being developed during their early years. Since Homo Sapiens are inherently social creatures, this is not only inevitability, but also an evolutionary necessity. If the average person wasn't able to confidently and competently engage in day-to-day social interactions — be they with family members, friends, romantic partners, professional colleagues, strangers, or anyone else — society wouldn't be able to function.
If you have Asperger's, however, the nonverbal aspects of communication do not come naturally to you. Although people with Asperger's are no more likely to have linguistic or cognitive difficulties than anyone else, we do not automatically process the thousands of ways people communicate nonverbally. As a result, we have enormous difficulty functioning in social situations, from abiding by the unspoken rules of etiquette (and there are so, so many) and gauging how to avoid dominating conversations to coming across as inappropriate or rude without intending to. If life in a society is a game (and make no mistake about it, it is), having Asperger's forces you to play while learning two-thirds of the rules as you go along, even as everyone else knows them instinctively ... and assumes you do too..."
The rest of the article can be read at policymic here.

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