Mass Shootings and Autism: Is There a Connection?

Spectrum Autism Services

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Spectrum Autism Services

Recent research doesn't support the theory that people with autism are predisposed to violent behavior.

Following the recent shootings in Las Vegas, crime analysts have been grasping for answers to explain the motive behind Stephen Paddock’s decision to stockpile weapons and shoot so many innocent victims in his heinous crime spree. Clearly, something was seriously wrong with Paddock. And, while experts scratch their heads looking for answers, the underlying cause for Paddock’s deranged behavior is NOT AUTISM as one pundit suggests.

“Conjecturing about a possible connection between autism and gun violence in an attempt to justify an insane act is pure speculation, and not based on fact,” said Fran Templeton, CEO and owner of Spectrum Autism Services, a firm based in Fort Worth, Texas that specializes in education, socialization and vocational skill training for people living with autism. “Research recently published by the Harvard Review of Psychiatry doesn’t support the theory that people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are predisposed to violent impulses or behavior. Unfounded speculation regarding ASD and mass shootings only serves to underscore the fact that few people understand the autism.”

An expert in autistic behavior, Fran Templeton is a mother of a 37-year-old autistic son, and has devoted her life to helping others who live with ASD. As a teacher and consultant with more than thirty years’ experience working with hundreds of individuals who are autistic, Templeton has dealt with many patients on all levels of the autism spectrum.

To appreciate the unlikelihood of an autism and violence connection, one must understand ASD. A neurological-developmental disorder, someone with autism receives and processes information differently than others meaning that ASD is a physical condition, NOT a mental illness. And, while people with autism may experience some communication disorders, that doesn’t mean they can’t think and relate to others. In fact, some of the world’s brightest minds had behaviors that put them on the autism spectrum – Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Wolfgang Mozart, Michelangelo, Sir Isaac Newton, to name a few. And, when considering the impressive list of accomplishments from these individuals, it is apparent that while a person with autism may process information differently, someone living with ASD can certainly make profound contributions to society.

People living with autism can think and act differently depending on the degree to which their brain is affected with the disorder. Typically, autism affects a person’s verbal and non-verbal communication. ASD can also be characterized by restricted and repetitive behaviors interests and/or activities and resistance to changes in routine. Often, someone with ASD also tends to form ritualized patterns of verbal and non-verbal behavior, and can become hypo/hypersensitive to sensory environmental stimuli.

While communication, expressing feelings, reacting to the emotions of others and empathy skills can sometimes be a challenge for people on the spectrum, people with ASD are not loners. Most are aware they are challenged in this area, so while they may appear withdrawn, autistic people want to engage in friendships – just like everyone else. In fact, their strong desire to connect with others, keeps people on the spectrum deeply bonded to family and friends.

Bottom-line, having autism does not make a person violent or dangerous. Numerous research studies – specifically analyzing the relationship (or lack thereof) between someone with autism and violent behavior -- prove that people with ASD are not predisposed to violence. In fact, a person with autism is no more likely to engage in violent behavior than a person who is not on the spectrum.

Unfortunately, the number of mass shootings, bombings and other violent crimes has increased over the years, and the reasons behind the rise of these crimes is as varied as the type of individuals who commit them. When it comes to vicious acts, one thing that can be said with certainty: autism is not a mental illness, and having ASD does not cause violence.

So, for those theorizing that autism could be the underlying reason behind Paddock’s actions, unfortunately, as it is said in Texas, “sorry, that dog won’t hunt.”

To learn more go to the Spectrum Autism Services website at http://www.spectrumautism.com, or checkout our social media profile: https://www.facebook.com/SpectrumServices/. You can also follow us on Twitter @SpectrumAutism1.

About Fran Templeton and Spectrum Autism Services:
The mother of a 37-year-old son with autism, Fran Templeton is the CEO and owner of Spectrum Autism Services, a company based in Fort Worth, Texas serving adults with autism who are transitioning from high school to work. Devoting her life to helping people on the ASD spectrum, Templeton has personally worked with hundreds of children and adults with autism during the past thirty years. For more information, go to: http://www.spectrumautism.com

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