As word spread, the autism thread was being woven into the story. It was too eagerly jumped upon by overzealous news stations, and then passed around as the nation collectively grappled with the question as to why this would ever, ever happen. They said the shooter had autism. Too soon some would be led to believe that his autism was the cause here.
Autism is an easy target. Too many people still hold fast to the stereotype of a person with autism being socially withdrawn, without empathy, and with a tendency towards violence. My son is autistic. To a person looking in, they might only see the traits listed above. They’d be missing this amazing 9 year old boy who loves without reservation, forgives readily, and feels more empathy than most kids his age.
Would parents tell their kids that the guy who did it had autism? What would that mean for my son? Would parents jump to false conclusions that my own son is dangerous?
His autism is not a secret. At the beginning of the school year, I went and spoke with his class about it. I told them in an attempt to increase understanding and compassion for my son on days that he’s having a hard time. I also really wanted them to see that Casey’s autism isn’t a bad thing. That he is the amazing kid he’s become because of it. I worried that doing so was now a horrible mistake. If these kids knew the connection, would they be afraid of Casey? Would they not play with him at recess or sit by him at lunch?
My amazing son shares the same diagnosis as a person who is beyond words that I can use to explain. This person’s autism did not cause him to do what he did. Autism is not linked to planned violence. In searching for answers to this unspeakable crime, I hope people are a little more careful what they blame. In using autism as an excuse, it hurts my son. It only causes parents to be less trusting, and their kids to be afraid of my son. My son needs and deserves to be loved not in spite or because of his autism. Just because every kid needs love.
And right now, the only thing I can see that will help is more love.