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A Letter to Help Educate Regarding Aspergers

December 20, 2012

From Macaroni Kid: Summit Short Hills SoMa:

Dear Friends and Family,

As the events of this past Friday have unfolded in the media, I have made most of you swear up and down not to mention a word to me. With my son being in Kindergarten, I could not bear to hear the details described so vividly and splashed across our television screens as if we have become completely emotionally desensitized as a culture. My sweet friend however, missed the memo, and kindly blurted out during dinner Saturday night that "the shooter had Asperger’s". The look I flashed her produced immediate silence and the conversation was quickly switched to light fixtures and trees growing in the middle of restaurants. It was the first time I had heard this information.

As a professional, I can no longer avoid making a statement on the tragedy in Connecticut. I am going to be brief and I am going to ask that you help me to focus on the positive.

Asperger’s Syndrome is in no way linked to planned acts of violence or aggression. In fact, people with Asperger’s are often extremely rigid about rule following and abiding by laws. I will share this example from well-known author Temple Grandin:

I heard about a case where an autistic boy had a severe injury but he did not leave the school bus stop to get help. He had been taught to stay at the bus stop so that he would not miss the bus; he could not break that rule. Common sense would have told most people that getting help for a severe injury would be more important than missing the bus. But not to this young man.
(The Way I See It, p. 37)

What breaks my heart is that these children, who already struggle to engage socially, may suffer from an incorrect or unjustified stereotype as a result of the current events and fear caused by misinformation in the media.

I cannot speak of my clients for confidentiality reasons. However, I would like to share a couple of my treasured friendships with you, in order to raise awareness about individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Throughout the 2013 Calendar year, ABA 4 U will be launching a campaign entitled: “30 Under 30: Young Professionals on the Spectrum”. Each month 2- 3 individuals will be highlighted in our newsletter and on our blog.

Last week I had the pleasure to spend time with a young woman diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome who has graduated from college, obtained a Masters degree, and is a frequent public speaker at events and conferences throughout the U.S. Last year she addressed the United Nations as part of the Autism Speaks panel. She runs her own business as well, coaching other young adults with autism through the college experience.

Another young friend of mine will be a published children's book author this winter. We have yet another acquaintance within our company that is a talented artist and has created a successful business by selling his works to friends through Facebook.
These are just a few of many individuals on the Spectrum who are doing incredible things. l ask that you help me to focus on the positive, and to spread awareness about what Asperger’s truly is, in light of any comments being made in the media or in your communities. Mostly I hope that when you hear the word "Asperger’s" you think of these beautiful stories I have shared with you, or maybe of some wonderful individuals in your own lives.

My prayers and thoughts are with those small angels in Connecticut and their entire community.

Best Wishes,
Lindsay Chapman, MA, BCBA
Assistant Director, ABA 4 U
ABA 4 U
Board Certified Behavior Analysts
aba4unj.org
908-686-1505

References:
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
Grandin, Temple. (2011) The Way I see It. Future Horizons: Arlington, TX.
Support For Families in the Wake of the Newtown Tragedy:
http://www.autismspeaks.org/news/news-item/support-families-wake-newtown-tragedy

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