"Autism and Craziness Have Nothing to do with Each Other"
In the wake of the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, some local parents are speaking out to dispel myths about what is commonly known as Asperger's Disorder, which has been considered part of the autism spectrum. News4's Jim Rosenfield reports on that and the disorder the Connecticut gunman was said to have suffered from.
The Sandy Hook massacre has placed the medical disorder called Asperger's syndrome in the national spotlight.
That's because there have been reports the shooter, Adam Lanza, was diagnosed with the disorder.
Now people in the Bay Area Asperger community say they are forced to deal with misconceptions and fear following the shootings.
Experts say Aspberger's syndrome is a neurological condition that can be managed if treated.
People who have this autism spectrum disorder often have difficultly with social interactions.
NBC Bay Area talked to a man who is living with Asperger's. He says the news from Connecticut is having a detrimental impact on people living with the disorder.
Paul Bondonno says the Lanza case has generated unwarranted fear. He said his adult daughter is seen as a threat.
"Asperger's is not the cause. It's a failure in the mental health system," Bondonno said.
Bondonna works with other people with the disorder to improve their social skills. He says the shooting is prompting the spread of misconceptions. He says he is now on a quest to let people know Lanza is not the face of the disorder.
"We are not like that. People with Aspberger's are no more likely to be violent than the normal population. That has been statistically proven," Bondonna said.
Kurt Ohlfs, Executive Director of Pacific Autism Center for Education fears the shooting may also place a stigma on people with the disorder in the workplace, impacting acceptance that took years to build.
"We've made great strides in embracing people with Asperger's in tech jobs here and I'd love to see that continue, but I'm fearful people will now be reluctant to make those hires because of situations like this," Ohlfs said.
For now, the tragedy may create a new barrier for people with Asperger's who are already struggling to fit in.
Bondonna said he hopes eventually that barrier will become a bridge to greater understanding and more support.