Mental health professionals urge tolerance of Asperger's sufferers

CREATED Dec. 17, 2012

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MILWAUKEE - Adam Lanza, the shooter in Newtown, Connecticut, reportedly suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, which is a form of autism.

The diagnosis, however, has families stressing the separation between his disorder and violence.

Emily Levine heads the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin.  More importantly, she’s a mom to a 24 year old son with Asperger’s Syndrome.

 “I’m always worried about it whenever I hear anything like this—that people are going to make generalizations, that all people with Asperger’s are like this,” Levine said.

Doctors argue the conversation should not be focused on improving care for those in need, rather than blaming a disorder or ailment.

 “Our society is doing better, but we don’t provide a good enough job with providing mental healthcare for our population,” said Dr. Jon Lehrmann, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry for the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Health experts believe recruiting new child psychiatrists is difficult nowadays-- not to mention hoops for healthcare coverage and families worried about what the outside world will think of them if they ask for help.

 “They have no reason to be ashamed. No one’s ashamed to say they have diabetes, but we have a lot of stigma around a lot of these illnesses,” explained Peter Hoeffel of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

No matter the cause of this tragedy, all families are still left wondering why this shooting took place.

”We’ll never know what he was thinking. Unfortunately, we’ll have a sense of what led to this and what his state of mind was. And we’ll just have to move forward without knowing that,” Lehrmann said.

More information:
Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin
National Alliance on Mental Illness, Greater Milwaukee