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"Evil Visited the Community of Sandy Hook, not Asperger's

“Evil Visited the Community of Sandy Hook, not Asperger's”

by Cara L. McCloud, MSW, LCSW. School Social Worker, Windsor Learning Center, Pompton Lakes, New Jersey and Private Therapist(

Today I still feel sad and troubled thinking about our nation and all of those affected by the trauma and devastation of Friday’s events in Newtown, CT. I am also finding myself dealing with a new emotion, like a growing pit in my stomach that keeps getting larger with each media update. I am worried about our youth, more specifically the youth I work with on a day to day basis. As a school social worker and therapist, I am beginning to feel a greater task ahead of me in practice and one even greater for my patients. Each day, I listen to the social struggles of these children and adolescents. Sadly, I often find that I am offering them insight into the public’s perception of them and encouraging them to not focus on their differences but instead the amazing, spirit full and bright people they were born to be. I am blessed to know them and understand that their world may not extend the same appreciation, but I do reassure them that as the world matures and grows so will its empathy. I remind them that they are the catalyst into educating the public about who they are as people, separate from a label ~ separate from a diagnosis.

In private practice, I help patients and their families understand that their child’sdiagnosis does not define who they are. Rather the mere existence of its diagnostic handle and numerical specifier has been attached to medical documents, educational plans, and insurance bills as an assurance that appropriate services will be supplied; payment for providers will be received;and clinicians from a wide array of differing theoretical orientations can respond to the request for treatment. Sure these texts give us specific information about the disorder, such as associated features, prevalence, familial patterns,age-, culture- and gender-specific features. And, yes these specifiers may help or begin to describe a child’s symptomology, but I can assure you it offers no information on the treatment that will encompasses a child’s uniqueness or invitation to their individualized problems and struggles.

I refer back to my own personal experiences of hearing the amazing Dr. Temple Grandin speak. She emphasized that the diagnosis of Autism and Asperger’s was not to be what we as professionals looked at as the central component describing person’s need, but instead a written and verbal indicator that will assisttoday’s families in receiving the array of services that be required to help enhance a child’s true self and skills. Assuring them that the treatment they receive is there to help their child relate to an inexperienced society and enhance their social relatedness to adapt. No means taking away what has made them exceptional, wonderful, and one of a kind.

And yet as I read the news this morning and the updates I realize the media is beginning to do an injustice to these exceptional,wonderful, one of a kind kids. Hence, my need for a public stance and a personal response to this discrimination. I understand the publics search for a reason or an answer. I to stand with you in searching for clarity and strength in my faith for an understanding as to what caused a once safe community to be forever changed. But I plead to the media to reframe from associating the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome to the motives and actions of pure evilness. Please know that the autistic population deals with more violence against them, then often being those who create or cause violence against others. Each day is a struggle for them to find social stability in communities where words and labels such as odd, weird, nerd, inflexible, and awkward have become ingrained in their persona. It scares me to believe that this week I am invited to an adolescent group at Pompton Speech Plus in Pompton Plains, to not only help this group find peace and understanding during this difficult time, but also to prepare them for a difficult road ahead which will include headlines that will strip them of their own sense of security and worth. Please take a stand against the media’s ignorance. Remember Asperger’s did not cause the violence in Sandy Hook, Evil did!

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