While officials are still investigating what might have provoked 20-year-old Adam Lanza to unleash fury on Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, experts are ruling out the connection between the Asperger’s syndrome and the violence.
The illnesses is classified as a mild form of autism often characterized by social awkwardness. Psychologist Elizabeth Laugeson, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Fox News that “there really is no clear associate between Asperger’s and violent behavior.”
As law enforcement officials dig deeper into the life of Adam Lanza, details are gradually emerging as to what led up to the Friday massacre at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
According to police, Lanza fatally shot his mother before going to the school and killing 20 young children, six adults and himself. A law enforcement official also told reporters that Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger’s.
In previous reports, which cited interviews with Lanza’s former classmates, the Sandy Hook shooter was described as intelligent, but painfully shy, anxious and a loner.
According to psychologist, Eric Butter, who treats autism, including Asperger’s and was cited by Fox News, the latter characteristics are consistent with Asperger’s.
Regardless of the consistency, Butter, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio suggested that people with autism do have a higher rate of aggressive behavior–outbursts, shoving, pushing or angry shouting – than the general population.
“But we are not talking about the kind of planned and intentional type of violence we have seen at Newtown,” he said. “These types of tragedies have occurred at the hands of individuals with many different types of personalities and psychological profiles.”
Medical studies indicate that while Autism is a developmental disorder that can range from mild to severe, Asperger’s is generally thought of as a mild form. Both autism and Asperger’s are characterized by poor social skills, repetitive behavior or interests and problems communicating. Unlike classic autism, Asperger’s does not typically involve delays in mental development or speech.
The Associated Press reported that autism and related disorders are sometimes diagnosed with other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“I think it’s far more likely that what happened may have more to do with some other kind of mental health condition like depression or anxiety rather than Asperger’s,” Laugeson told Fox News.
She added that those diagnosed with Asperger’s tend to focus on rules and be very law-abiding.
“There is something more to this,” she said. “We just don’t know what that is yet.”