The Killeen-Fort Hood area continues to feel reverberations from the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
Metroplex Hospital psychiatrist Kenyatta Jones said he has noticed more parents worried about their children being stigmatized if they are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger syndrome. There have been several unconfirmed reports stating Newtown shooter Adam Lanza suffered from Asperger syndrome.
“Since the shooting, I have had two or three parents come in that are worried that their child has been diagnosed with either Autism Spectrum Disorder or Asperger syndrome,” Jones said. “They are worried that their children will be stigmatized, ostracized and treated differently because of that diagnosis.”
“I have only had two or three sets of parents express this concern since the shooting,” he added. “But I can feel the rumbling. I can only imagine how many parents I will be hearing from after New Year’s.”
Autism groups across the country are responding to the sudden stigmatization created by the shooting.
Dr. John Molteni, director at The Autism Center at the Hospital for Special Care in Hartford, Conn., released a statement earlier in the week trying to calm the furor. He said that trying to explain the shooting with a single explanation is an over-simplification.
“Variables such as his mental state, previous behavioral history and environmental factors leading up to the shootings combined in a very complex way for this individual,” Molteni said. “Boiling it down to any single diagnosis such as a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum would not explain his behavior in a meaningful way and does more to stigmatize the population of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and mental health issues.”
Jones said it is important that children suffering from ASD or Asperger’s get early treatment instead of being labeled as dangerous.
“My goal is not to label kids or scare the community,” Jones said. “These kids do very well once they get involved in speech therapy, physical therapy and social interaction therapy.”
Eldon Tietje, executive director of Central Counties Center for MHMR, said the organization has the resources to help children in Bell County who may be showing symptoms of an autistic disorder. MHMR specializes in helping people who do not have medical benefits.
“Any parent who has concerns about this can call our main line and they will be routed to the right person,” Tietje said. “We are absolutely here to serve those people.”