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Sandy Springs Therapist Explains Autism/Asperger’s

Amid questions since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, Patch asked an expert at the Behavioral Institute of Atlanta, in Sandy Springs, to explain autism and sort out fact vs. fiction.


Since the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Conn., autism and Asperger’s Syndrome have become a national topic of conversation. Media reports speculate that gunman Adam Lanza had autism, as a result adverse reaction towards people with the mental disorder has crept up.

Patch asked Dr. Kellie Edwards, an expert at the Behavioral Institute of Atlanta, in Sandy Springs, to explain the conditions and sort out fact vs. fiction.

“Some children and adults who have autism also have an intellectual disability whereas Asperger’s has normal intelligence or sometimes high intelligence,” Edwards explained.

"Thoughts of harming others is not something that is associated with the autism spectrum. People do not need to be afraid of individuals with autism spectrum disorders."

According to the Center for Disease Control about 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. Edwards said the rates were 1 in 10,000 in the 1980s.

“One of the myths about autism is these individuals cannot attach to anybody or get close to anybody, which is absolutely not true. There are attachment disorders, that is a completely different set of disorders,” Edwards said. “As matter of fact there was a child in the Sandy Hook shooting who had autism and he died in his teacher’s arms. And he was very connected to her.”

Edwards explained that autism and Asperger’s syndrome are two different forms of the same disorder. “Austim involves delays in language, social and behavioral impairments. Asperger’s has just social and behavioral impairments but not language.”

In May 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will remove the Asperger’s category. Both autism and Asperger’s will fall under the autism spectrum disorder ranging from the most impaired low functioning individuals to individuals with high IQs but are socially awkward.

Behind the Myths

Edwards said, “Typically people with autism are not interested in interacting because they prefer to be solitary but that doesn’t mean they wish harm on anybody else. They just prefer to be on their own. Sometimes social situations [create] a lot of anxiety because they don’t know what to say, or they are afraid they are being judged."

Social cues

“They don’t read social cues very well,” Edwards said. “They don’t read body language very well. They might say the wrong thing and it comes across as rude and they don’t mean to sound like that. So they end up being socially withdrawn."

Adrianne Murchison December 27, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Michael, Thanks so much for your comment. The last thing I wish to do is cause distress or a misconception on any topic, particularly this one. My reporting is based on the information I was given by a therapist that treats children and adults with autism and Asperger's. It's one story and it is not my intention that it be the last one. If you are willing, you and I can talk for another story or maybe you would be interested in writing an ongoing blog in our Local Voices section. In any case, I hope this story was helpful in dispelling, if only slightly, the idea that autism and Asperger's translates into violent behavior. Feel free to contact me at adrianne.murchison@patch.com.
Misty Rose December 28, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I agree with mike. This is ridiculous!, you talk with someone who only concludes things (that are wrong) from An NT perspective!? Ask as aspie for petes sake! I think we know more than those "professionals" think they do...so frustrating!!
Misty Rose December 28, 2012 at 12:20 AM
The misconception that we are "violent" stems from the fact that things that make us upset, you cant relate to. We have heightened senses, you do not. So no, we are not prone to violence any more than the average person. We merely have different stressors.
Peggy Marzell Blondehairexpert January 16, 2013 at 11:10 PM
Take the children off all the drugs that are causing them to be violent and suicidal . Columbine shooters were on prosaic and redilian . All of these shooters were highly medicated on antipressants and aderol or redilian . Stop prescribing to children and do talk therapy
Peggy Marzell Blondehairexpert January 16, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Violence is caused by aderol and prosaic and Zoloft


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