Statement of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Related to the Sandy Hook Tragedy

7 Oct

With another mass shooting we have, sadly, speculation that the gunman was autistic. When the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred, I was a public member to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) and we put out the following statement. While it is not directly related to the current events, I felt it worthwhile to put this out again.

Statement of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Related to the Sandy Hook Tragedy

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, an independent Federal advisory committee that provides advice to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on activities related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), has issued the following statement regarding the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012:

The events of December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut shocked and saddened people worldwide. All of the members of the IACC express our deepest sympathy and support for the families and community affected by these terrible killings. Some news reports suggested the gunman had Asperger syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Because this tragic event has shaken so many, the IACC wants to ensure that continued speculation about the gunman’s diagnosis does not hurt others in the community. Our committee has collectively prepared this statement to address public concerns and questions about the implied association between autism and extreme violence directed at others.

There is no scientific evidence linking ASD with homicides or other violent crimes. In fact, studies of court records suggest that people with autism are less likely to engage in criminal behavior of any kind compared with the general population, and people with Asperger syndrome, specifically, are not convicted of crimes at higher rates than the general population (Ghaziuddin et al., 1991, Mouridsen et al., 2008, Mouridsen, 2012).1, 2, 3

Officials do not yet know whether the person associated with the school shooting in Newtown had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, another developmental or mental disorder or disability, or multiple disorders. We may never know what undiagnosed conditions or motivations he may have had. Whatever his diagnosis, this individual’s acts are not representative of people with developmental or mental disorders or disabilities, very few of whom are violent or dangerous towards others.

While a rare event, the impact of violence is a tragedy for all of those involved. These devastating events remind us of the importance of providing the best care and support for those challenged by developmental or mental disorders or disabilities. We do know that individuals with autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger syndrome, do better with the appropriate medical, educational, mental health and community supports in place. The IACC strongly supports the development and expansion of those services and believes that more research is needed to identify predictors of violence, and to develop appropriate prevention and treatment strategies.


1 Ghaziuddin M, et al. Brief Report: Violence in Asperger Syndrome, A Critique. J Autism Dev Disorders. 1991 Sep; 21(3): 349-54. [PMID 1938780]

2 Mouridsen SE, et al. Pervasive Developmental Disorders and Criminal Behavior: A Case Control Study. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2008 Apr; 52 (2): 196. [PMID 17615427]

3 Mouridsen SE. Current status of research on autism spectrum disorders and offending. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2012 Jan-Mar; 6 (1): 79-86.

6 Responses to “Statement of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Related to the Sandy Hook Tragedy”

  1. amandasmills October 7, 2015 at 13:39 #

    Reblogged this on Nature in the City and commented:
    Reblogging from Left Brain/Right Brain

  2. Gone Wild October 7, 2015 at 16:27 #

    A lot of words, but had he been diagnosed with “something” or not? Without concrete information, why make a statement?

    • Julian Frost October 8, 2015 at 07:02 #

      Gone Wild, there is a Facebook Page up called “Parents against autistic shooters”. It’s been reported, but Facebook refuses to take it down. The reason for the response is that there are people who think that autistics are dangerous. This is despite the fact that autistics are far more likely to be victims of violence than violent themselves.

      • Gone Wild October 8, 2015 at 16:16 #

        You can say “autistics are more likely” all you want – I see it everywhere, but what is missing is FACT. The purpose of my blog – is to utilize studies and articles by people who supposedly are “experts” but whose basic prejudices skew the message. I do what we Aspergers do best: analyze systems (like psychology, government, media) for gaping flaws that lead to bad conclusions. I cover society in general to show that Aspergers are just one of many groups “at the bottom” of the social pyramid who are intentionally excluded from “normal” society. In my view, Asperger individuals need to be “de-programmed” from the brainwashing that PRODUCES many of our so-called symptoms, which are the result of how we’re treated by “neurotypicals”

      • Julian Frost October 8, 2015 at 19:58 #

        Gone Wild, did you even read my comment? If so, did you understand it?
        There have been claims, unproven ones, that Lanza was autistic. Despite the fact that they are unproven, people have picked this up and run with it. There is now a Facebook group, “Parents against autistic shooters”, which Facebook refuses to take down, despite requests. Lastly, I’ll repeat the key point from my last sentence. Please read it carefully.
        Autistics are far more likely to be victims of violence than violent themselves.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 8, 2015 at 20:09 #

        “Autistics are far more likely to be victims of violence than violent themselves.”

        My guess is that autistics are far more likely to be victims of violence than are non-autistics.

        I remember when we were writing the statement above. I spoke with someone at NIH and that person seemed surprised when I said–you know, there’s a reasonable chance that one of the victims is autistic.

        One was. No one mentions that.

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