- Readers post more than 700 comments about loved ones with Asperger's
- Experts say there's no evidence of a link between autism disorders and violence
- "Kindness and empathy must be taught," Mocking Bird posted about bullies
CNN.com assignment producer Michael Ryan recently opened up about his Asperger's syndrome, saying, "For the most part, I am just like you, just a bit quirky. All right, a lot quirky."
Like Ryan, CNN's readers are worried about the unsubstantiated connection being made between autism and violence in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting. They posted more than 700 comments in support of Ryan and their loved ones with Asperger's. Here are some of the most popular comments. Some have been edited for clarity and space.
Zena Kitty: My son had no friends. No one stood up for him. Children and adults alike were very cruel to him and would even take a step or two backwards when they first met him, as if they could catch Asperger's from him. They shunned him, refused to allow him to participate in social groups, and taunted him mercilessly. In the end, he killed himself. I miss my son. He was my hero and my best friend.
Luis Hernandez: To this day these conditions (Aspergers, autism, OCD, depression, Tourette syndrome, etc.) are not understood. The social problems continue to this day and our children are at the mercy of cruel, ignorant children and adults who have little empathy for anyone who is "different." Nothing has changed.
David Scott: I, too, have a son with a disability. He has cerebral palsy. Most people try to pretend he isn't really in the room. He is bright and fully understands his situation and what is going on around him, but nobody treats him that way in public. They stare, smile at us and keep walking by. Even friends don't know how to talk to him. It's up to us to teach them that he is capable of a relationship and wants to be normal.
James Butler: One of my best friends has Asperger's, and he is one of the most marvelous and amazing human beings that ever set foot on this earth.
Sheryll Thomson: I'm not happy with the word "disorder." ... Psychiatrists come from the medical profession and, thus, tend to look through "medical model" eyes. Meaning that they look for pathology, not for the strengths, creativity, quirkiness, as delight parts of the character. Disorder sounds like something that is needed to be solved, ordered, healed or recovered from. I think of it as a style -- more, a set of traps and talents which one can learn from.
Always Hesed: This will be my fourth Christmas without my son. He too had his issues. ... He took his own life at school in front of a couple hundred students. I have a daughter as well who is now diagnosed bipolar, and two other children with Asperger's symptoms. It can be exhausting dealing with all the social fallout and rejection they have all experienced. ... If it wasn't for my faith in Jesus Christ, I can honestly say that I would probably not be here.
Rebecca Batchelor: Autistic people are also more likely to be the victim of bullying and violence, rather than be the perpetrators of it.
Parsons_project: I, too, have Asperger's. ... I think that the main thing people need to understand is that Asperger's/autism is not a mental disorder. It does not mean that we cannot process thoughts or understand consequences. Truth is, we generally overanalyze thoughts and consequences.
Carla Hurst-Chandler: My Aspie son, now an adult, and I were discussing the multitude of new Aspie diagnoses -- seemingly more each year -- and he stopped for a minute and pondered, "Did you ever think that what they are calling Asperger's is really just a new stage of human evolution -- the enhancements?" The ability to focus so intently and learn. It is worth a thought.
SMFDS: Like you, I learned about my Asperger's as an adult. Like you, I learned how to behave through mimicking others, and like you, I still have challenges but (am) finding my own way. And I have encouraged my children to do the same.
Stoshu Grandstaff: As someone with Asperger's myself, the idea that we use it as a cop-out is disturbing. Often Asperger's means we put more work into a single few words then most people do during an entire conversation.
Tuckerfan: My youngest has Asperger's; he's in his 20s now and blooming. Like the author he has turned his "quirks" into advantages. In his case he is a phenomenal cook -- because he is so focused that he turns out phenomenal and artful plates, every time.
Twylight999: My younger brother has Asperger's. He is 17, and he is my best friend. ... Because of him I have learned to be understanding and to listen. He cannot tell a lie; his mind does not understand them. He is the must trustworthy person I know. He would help anyone in a heartbeat.
Tara: This is wonderful that someone would be so unashamedly brave and honest. It's also sad that it's "brave" to say that we have Asperger's. It shouldn't be taboo, and it shouldn't be labeled as directly connected to violence. I am very grateful to this journalist. May we all be so courageous; then one day, other autistic people won't have to be.
DLKirkwood(Boone): These kids are NOT disabled, they are NOT special education. They think and learn by hands-on, visual and auditory methods -- they want to know the hows and whys -- and do poorly (usually) with the sit still and memorize fact-on-fact methods. The kids usually have high IQ's -- they just learn in a different way.
Disqus_868zf2CcLd: Now that I know I have Asperger's, life is so much better. Knowing does not make it easier for me to make a phone call or answer one, but at least I now know that there is a reason I have such a hard time with something so simple.