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US Autism & Asperger Association
December 20, 2012

Welcome to USAAA WeeklyNews, an email newsletter that addresses a range of topics on Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorders.


Time To Reflect On The Victims & Families, Accuracy Is Needed On Two Fronts

By Phillip C. DeMio, MD

 Dr. DeMioWe all join the nation in sadness & prayers as our support goes out to the victims of the unspeakable tragedy in Connecticut. Compounding the tragedy, and deflecting from the support we should be giving to the victims and their families are inaccuracies about the perpetrator's characteristics, namely that he had a current sole diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, and that Asperger Syndrome means a violent personality, and further that this led to these killings.

"I am compelled, as a physician who has for years spent thousands of hours treating countless persons for their Asperger Syndrome and related disorders, that this syndrome does not include violence as inclusionary nor exclusionary diagnostic criteria."

While I emphasize as a physician and as a fellow U.S. citizen that the focus should be on the respectful support & prayers for the victims and their families, I would offer the following brief considerations. I do not know of any bona fide evidence that shows that the perpetrator had a current diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. We need more accuracy in factual reporting. If he (or anyone) had such a diagnosis, I am compelled, as a physician who has for years spent thousands of hours treating countless persons for their Asperger Syndrome and related disorders, that this syndrome does not include violence as inclusionary nor exclusionary diagnostic criteria. Though this seems clear to those who are familiar with Asperger Syndrome & related disorders, it bears repeating during this tragic time when people are desperately trying to make sense out of the killings.

"We'll never begin to wrap our heads around these senseless tragedies."

Prior to establishing my general practice in 1991 focusing on the diagnosis and treatment for individuals with autism, Asperger Syndrome and related disorders, I was an emergency physician who specialized in trauma. As an ER physician for over twenty-five years, I have cared for many shooting victims. We'll never begin to wrap our heads around these senseless tragedies.

While the families are mourning the loss of their precious loved ones, let each and every one of us join together concentrating all of our efforts toward the support and prayers for these victims and their families. They are the ones who are the focus now.

Phillip C. Demio, MD is board-certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He received his M.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine with honors in Neurosurgery, Endocrinology/Metabolism, Advanced OB/GYN, and Advanced Internal Medicine. Dr. DeMio has been a faculty member at several teaching hospitals including Case Western University School of Medicine and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He is accredited by the Teaching System of U.S. Armed Forces Medical Core and his career includes an emphasis on toxicology.

Dr. DeMio is currently the Medical Director for the Whole Health and Wellness Centers located in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. His practice focuses on the diagnosis and treatment for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In addition to his practice, Dr. DeMio is affiliated with the Cleveland Clinics as an ER Physician. Dr. DeMio is a father of a child with autism. Dr. DeMio is Chief Medical Officer for the US Autism & Asperger Association and the Executive Director for the American Medical Autism Board.

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Access to USAAA Newsletter Archive 2005 - 2012


Working Through The Difficult And The Impossible To Contemplate: A Call For Action, Understanding, And Support

by Professor Stephen M. Shore, EdD

Dr. SHoreThis time of confusion, sadness, and anger calls for us to reach into our humanity for supporting those affected by the devastating event that happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. The loss of a child in any way is incomprehensible. As a society, we are shocked and bewildered at how anyone - whether on the autism spectrum or not - could enter a defenseless school to kill over two dozen young children and adults who care for them. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers need to be with those who lived and shall live this nightmare for much time to come.

"Those on the autism spectrum are not more or less likely to engage in violent behavior than the rest of the population."

Grasping at possibilities... There are many questions we have about the perpetrator’s upbringing including the roles of his parents, schools, community, and professionals. Did he have Asperger Syndrome? We search for answers... For someone or something to blame. Perhaps we will never know. However, there are some things we do know.

As we await facts to emerge from the fog of the event, it's important to maintain an understanding of humanity.

People on the autism spectrum can make mistakes, wrong decisions, engage in bad behavior - just like the ninety-nine percent of the population who are not on the autism spectrum. Since the shooting, I have heard people in the autism community questioning, "Gee...can this happen to me because I am autistic?" Those on the autism spectrum are not more or less likely to engage in violent behavior than the rest of the population. Having autism doesn't mean we don't have feelings and are not just as heartbroken by this incomprehensible act.

"However, there are some things we do know."

What may be a contributing factor is a lack of understanding and supports.

Were there signs - whether he is on the autism spectrum or not - such as isolation from society and other clues supportive people in his life could have caught? Might there be scripts that he learned from possible exposure to violent interactive games and movies that were internalized? As facts of the event crystalize some answers will emerge; and with those answers even more questions. What supports did he receive while in grade school, and then later on as an adult?

Many questions remain and a number of them will never be answered. What we do know is that through this dark time, we need to come together as a community, support those affected by this tragedy, and make sure it never happens again. We have the tools and the know how to support those with autism - and everyone else - who may feel lonely, unattached, and perhaps angry at the world. The time to start is now - in memory of all those who lost their lives in this terrible, terrible event.

Stephen M. Shore, EdD, was diagnosed with "Atypical Development with strong autistic tendencies. Dr. Shore was viewed as "too sick" to be treated on an outpatient basis and recommended for institutionalization. Nonverbal until four, and with much help from his parents, teachers, and others, Dr. Shore completed his doctoral degree in special education at Boston University in 2008 with a focus on helping people on the autism spectrum develop their capacities to the fullest extent possible.

In addition to working with children and talking about life on the autism spectrum, Dr. Shore presents and consults internationally on adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure as discussed in his book "Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Ask and Tell: Self-advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum", and "Understanding Autism for Dummies". Dr. Shore serves on the US Autism & Asperger Association Advisory Board. He presently works as a Professor of Special Education at Adelphi University in New York.

Email Dr. Shore

You can also go to Dr. Shore's Facebook page for more information and visit his website (www.autismasperger.net).

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Access to USAAA Newsletter Archive 2005 - 2012


Many Adults With Autism Unhappy With Their Health Care
Better approaches needed to serve these patients, researcher says

HealthDay News

healthcareU.S. adults with autism are more likely to report poor health care experiences than those without autism, a new study reveals.

Researchers conducted an online survey of 209 adults with autism and 228 adults without the disorder and found that those with autism reported more unmet health care needs, greater use of emergency departments, and lower rates of preventive services such as Pap smears (a cervical cancer screening test).

"The existence of health care disparities in our sample, most of whom had diagnoses of Asperger's and/or high educational attainment, highlights the possible negative consequences of stricter criteria [due to the DSM-5 changes in 2013]," [Dr.] Nicolaidis said. "Not having a diagnosis may deprive patients and their providers of insights, strategies, and accommodations to improve health care experiences."

The adults with autism were also less satisfied with health care provider communication and felt less comfortable navigating the health care system and managing their health, the Oregon Health & Science University researchers found.

Full Story

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Access to USAAA Newsletter Archive 2005 - 2012


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In this issue:

Time To Reflect On The Victims & Families, Accuracy Is Needed On Two Fronts

Working Through The Difficult And The Impossible To Contemplate: A Call For Action, Understanding, And Support

Many Adults With Autism Unhappy With Their Health Care


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