Miss NJ 2011 Releases Statement on Autism Following Newtown Shooting

Brielle LaCosta, Miss New Jersey 2011, released a statement, "Autism is NOT to blame for Sandy Hook Elementary."

The following information was provided via Autisable.com. 

by Brielle LaCosta

Since 2007, it has been my mission to work hands-on with Autism, learn more about it, help families cope, and most importantly help the world understand. Sadly, these days when someone is given the diganosis "Autistic" they are immediately misunderstood, made fun of, and stereotyped. Today, Autism and negativity go hand in hand.  So WHY on earth did I see scrolling on the bottom of every channel "KILLER WAS AUTISTIC"- does that really matter or change what happened? 

Having worked with children my entire life, they obviously hold a very special place in my heart. Being at work on Friday and watching the Yahoo! mainpage statistics grow higher was chilling and made me feel like it was 9/11 again. On that day, I watched the TV for hours watching the chaos unfold. As I saw thousands of people running for their lives, I sat there with a pit in my stomach asking, "...where is my Dad in that?" He was there on 9/11, in the WTC1 (the tower that was hit first) on the 25th floor. I remember the weeks afterwards being unbearable- attending funeral after funeral, reliving the pain each time. As I watched those parents waiting in the parking lot of Sandy Hook Elementary, the flashbacks for me were a little too much. The worst part is the combination of anger, shock and sadness; it is unbearable pain. Anger towards who did this, the constant question of why, and the shock that these special people were taken too soon. 20 precious children anxious for the holiday season never made it home that day. Seven teachers and staff responsible for shaping our world's future never made it home. How could someone ever commit such a heartless, cruel act?

Then the news started reporting "Killer was Autistic" and I have to admit, it angered and frustrated me. As if people don't think badly enough about Autism, now the news is basically reporting that because he had Autism, he did this. Most people are not going to take the time to investigate the validity of that statement. All it will do is just add to the rude comments and stigmas people with Autism already face. In the light of this tragedy, why is the focus now on mental disorders and Autism? It needs to stay focused on the children and teachers who lost their lives, and their families and friends asking why?

This isn't about his mental disorder(s), or the fact that he had Aspergers and fell on the spectrum. Is it going to change anything? Will it bring those who passed back? No. Adam Lanza's babysitter from over 10 years ago spoke out saying when he babysat, he was told to never turn his back. Well, thank you for telling America that Autism is incredibly dangerous and we must stay away. Do you have any idea how many ignorant people have asked me if this is typical for Autism? Autism does not even begin to explain what happened on Friday. Being diagnosed with Autism does not cause someone to be a mass murderer. It also does not make them any more likely to commit such an act. People with Autism are more often than not the ones who are the victims, not the culprits. The media should take an opportunity like this to gently explain that Autism is a neurological disorder, not a mental illness.

So why aren't doctors and medical records coming out that say something like "depression" or "bipolar?" Let's be honest- today, it's easier to just slap the label of "Autism" on this tragedy and everyone responds "Ohhhh...well, yes, that makes perfect sense" and they won't question it further. 

In times like these, it's surprising how comforting answers can be. Families and friends are crying out to God asking why?  and reports are responding with "Autism and guns are to blame." Why Autism? Because in my opinion, it's a lot easier to be angry and blame Autism than depression, which has a lot of gray areas. How dare the news say that the millions of people diagnosed with Autism have something in common with a heartless murderer? The media will want you to believe that Autism was behind this. I am asking you, no matter what "expert" you see on TV or read in the paper has to say about Autism being the cause of this, do not fall for it. When I think of all the kids and teens with Autism I have worked with over the years, I look into their eyes and see love and innocence. Autism is NOT to blame here. 

As you know, I have been deeply passionate about Autism for over five years. I am extremely defensive about it, and will always fight to make sure people know the truth about Autism. So I ask you, do not fall for the media hype. Do not take the time to look up Autism and murders. Instead, read about each life that was lost, that is what needs to be focused on. This tragedy needs to solely focus on the children and teachers who were lost, their friends and families, and the first responders. That's it- there is no need to constantly speak of the killer and glorify his name. What he did is unexplainable, and I don't think we will ever be able to understand why this happened.

This tragedy has been on my mind nonstop. My deepest sympathies to families and friends of everyone who was taken too soon. Those beautiful children and adults will never be forgotten. Sleep in Heavenly peace, sweet angels. 


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