The statement came after a 16-year-old boy with Asperger's was charged in the stabbing death of a 15-year-old classmate at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School in suburban Boston. The teen, John Odgren, faces charges as an adult under Massachusetts law. He pleaded innocent in court on Friday in the stabbing death of James Alenson.
If you live in the Boston area, you know this tragedy was a big topic of discussion among families of every kind at suburban gatherings all during this past weekend. For parents of kids with Asperger's and other autism spectrum disorders, there was a doubled-over feeling of grief and concern. There was the unspeakable horror at the news -- a child's life lost in a senseless act of violence. And there was the additional concern about the public's response to the knowledge that the teen charged in the crime has this serious disability.
The Asperger's Association statement follows in that vein. It says, in part:
Our hearts go out to both families, and to the entire school community.
Physical violence is not at all typical of people with Asperger Syndrome (AS). AANE has worked with thousands of families, teachers, and other professionals for more than a decade. In that time, we have never before heard of a comparable event. We hope the public will remain open minded and open hearted, and not compound this tragedy by forming a sweeping negative stereotype about all people with AS.
The Association also offers its services "as a source of information and support to anyone affected by the recent tragedy" by providing information, support and referrals to parents, teachers and other professionals. The Association encourages parents of teens with Asperger's to contact its office to attend a support group meeting that was scheduled for tonight. And the group promises to issue more information about its activities and support resources.
The Boston area media coverage of this murder understandably has been intense the past few days. This story is a big deal, as this clip from the Associated Press picked up in California shows. (The story described the murder's aftermath and reports that youth charged in the crime was very interested in crime forensics.) This Boston Globe story reports that fellow students heard the youth talking of trying to kill someone, and that he was alienated from other kids.
Reports like this one in the MetroWest Daily News have cited Odgren's enrollment in a special education program hosted by Lincoln-Sudbury designed to help integrate teens with disabilities into the general high school program.