Parents of children with Asperger's concerned after Newtown - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Parents of children with Asperger's concerned after Newtown

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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -

Teachers and friends say the Newtown murderer had Asperger's syndrome - a mild form of autism.

While there's no link between Asperger's and violence, the public backlash against the condition has been profound. Now, two Richmond-area women affected by autism are speaking out.

Jyll Simmon's son Zachary is a happy, healthy 8-year-old living with autism. Simmons has always worried about bullying but in the wake of the Newtown massacre, she's even more concerned.

She fears her son will be targeted by children and adults who don't understand what Asperger's is.

"I've met a lot of these children," said Simmons. "I've never met one that is evil, that would intentionally hurt anybody and they're definitely not pre-meditated type kids."

Some characteristics of Asperger's syndrome are difficulty with socialization, repetitive behavior and interests and slight speech abnormalities.

Paula Durbin-Westby knows what it's like to live with Asperger's. She was diagnosed in her late 40's. Since then, she's worked as an autism advocate. Since Friday's tragedy, she's had her work cut out for her.

"I don't think there's ever been this stereotype that we would go out and be mass murderers, which is very inaccurate," said Durbin-Westby.

She says, the misinformation surrounding Asperger's is impacting children. Parents are writing from across the country her telling her about tales of bullying.

One parent writes that someone shouted at her child "Careful, if blank gets a gun, she'll come and shoot you."

Hate groups are popping up on Facebook. One group called "Asperger's Prevention Campaign" posted, "When we reach 50 likes, we will find an autistic kid and set it on fire."

Facebook has since removed the group.

It still has not been officially confirmed that the Sandy Hook murderer had Asperger's while there's been much speculation about what drove him to commit the heinous crime.

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