I know a lot of people with autism. At least a dozen. I also live full-time with a beautiful eight year old boy on the spectrum with incredible auburn hair. I have experienced his joyous sweetness when he is tickled by something silly and I can’t smother him with enough kisses to make it last. I have also experienced his autistic tirades that have left me trying to catch my breath, in tears. Autism doesn’t equate to violent. Those on the spectrum usually have difficulty making friends. They can be socially awkward. They often talk off-topic. They might make weird noises and get in your personal space. Often, they do not understand enough about friendships to know how much they are missing by not having them. They suffer from a developmental disability in varying degrees, but they do not have a mental illness.Many people on the spectrum are not aggressive at all. My son can be. Devlin’s intense tantrums are always in response to something ridiculous, such as blowing a gasket because I refused to buy five 10 pound bags of different flavored skittles at Sam’s. Devlin isn’t crazy or sociopathic, and he never will be. At least, he won’t be simply because he has autism. My son can’t always express how he feels, so at times he expresses his frustration physically. Autism does not mean violent. Devlin is not capable of holding grudges or reacting in a pre-meditated way. He has affective aggression, a reaction to stimuli. He does not have predatory aggression, which is cool, controlled and detached. He is not going to feel wronged for not getting skittles at Sam’s, go home and plot for weeks how to kill me in my bed.To plot revenge, you have to believe that someone has wronged you. As soon as the tizzy is over, Devlin has already forgotten about how much he wanted fifty pounds of skittles and that I am his miserly tormentor. All he wants to do is put his nose to mine, grab my head and tell me to smell his hair, which I readily oblige.I’m not saying my son can’t feel sad or slighted. He is not, however, going to form the initial evil thought, then convert that to actionable rage as Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook Elementary. Autism doesn’t explain that. Adam may have had autism, Asperger’s to be specific, but he was also a whole lot of other things to commit such unfathomable violence. He was isolated. He was exposed to an arsenal of guns. He had a mental illness. He was very unhappy. He is like many other mass shooters, whose motives we will never understand.Those in the autism community are watching the news stories about Newtown with added dread. We hear reports that The Shooter had autism and we worry narrow-minded people will associate all people with autism as someone to be watched, or worse, feared. We have made such strides over the last decade raising awareness of autism, the fastest growing developmental disability. Help us all by raising awareness that people with autism need your understanding and patience, not judgment.