UK & World News
US Shooting: Doubts Over Lanza Asperger's Claim
A psychologist has told Sky News the actions of mass killer Adam Lanza were not consistent with someone who has Asperger's syndrome.
The gunman's parents reportedly informed friends and divorce mediators that their son had that form of autism.
But Dr Beth Weiner said Friday's shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut sounded more like the act of "an individual with an anti-social personality disorder".
She said: "If you bump into someone with Asperger's in the hallway, they might not process it correctly and they might lash out, but they don't plan out something in a premeditated way."
No evidence has been found to suggest Lanza, 20, was taking medication for mental illness, and authorities are still trying to determine whether he was ever formally diagnosed with any mental health disorder.
The massacre, in which Lanza's own mother Nancy was also shot and killed by him, has left a community in mourning and people around the world searching for answers on how similar acts can be prevented in the future.
Dr Weiner, a clinical psychologist and the director of the psychology and therapy master's degree programme at Long Island University-Hudson in West Chester, New York, said "early intervention is key".
She said: "Kids have to be targeted early, and the front line people are the school personnel," adding that schools are "overloaded" and cannot be blamed when these types of incidents occur.
"Their hands are tied. They can't do the kind of emotional assessments that some of these kids need," she went on.
What is needed, Dr Weiner said, is a closer relationship between school personnel and outside clinicians - people who are trained in treating clients with mental health disorders.
"We're talking about having more security guards at schools ... maybe we need to look at how we can bring in more mental health professionals into the schools systems on a consulting basis," she said.
Dr Weiner also said people have to start overcoming the stigma that is attached to mental illness, which often keeps parents from pursuing the help their child needs.
"It's not the same when it comes to mental illness," she said. "Parents are not going to be as quick to check off the box that asks whether their child has behavioural problems."
The psychologist said she hopes the Newtown shooting would help people realise the need to be more proactive when it comes to treating children and adults with mental illness.
"In this day and age we're still putting labels, we're still calling people crazy as opposed to asking what can we do for them so they are not shut away from their peers," she said.
"Sometimes that isolation can breed dangerous thinking."
:: Watch USA: The Gun Debate on Sky News on Wednesday at 8:30pm.