SHARECOMMENTMORE

St. Petersburg, Florida - Twenty children murdered at school: gut-wrenching for any parent. But now there's a new worry for some families, including many in the Bay area.

News reports that the school shooter, Adam Lanza, had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome have Rania Kelly fearing a backlash.

"My first reaction was 'Oh no'," said Kelly, whose 14-year-old son James has Asperger's. Rania certainly doesn't want people to fear him or any other "Aspie" as she calls them.

"I think they're more likely to find someone who's very gentle and mild and is probably more fearful about approaching them, than causing any violence," says Rania.

Asperger's syndrome is a mild form of autism often marked by social awkwardness and high intelligence.

"They're very interesting," remarks Kathleen Armstrong, a pediatric psychologist with USF Health. Armstrong says it would be wrong for people to link violence with Asperger's and that Lanza must have had other mental health problems.

In contrast, Armstrong says the intense focus that comes along with Asperger's, in many cases, makes for success. "They become scientists, they become engineers, they become accountants," she says.

As for James, the teen says he has been teased, but he deals with it and he excels at math and science. "I'd have to say it's not horrible," James says of Asperger's. "If anything, it's a gift. It helps you focus."

James has a goal of becoming an astrophysicist. And when asked about the shootings, he had the same reaction as anyone else. He called them "horrific."

SHARECOMMENTMORE