The Connecticut State Attorney office recently released the much delayed report on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School
I haven’t the stomach nor heart to read through the details of the crime scene. Within the first day it seemed clear that the emergency response to the report of a shooting was swift and as competent as is possible in such a horrendous event. Far faster and better than the emergency responses at Columbine and VA Tech. (Three to four times faster than the response to Friday’s shooting at Arapahoe High School.) Highly probable that many lives were spared by that quick action.
And all the teachers and staff at the school were heroes in some way.
The report was never intended to speak to, nor should it have, those in some la-la-land that believe the massacre didn’t happen and/or was a false flag operation to take their guns away from them. Those people have such huge clinkers in their thinkers it’s amazing they don’t starve to death because they forgot how to eat. Best to ignore them. (They’ve got guns; so, laughing at them is not recommended.)
While there’s no question that access to guns allowed the shooter to gun down twenty children and four adults and injure two adults in the school that day. The lives of twenty-six innocent families were irrevocably changed by one young man with guns. The parents of some of those slain children that in the midst of their grief advocated for gun control legislation are entitled to admiration. Anyone that butts head against the NRA is admirable. Maybe someday the outcome will be different.
Unfortunately, while this was the saddest of recent mass shootings due to the young age of twenty of victims, it was the least directly relevant to gun control. As the report makes clear, the guns were legally owned. Not by the shooter, but by his mother who shared them with him at a shooting range. The shooter was a few months shy of being old enough to legally purchase and carry a handgun in CT but rifles and shotguns aren’t as restricted.
Interestingly, the investigation couldn’t find evidence that definitively supported the NRA’s La Pierre position that it was a matter of mental illness and not guns that led to the massacre. In a binary – either/or – world, with the polarization of both sides of the question, we aren’t able to honestly consider that it’s both.
Guns and young men are not a good mix. As Jill Balte Taylor points out, our prefrontal cortex doesn’t fully attach until our mid-twenties. In other words, the young aren’t so good at planning and considering consequences. (Suggests that the driving age should be increased to twenty-five.)
So, where does this all leave us? Sadder and no wiser, perhaps.
However, there are some shreds of information in the report that are best not overlooked. Not because they can answer why but because they are instructive for parents.
(Not in the order presented in the report.)
Over the years from the late 1990s and into the 2000s, the shooter had evaluations of various types, some of which were available to the investigators. In the late 1990s he was described as having speech and language needs. At that time he was also being followed medically for seizure activities. In preschool his conduct included repetitive behaviors, temper tantrums, smelling things that were not there, excessive hand washing and eating idiosyncrasies.
In 2005, the shooter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder and was described as presenting
with significant social impairments and extreme anxiety.
Over the years his mother consistently described the shooter as having Asperger’s syndrome.
She had a number of books in the home on the topic.
As he got older his condition seemed to worsen, he became more of a loner.
It’s extraordinarily difficult to raise any child with a special need, disability, or handicap. The medical and educational community does what it can to help – and sometimes is less helpful than it should be. However, it falls most heavily on the parents or full time caregivers to be the most realistic and seek the needed help.
The report doesn’t state if any diagnosis was included in the early evaluations of the Adam or if any special instruction recommendations were followed. Nothing about anti-seizure medication. Evaluations that began before the family moved to CT and Adam was enrolled in elementary school. And appear to have ended in 2005 when he was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. This diagnosis was unlikely to have been helpful to Adam or his mother.
The DSM-5 has removed Asperger’s syndrome as a separate clinical diagnosis. It’s apparently not distinguishable enough from higher functioning autism syndrome. Somehow amongst laymen, Asperger’s syndrome came to be seen as being different but highly intelligent (and therefore, was being dangerously abused as a diagnosis). Whereas autism syndrome indicated severe deficits and sounds scary to parents.
Dr. Temple Grandin is living proof that that impression is wrong. She’s highly intelligent and autistic. Plus high intelligence was not a diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s. (Lanza apparently tested within the normal intelligence range.) She is also articulate about the special needs of those with autism.
Based on personal experience, Grandin advocates early intervention to address autism, and supportive teachers who can direct fixations of the child with autism in fruitful directions. She has described her hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli.
Was Adam more correctly diagnosed when he was very young? Was there any effective intervention at that age? As he seemed to do well enough in the public school primary grades, it seems likely that some good enough intervention occurred. Did that stop when the family moved to CT? Did his mother feel capable of being his therapist? Did she do more than seek another evaluation as he grew older and failed to thrive? Or more likely was regressing. Or did that diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome allow her to be more complacent and hopeful?
It’s not unusual for a parent or day-to-day caregiver not to notice slow deterioration in a child or charge. That’s one reason why continuing consultation with a medical providers is so important. Adam’s mother just wanted her child to succeed. She was also likely in denial as to his limitations. Yanking him in and out of various schools and home schooling him at various times was harmful. Simultaneously increasing the stress for Adam and pampering him. It also precluded the ability of educators to make meaningful assessments of Adam’s development and recommendations for a more healthful living and educational environment. Likely to have begun failing him by the age of ten if not sooner.
What is totally inexplicable is why his mother didn’t appreciate the danger of fixations. While some in and of themselves aren’t necessarily harmful, the thought processes of fixations are harmful to the individual if not to others. Apparently his father and brother weren’t any or much more enlightened on this either. Shooting guns was a family affair. Ending in horror and tragedy.
One message for all is that guns are not therapeutic. Screens? Too soon to tell.