We All Could Be Adam Lanza’s Mother

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criminallyinsane

“There but for the grace of God go I.” ~ Author Unknown

Working as a school administrator, spending half my career as a teacher and an administrator of special education programs, I have met and attempted to help youths with all manner of mental illnesses, some with serious personality disorders, sociopathy, and psychopathy.

Some have threatened my life, some have hurt me physically, some have made remarkable progress and went on to live fulfilling lives.

Most do very well, some manage, and others will always be dangerous. There is no way to know how it will turn out in most cases so you go to great lengths to make a difference.

Some mental conditions or combinations of mental illnesses are more serious and we must put more resources into these most severe and most dangerous cases. Right now, they are the ones people give up on most readily. We need places to board them and protect them and their families. Our mental healthcare system is lacking.

If I sent a violent student in the throws of a dangerous fit to the hospital, they’d evaluate him, keep him/her for a day or two and then release him/her, usually with medication. Some of these students need to be given a place in a mental facility. There are almost none.

We have had great difficulty with mental hospitals in the past. They can become dangerous places, places where these youths can learn how to be worse.

We need to provide safe facilities. We need more home visits by social workers. That might not have changed the Sandy Hook tragedy but that tragedy has brought this problem to light.

I have posted part of a story by a mother suffering in a similar way to Mrs. Lanza and you can read the full story on The Blue Review, It is well worth the read.

It doesn’t change my mind that evil exists and that it takes evil to make a person do what an intelligent and capable Adam Lanza did, but it is enlightening. I don’t know what made Adam Lanza commit such an unspeakable crime but mental illness might have played a role.

If we care about our fellow man, we must care about our mentally ill before it is too late:

I am Adam Lanza’s Mother

It’s time to talk about mental illness

Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

Three days before 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut first-graders, my 13-year-old son, Michael (not his name), missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan – they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room….Continue reading at The Blue Review

Nancy Lanza
Nancy Lanza

Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, appears as a tragic figure, never wanting to leave her child alone out of fear and a mother’s love. Perhaps she was in some state of denial and couldn’t take the necessary steps, we will probably never know. She wanted and received custody of Adam in the divorce settlement. She loved her child.

She apparently cared about children and volunteered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Who knows if that is why her son went to Sandy Hook that horrible day.

Nancy Lanza recently told a friend at the local pub that she was afraid she was losing her son. He was burning himself with lighters. Once he started burning himself, he needed to be placed in a facility.

Despite this warning sign, he was able to get her legally obtained guns. Why and how? We will likely never know. It is too easy to assume.

Ryan Kraft was Adam Lanza’s babysitter when he was 9 or 10. Nancy Lanza told Ryan, who was 14 or 15 at the time, never turn your back, not even to go to the bathroom. Ryan Kraft is now fundraising for the Sandy Hook victims.

Why didn’t Nancy Lanza, who allegedly sought the help of psychologists, find the help she needed? Did she refuse to accept the proper help? Will we ever know? Was he even diagnosed with a mental illness? He certainly appeared to be very mentally ill but for now, we don’t know what his problem was.

I don’t want to say any of the commentary here applies to Adam Lanza, but I have worked with children and young adults for whom it turned out that there was nothing to do. We exhausted all avenues and they still sought to become criminals, and in some cases, murderers.

Then there were the cases that turned out differently. I had a 17 year old with a high IQ who was diagnosed with a conduct disorder, which can turn into sociopathy. He was a sociopath. Having known his mother, I would say she too was a sociopath.

One night, he wanted money and beat the pizza owner over the head with a brick, leaving him very badly injured. The pizza owner, the man all the kids loved, who gave free slices to the children, forgave him.

My student was sent to an adult prison. He was let out after only a year-and-a-half and wanted to go back to school and start over. At first I refused. He said he wanted to be normal. He wanted another chance. He was badly abused in prison and he never wanted to go back. He said if he could start over, he knew he could be a good person.

Can a sociopath change? I told him that I would give him a month but I’d hire a guard paid for by his mother and the guard would follow him around as discreetly as possible. He jumped at the opportunity and thanked me.

The teachers were angry with me and had the right to be. I wouldn’t take that chance now but at the time I believed in him enough after consultation with his therapists who by then found a foster home for him.

He completed his last year of school with honors and no incidences. He went to college and did well. I lost track of him after that. I hope he has a good life.

Another student whom I expelled from the school where I was principal turned up at another school where I became the Director of Pupil Personnel Services. He was an adopted 15 year old and had several mental illnesses.

He was born a Native American and his adoptive parents were sweet hippie Jewish parents. His sister-by-birth was adopted by the same parents and refused to talk to him. He didn’t like his family and wore an enormous cross at all times just to offend them.

One day, after I turned up at his new school, he appeared on the street corner where I lived, glaring at me as I walked out the door while he played with a long, sharp knife. I called the police to take him away and I filed a complaint.

Within five days, the longest suspension allowed at the time, he came back to school. I spoke with him. He said that I followed him to his new school and that I was the source of all his problems. I was trying to change him, he said, and he liked being the way he was.

The school psychologist said she was very frightened for me because he was planning various ways to kill me and he meant it.

I spoke with my very wonderful Superintendent. I explained that there was only one resdential school I wanted to send him to, it was the only one that might make a difference but it cost $300,000 a year and it was hard to get students into the school because it was out-of-state. That was in 1980.

He said he didn’t care what it cost and that the school would pay the $300,000 for the safety of his staff and students.

I got the student into the school and eventually was able to secure federal and state funds so the burden wasn’t all on my school. I followed him for a while and he was making progress. He was bright and learning was never his problem. In the years he stayed at the school, he was not threatening I was told.

He was sent to another facility at age 21 and that is where I lost track of him. The facility he was sent to no longer exists and today there would be no appropriate place to send him.

There has to enough good places for some of those who are criminally mentally ill, and they must go there, even if they are young.

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