Tag Archives: autism

I can’t stop thinking about Adam Lanza.

19 Dec

We know so little. Of what we know, these facts haunt me:

His family moved to Newtown in ’98.

He was 20 when he died, meaning he was 6, a first grader, that first year in a new school.

Family friends and relatives say he had Asperger’s Syndrome.

He was withdrawn, socially awkward, painfully shy.

His mother eventually pulled him out of school to home school him.

She valued, owned and trained Adam in, the use of guns.

If all but that last fact were true, I can’t help but believe the 26 killed at Sandy Hook, and possibly Nancy herself would be alive today. I say that because there are so many children, painfully awkward, who struggle in school due to lack of understanding and acceptance. There are many mothers, like Nancy Lanza, like me, who fight with school staff and administration to make school a better, more understanding and accepting place for our ASD children.

Did she finally pull him out because she could not get the accommodations he needed? Or even with accommodations and great cooperative work between the school and the parents, was it too late for Adam to feel accepted, understood, emotionally safe in that building?

What if every time Adam passed that school he felt anew the pain of being different, of standing on the sidelines while the other carefree first graders made friends, played games, laughed and interacted with ease? What if, as his own world became smaller, the knowledge that those other childrens’ worlds stretched out invitingly before them became unbearable?

Oh, what if there were no guns in that home, no family gun hobby, no reason for Adam to ever consider using guns as a way of expressing his years of pain and isolation?

Reports indicate Nancy Lanza was a loving mother who tried to move heaven and earth to get her son what he needed. I think Adam probably loved her very much. I would not be surprised to find he killed her first, while she slept, with four bullets, to spare her the agony of what he was about to do; to spare her the loss of her son and the knowledge of his actions.

I don’t know anything, just those few facts with which I started. I realize I am conjuring a motive and trajectory all on my own, with nothing to back it up.

But I also know that there are so many kids who have experienced such similar rejection and isolation; so many parents who have torn their hair out trying to understand and help their children. Even when their efforts fail, even if their children jump off a bridge or hang themselves, two dozen innocents do not go with them.

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Leaving Walgreen’s this morning

10 Nov

As I was walking to my car, a bumper sticker on a car in the next row caught my eye.

“My kid has autism. What’s your excuse?”

I found myself thinking how incredibly handy that bumper sticker would have been when Max was between the ages of four and twelve. Man, did that ever sum it up.

Intrigued, I peeked into the car. There was a woman in the driver’s seat, on the phone. Without analyzing my behavior, I walked over to the passenger side, leaned down and caught her eye, making the universal “roll down your window” sign. She did.

“I just had to tell you that I love your bumper sticker.” I began, continuing “I have an almost-21 year old son on the spectrum.” Unexpectedly, I choked up and tears filled my eyes. “So many years, so many struggles, so much progress,” I continued as she smiled and nodded knowingly. Then she pointed behind her to a boy, seven or eight years old, in his booster seat.

“This is mine,” she said proudly. “Max, can you say hello?”

The little boy smiled through missing teeth, waved and said “He-llo!” in a high, singsong voice. I said hello in return, telling them MY son was named Max, too. He was blonde like your Max and mine, Chris; had those eyes, Terry, that we have always said are so recognizeable.

We said goodbye and I returned to my car. I can’t find the words for what I was feeling: a combination of familiarity, nostalgia, sadness, and a sense of inevitability, too. So many Maxes. So many children, born every day into families who together will find themselves walking a road they never knew was on the map. All to experience so much misunderstanding from others – misunderstanding that calls for a bumper sticker.