The Mother of a Child with Autism Tries to Relate to Adam Lanza's Motherby Kimberly Kaplan
I recently read a headline on Yahoo about the “forgotten victim” of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
At first, I dismissed the headline saying to myself that I’m not interested in reading about this mother. I was having a hard enough time looking at the photos of the dead six-year-olds. Why would I read a sympathetic article about the mother of the shooter of those six-year-olds?
How can I relate to her?
I began to think about Adam Lanza’s mother. She was killed by her son which is a tragedy. What a terrible situation it must have been to be a child who willingly killed his own mother, for that mother to be killed by her son, and then for that son to take his own life.
The more I thought about it, I realized that in some ways I could relate to this mother.
She was a mother of a child with an autism spectrum disorder (Aspergers) and I have a child with autism. As autism moms, we both had a multitude of choices to make regarding our child’s behaviors and therapies and well-being, choices above and beyond the choices parents of typical kids face every day. And, some of those choices are not easy.
I felt sadness toward this woman. She had a difficult job of raising a child on the autism spectrum. I’m raising one, too. So, I understand.
Not everyone understands the additional issues associated with raising a special needs child. But, it is a struggle at times.
Additionally, this mother had divorced her son’s father and had taken on the job of raising her son by herself. Single parents of special needs kids know doing it alone is an additional hardship.
Plus, I remember watching the 60 Minutes report on the Sandy Hook shootings. They interviewed a couple who knew Adam Lanza’s mother and they said that his mother felt “raising Adam was a 24/7 job with his Aspergers.”
Of course it is. It’s called parenting, and in our case, parenting a special needs child. I understood what they meant right away.
Here’s where I break away from feeling sorry for Adam Lanza’s mother.
Without going too deeply into the issue, let’s just say that I’m not an advocate for gun ownership, especially when a gun resides inside a home with any volatile person. Arguments lead to strong emotions and strong emotions can lead to violence.
Another part of Adam Lanza’s story is one I would like to comment on, and I will discuss this issue further in my next blog. It is about home schooling.
I feel strongly that a child anywhere on the autism spectrum is NOT receiving any benefits from home schooling. Home schooling is a cop out, in my opinion.
Why is home schooling a cop out?
How can a child who already has social communication issues benefit from being removed from the opportunity of socially communicating?
Yes, a child may be bullied at school.
Yes, a child may feel uncomfortable at school.
Yes, they may even feel isolated.
That’s when the child, the school, and the parents sit down (again and again if need be) and figure out an in-school program that works for your child.
My child is still in elementary school, yet I have uneasy feelings about his next two schools, especially middle school. Right now, I am working hard with the school to try to create an atmosphere where my child feels comfortable and where the other students accept him.
That acceptance, I hope, will come on whatever level they can accept him.
If they see my child on the yard during recess and he’s running, flapping, and making his noises, I hope they can simply say, “That’s just ________” and leave it at that.
I’m hoping to bring up my child with a core group of kids that understand him because some of them have known him since kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.
I also get myself involved as often as possible with my son’s school. I’m known on campus as _______’s mom. I’m involved in school functions. I’m visible and I’m also brokering interactions between my child and his peers as often as his aide does.
My child and I just ran into a classmate at an OSH yesterday. I talked with the kid more than my son did but I will remember to ask my child to talk to ________ when school resumes and ask _______ about what he got for Christmas (which is what we discussed). I will broker that because it’s important for their in-class relationship. Or, at least, my son should try.
All of this hard work, we believe, will pay off one day.
As opposed to the opposite approach, allowing my child to get his way. Trust me, he’d like nothing better than to be home schooled. But, we’re not doing it because it’s not beneficial to him. It won’t help him in the future. It can only hurt.
That’s why it’s the easy way out. That’s where I disagreed with Adam Lanza’s mother. Isolating her son was not helpful. My guess is it only made him feel more isolated and misunderstood. He apparently had more issues than just Aspergers, but I question his care.
Look for my next blog, where I again discuss home schooling.
To Find Kimberly Kaplan:
www.smashwords.com or Amazon Kindle ebook “A Parents’ Guide to Early Autism Intervention”