On Friday, the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate released a report on a year-long study revealing that Adam Lanza's mental illness went untreated for years leading up to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. While a great deal of the study is alarming in its retrospective reporting, a few significant events in Lanza's life that were overlooked or unaddressed stand out.
The study found that Lanza faced developmental challenges from earliest childhood — including communication difficulties and socialization delays. His social emotional challenges exacerbated after 4th grade, but overall was described as well-liked by his peers and showed "appropriate classroom behavior." Early indications of his preoccupation with violence manifested itself in the form of a book he co-authored. Lanza's submission of "The Big Book of Granny" was:
A very dramatic text, filled with images and narrative relating child murder, cannibalism and taxidermy... It was not the sort of creation that most children would even know to invent.
The reported stated that the other author of the book was diagnosed with mental illness in his adult years and is supposedly living in a residence now, though the study's author's couldn't confirm if the "residence" was involuntary confinement in a locked facility or a community-based setting. There was no indication that the content of the book rang alarm bells among school authorities.
Yet there were many other instances when Lanza displayed similar disturbing behavior, many of which were also largely ignored.
Yale Child Study Center Evaluation
Lanza was sent for evaluation at the Yale Child Study Center in 9th grade, by which time he had already been withdrawn from school due to his anxiety. Yale warned that his "homebound" status and the strategy that his mother — who by then had been separated from his father — adopted of accommodating him rather than addressing his underlying needs would lead to dysfunction and isolation.
The Yale doctor expressed urgent concern in the evaluation report and recommended special education and therapeutic supports, as well as ongoing expert consultation — to which most were overlooked. Lanza's mother also went along with his resistance to medicate his anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
From ages 13 to 17, Lanza's OCD behavior, "markedly underweight presentation, psychiatric diagnoses and repeated homebound or independent study" were all noted in pediatric records, but they don't clearly address his need for mental health treatment. They do, however, note that "no medication or psychiatric treatment was being provided."
Late Teenage Years
From 2010 to 2012, Lanza ignored his father's repeated attempts at communication. He became increasingly preoccupied with murder, and the report described him as "living in virtual social isolation." Lanza joined an online community who encouraged his enthusiasm in mass murder.
The study examined his communications at the time, and determined that while it suggested depression and the occasional suicidal thought, Lanza didn't seem to have experienced psychosis, which meant a loss of contact with reality. As his mental health deteriorated, Lanza continued to have access to "numerous firearms and high capacity ammunition magazines".
In the months leading up to the horrifying massacre, Lanza's mother noted his despondency and refusal to leave the house. It was unsure, reported the study, if any measures were taken to bar his access to weapons, or whether his family considered that he might be suicidal.
His mother planned to move out of the town in 2012, and Lanza, perhaps in fear of leaving the "comfort zone" of Sandy Hook, said the study, planned and executed the shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.
The report, in its entirety, is deeply disturbing. It pointed to a lack of responsibility and a distressing — and ultimately fatal — pattern of sweeping things under the rug. The report's authors acknowledged that while there were "predisposing factors and compounding stress" in Lanza's life, they noted that it was not an attempt to explain his actions:
There is no way to adequately explain why [Lanza] was obsessed with mass shootings and how or why he came to act on this obsession. In the end, only he, and he alone, bears responsibility for this monstrous act.
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