Report Claims Mother Appeased Lanza, Schools Enabled Her

The report found that throughout Adam Lanza's life, there were missed opportunities to address his disabilities rather than accommodate them.
Published: November 21, 2014

Although Adam Lanza was ultimately responsible for the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting that killed 20 children and six adult staff members, his schools unknowingly helped his mother accommodate and appease him, which resulted in him not getting the educational and social-emotional support he needed. Those were the findings of the Office of the Child Advocate report that was released Friday.

The report found that throughout Lanza’s (called “AL” in the report) life, his parents preferred to accommodate his disabilities rather than follow recommendations provided by specialists. Additionally, schools and other professionals failed to understand the severity or implications of his disabilities.

“In the course of AL’s entire life, minimal mental health evaluation and treatment (in relation to his apparent need) was obtained,” the report states. “Of the couple of providers that saw AL, only one – the Yale Child Study Center – seemed to appreciate the gravity of AL’s presentation, his need for extensive mental health and special education supports, and the critical need for medication to ease his obsessive-compulsive symptoms.”

The report also describes how Lanza’ educational, social and emotional state deteriorated until the day he committed mass murder.

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The report’s key findings are:

  • AL presented with significant developmental challenges from earliest childhood, including communication and sensory difficulties, socialization delays, and repetitive behaviors. The Newtown Public Schools also provided some special education services to AL when he was in elementary school, but services were limited and providers did not identify any communication or social-emotional deficits
  • AL’s social-emotional challenges increased after fourth grade.
  • There were early indications of AL’s preoccupation with violence, depicted by extremely graphic writings that appeared to have been largely unaddressed by schools and possibly by parents.
  • His anxiety began to further impact his ability to attend school, and in 8th grade he was placed on “homebound” status.
  • He had several sessions with a community psychiatrist between the ages of 13 and 15.
  • At age 14, the Yale Child Study Center stated that accommodating AL rather than addressing his underlying needs would lead to a deteriorating life of dysfunction and isolation.
  • AL was diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Mr. Lanza tried to seek appropriate treatment for his son
  • AL’s mother reinforced his resistance to medication
  • AL’s education plan didn’t appropriately classify his disabilities and did not adhere to applicable guidelines for them
  • The school system cared about AL but also unwittingly enabled his mother’s preference to accommodate and appease AL through the educational plan’s lack of attention to social-emotional support, failure to provide related services and agreement to ALS’ plan of independent study and early graduation
  • AL and his parents didn’t seek or participate in any mental health treatment after 2008 and no sustained input from any mental health provider is documented after 2006
  • His parents might not have understood the severity or implications of his disabilities
  • AL’s pediatric records from age 13 to 17 note his obsessive compulsive behaviors, markedly underweight presentation, psychiatric diagnoses, and repeated homebound or independent study, but records don’t clearly address AL’s need for mental health treatment, and often note during high school years that no medication or psychiatric treatment was being provided.
  • AL progressively deteriorated in the last years of his life, living in virtual social isolation
  • AL stopped communicating with his father in 2010
  • AL became increasingly preoccupied with mass murder, encouraged by a cyber community (a micro society of mass murder enthusiasts) with whom he emailed
  • AL did not have psychosis
  • AL engaged in recreational shooting with his parents and retained access to many guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines despite the deterioration of his mental health
  • AL was anorexic at the time of his death, weighing 112 pounds (he was six feet tall)
  • In the wake of his mother’s plan to move out of Sandy Hook, which may have stimulated fears by AL of leaving the comfort zone of his home, he planned and executed the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

The report also made several key recommendations, including screening and evaluation for children up to age 21; care coordination and information sharing; training and workforce development; support of and engagement with families; and education; as well as increased expertise and services to support children with developmental and mental health challenges.

Read the full report.

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