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Tuesday, December 18, 2012


That prepping was hardly the cause of her being shot by her son...just as there are many who watch war games on the net or film, and do not do crazy stuff, so too there are those odd folks who are preppies--believe the end is coming. In fact, I had a friend who years ago did just that in then settled down , went to school , and ended up a specialist in Parkinson;'s disease.
In fact, ask why she took her kid out of schol. Why she was travelling all over to look for a new place to live, and to rid herself of the mansion (cost well over a million) she lived in, what she discovered about her own background that disturbed her, why she homeschooled but was finding it a burden, etc etc

Everyone who has a severely mentally ill and/or developmentally disordered kid goes into high gear as they approach 21. This is the age when they will no longer be eligible for ANY services local school systems might offer (a homeschooling mom could still bring a kid to occupational or speech therapy, for example, if the kid were deemed to need it).

Connecticut has atrocious free public adult services for high functioning developmentally disabled adults, so it would have been logical for her to look elsewhere for her son.

The other issue in Connecticut is that no matter how willing a parent may be to pay for shrinks, therapists, programs for a kid, if they are odd or scarey or a potential liability enough, private clinicians will simply refuse to take them on. There aren't enough shrinks who can handle them, and the liability terrifies them. Well off parents beg, plead, argue, rage begging clinicians to treat their troubled kids. The public clinics will take them but are mostly lousy.

One solution is to move to New York where the public services are better for the mentally ill and disabled, but not all parents want to go there (to live in a safe neighborhood may be as expensive as in CT, with a much higher tax bill).

Also, the loose talk about her trying to get a conservatorship. Most parents of severely mentally ill kids have considered this. With many diagnoses, one needs this so as to be able to hospitalize a kid when they are dangerously ill but in denial. Or just dangerous. Most parents would rather be able to get their kid stabilized in a hospital than have them run out into the world and kill people or rob someone and get arrested and thrown into jail. Naturally, nobody with any spirit wants another person having this kind of power over them.

I think the guns were just plain nuts, given what we've heard about A.L., but hindsight is always 20/20. Maybe it was the only way (she thought) she could bond with a kid obsessed with violent war themed video games.

Parents of dangerous kids often take a kid out of school when they sense that they are about to explode or do something awful. Most schools are unable to cope with truly difficult kids. Most parents are prepared to put up with being roughed up a little by their troubled kid at home rather than have teachers and social workers see the kid's violence, document it, and give them a record.

Also,most schools have zero tolerance for physical violence or slurs. Kids on the spectrum often say really offensive things without being willing to change their language. They could be sued for hate speech even when they might just be being stubborn about using an outmoded term. If you are afraid that your kid is in a belligerent mood, you might well keep him at home rather than risk him hurting someone.

Another issue is that even (especially) people who go on to be vile murderers may be bullied, harassed and targets of incredible cruelty at school. Kids on the spectrum often suffer horribly at school. The years 18-20 can be particularly difficult. Typical kids are screwing around, boozing, living at college and goofing off, having first part time jobs, driving around, going on spring breaks, travelling to Europe with friends.

Many kids on the spectrum (even those beloved by their families) look different, go to social skills group, don't go on dates (usually), often live at home or in supervised programs, and often gloomily proclaim that they will never marry or have a job because noone will want them.

I've read that the mom was ill with multiple sclerosis (?) If true, this would have made her redouble her efforts to find him placement somewhere that might help him become more independent after she became more disabled.

One thing I find odd are the references to her travelling to nine or more cities in the previous year or two. What on earth did her son do during these times? I would imagine her trips would have enormously unsettled him if she didn't bring him, made him wonder if she was trying to get away from him. It is a little odd, given that she was ostensibly home schooling him. If she took him, perhaps it amused him. But I can't imagine it making a kid of the type he has been describe as very happy (he didn't like being near other people and planes are very cramped).

I'm not blaming her. I suspect she needed to get away, especially since she didn't have a husband to help her look after her son, and especially since the brother was out of the picture.

One last thing: it would have made sense to get conservatorship of him if she were trying to get SSI for him. And he were resisting. In Connecticut and most states, you cannot get access for a kid to the programs of job training, adult supports, assisted living, occupational therapy, etc. unless you have SSI. Even if he had insurance, it would only be til 26, and after that, he'd need to have SSI.

I agree with all that R writes. I've also wondered about the possibility that mother was contemplating a transition to a supervised living situation. These transitions can go quite smoothly, but sometime things go badly awry. I've been involved in a couple of cases that, even with lots of careful emotional preparation, turned very ugly.

We don't know much of anything for sure, so understand that I'm examining possibilities, rather than offering certainties. It's in this spirit that I'll address possible meanings of the prepping and the guns.

It's certainly possible that, however mistaken, mother consciously hoped that the guns would help her son learn responsibility, but there are many things a person could do to promote responsibility, so why might she do it in this particular way, a way that almost all people standing outside of her situation regard as unfathomably misguided?

To understand possible meanings of that choice, I would turn to Freud's notion of the sense of a symptom.

First, I'd look at the idea of an economic and social meltdown as an apocalyptic fantasy. Perhaps as the son was getting older, with no sign of easing in his difficulties, mother felt cornered by the future. It's easy to imagine that mother was overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom. In this regard, think of intense predator-threat anxiety.

A specific apocalyptic fantasy could concretize boundless dread that mother may have felt in her situation. By assuming a specific form, a fantasy can partly bind the dread, while also making concrete preparation possible. Psychically, this is better than feeling completely helpless in the face of a future collapsing around her and her son.

In addition to their role in prepping for defense, the guns may have been an expression of frustration and rage she was feeling about her predicament. It isn't an either or thing. But imagine the momentary relief a very frustrated person might feel blasting away with an assault rife pointed at silhouette human targets.

There are other possibilities, but this is how I've been pondering the specific nature of the choices that were made. This way of thinking doesn't negate other insights, but I hope I've conveyed something about another way of thinking about puzzling behaviors. We can rant and rave about how stupid or misguided mother was, but as someone who attempts to examine the workings of the mind, I want to understand decisions that may seem irrational and dangerous on their face. So I look beneath the surface irrationality, for the deeper sense of an action taken by a particular individual facing a particular challenge.

I should add that I don't expect we'll ever fully understand Mom or the son with anything close to certainty. So far, we have no diary, no florid psychosis recorded on video, ala Jared Loughner. At the same time, we can do more than moralize about about mother's tragic decisions. We can try to understand her as a human being who was probably under unrelenting stress, grasping for solutions where there may have been no good options.

There has been some renewed speculation regarding the survivalist mentality---folks who now call themselves preppers. It is not such a new thing--been around since the 1950s and even before. I recall the Civil Defense air raid drills from my time in grade school. Survival thinking is just more narrowly focused now: me and mine and no one else gets our stuff. Apocalypse films have contributed much to this outlook. Those and violent video games. Violent societies are prepared for dire vicissitudes. They have to be. This does not explain Newtown---but it was somewhere in the mix, seems to me.

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