Long Reads: Adam Lanza…the latest news

Reading in a group is always more fun than reading alone.Good Evening

Tomorrow on PBS, Frontline will air a two-part show about Adam Lanza and Nancy Lanza. I have two long reads to share with you that discusses this joint investigation between Frontline and the Hartford Courant.

The Frontline’s two-part documentary Raising Adam Lanza and Newtown Divided premieres Tuesday, Feb, 19, at 10 p.m. on PBS.

Here is the link to the full article from the Hartford Courant, by ALAINE GRIFFIN, agriffin@courant.com, and JOSH KOVNER, jkovner@courant.comRaising Adam Lanza: Who Was Nancy Lanza

Who Was Adam Lanza, And What Was The Nature Of His Relationship With His Mother?
Watch The FRONTLINE Special Tues., Feb. 19 at 10 p.m. (check your local listings)

Adam, 6, then diagnosed with a condition that made it difficult for him to manage and respond to sights, touch and smell, eventually struggled in the first grade at his new school — Sandy Hook Elementary.

His mother would respond, touching off a 10-year educational shuffle with moves in and out of schools and programs that addressed his sensory integration disorder and another diagnosis that would come by middle school: Asperger’s syndrome.

Adam would attend public school, take lessons at home, try private school for a couple of months, return to public school and attend Newtown High School, although he left after his sophomore year. He went to college at 16 and earned A’s and B’s — but it didn’t last. He was out in a year. He then went to a community college, and dropped out in the first semester.

A series of significant life changes followed for Adam as the number of people with whom he had contact began to shrink.

His parents divorced. He abruptly cut off contact with his father, Peter, in 2010, and grew estranged from his older brother. He spent more time alone at home. His mother, who loved to travel, told friends she was grooming him to be independent someday. There were even plans to leave New England — their lifelong home — so Adam could study history and possibly earn a college degree.

But mother and son never left. Adam, now 20, had a plan of his own. He returned to Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

We know the outcome of that fatal trip Adam took to his old elementary school…but this long article details interviews with people who knew Adam and Nancy Lanza, and gives us a look at a sick boy who needed help desperately, and a mother who seemed to take two different approaches when dealing with her sons illnesses.

The impression I get from the interviews is that Nancy handled Adam and his multiple mental illnesses differently before her divorce in 2008/2009…According to a longtime friend of Nancy’s, Marvin LaFontaine:

In kindergarten back in Kingston, he had been “coded,” or identified, as needing an “individual education plan” and extra attention, both in the classroom and at home, LaFontaine said.

“There was a shyness and a learning thing and they were trying to unravel it,” he said of Adam, whom Nancy Lanza would bring along to Ryan’s Cub Scout meetings.

“Adam was a quiet kid. He never said a word,” LaFontaine said. “There was a weirdness about him and Nancy warned me once at one of the Scout meetings … ‘Don’t touch Adam.’ She said he just can’t stand that. … He’d become teary-eyed and I think he would run to his mother.”

LaFontaine recalled that at one of the Scout meetings in Kingston, Adam, a slight child with a mop of curly brownish-red hair, became immersed in a crafts assignment but still exhibited the signs that would define his life: He was withdrawn, said next to nothing, was resistant to touch, and tended to exist in his own world.

On that day, LaFontaine watched Nancy Lanza approach Adam. LaFontaine knew virtually no one could touch Adam without the boy recoiling.

His mother leaned down and whispered something in the boy’s ear. Then she kissed him gently on the back of his head. The boy did not say anything, or move or acknowledge the kiss in any way. But he did not draw back.

“He didn’t seem to mind that,” LaFontaine recalled thinking.

There seems to be a history of folks coming in contact with Nancy and/or Adam Lanza, then poof…no further relations are made or kept.

From mothers of Adams classmates, to teachers and high school tech club sponsors, to Nancy’s youngest brother and Adam’s own brother, and father…people come into the Lanza’s lives and then fall out…never to follow-up or have further contact with a mother and son who needed a friend or community support.

Read the article and you will see, a pattern of significant changes and withdraws in Adam’s life that does not mesh with the professional opinions on how to take care of a child with the kind of mental illnesses Adam had.

She seems attentive and welcomed the help and understanding a few teachers, friends and family members that had a part of Adam’s life. Then later, after her divorce and in the time period before Adam killed all those people, Nancy would leave her son alone for days at a time…isolated in the basement. Nancy no longer would speak with her brother, or other close friends…Adam was kept from talking to Nancy’s brother too. There is also some discussion of Adam withdrawing from contact with his father Paul and brother Ryan.

This is a kid who was supposed to suffer from sensory disorders and other mental illnesses, who did not feel pain and had an extra-sensitive reaction to sights, sounds and touch. He would shut down and retreat into a corner, according to the sponsor of the Newtown High School Tech Club, he would sit there not moving or saying anything…like he was in some kind of catatonic state. (Don’t know if that is the technical term, but from the descriptions in the article, Adam would not even acknowledge or look at his tech club teacher when he was in this withdrawn state.)

So this kid who could not take loud noises…his mother would take him shooting. She would leave him alone for long periods of time when it was obvious he needed to have constant supervision. I don’t want to sound like I am faulting Nancy Lanza, but it is very strange when you see how many life changes this kid went through. This is a child who had more changes in his early and secondary education than a “normal” kid would be able to handle. It seems like there were contradictions left and right when it came to Nancy’s treatment and care of Adam.

Anyway, give the article a read, and take a look at the rest of these links below…

Raising Adam Lanza | Raising Adam Lanza | FRONTLINE | PBS

Adam Lanza’s Arsenal and What It Says About the Nation’s Relationship to Freedom and Fear — New York Magazine

Newtown shooter motivated by Norway massacre, sources say – CBS News

‘Raising Adam Lanza’ review: Revealing – SFGate

Detectives investigating Newtown massacre find Adam Lanza’s violent video games, ponder the 20-year-old mimicking a gory game scene – NY Daily News

Adam Lanza update: Thousands of dollars worth of ‘violent’ video games found in Lanza’s home

New Nancy Lanza Profile Is a Letdown


17 Comments on “Long Reads: Adam Lanza…the latest news”

  1. I had planned on writing more about this story, but my laptop is not charging correctly, and only gives me a short period of battery time.

  2. Fannie says:

    Rachel’s on…………let’s see how many republicans gets pissed off.

  3. Fannie says:

    Info on Rachel’s show is pretty the same information, but from the beginning what alot of Americans didn’t know was that Saddam would never have allowed Osama/Alqaeda in his country. That is pointed out, and people just don’t get it.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Thanks for this post, JJ. I’m looking forward to watching Frontline tomorrow night.

    I wouldn’t characterize Adam Lanza’s diagnosed problems as “mental illnesses.” He had a developmental disorder, Aspbergers, and nerve disorders–sensory processing disorder and congenital insensitivity to pain, which can both go along with autism spectrum disorders. As far as we know, Adam wasn’t psychotic or bipolar.

    He may have been depressed–most of these shooters are.

    • dakinikat says:

      It’s a great post. Adam clearly needed more than he got …

    • Sorry about that, maybe I should have said mental issues? But he definitely had problems. I wanted to link to those articles you sent me BB, but my internet service keeps going off and on. We have a bad storm heading our way and boy is it windy.

      I am looking forward to the show tomorrow too.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    I thought the most interesting part of the Harford Courant article was the description of how one teacher, Richard Novia, was able to work with Adam and develop some closeness with him.

    Unfortunately, Nancy took Adam out of school and away from the people who were trying to help him. I think he needed the human interaction.

    • cwaltz says:

      It strikes me that it is entirely possible that Nancy herself could have had some mental health issues. Mental illness is not always readily apparent. Just because someone appears “normal” when you run into them intermittently does not mean that in their home they aren’t struggling. Our society does not do itself any favors either with our proclivity to treat mental illness like leprosy instead of like any other medical condition(we don’t insist heart patients can think themselves better.) We insist that “strong” people should always be able to shoulder their problems on their own rather than insisting that problems are best approached from multiple angles to determine multiple outcomes and that individuals sometimes should seek out third parties particularly if they become too close to a problem to look at it objectively. That kind of thinking as seen as weakness, rather than strength.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Hey, it’s good to see you!

        I totally agree. Nancy obviously had issues, since she bought into the whole end-of-the-world coming thing. I’m very concerned about the focus on mental illness with these shootings. Most of the mass shooters are depressed and suicidal. Do you know how many Americans suffer from depression in their lifetimes? It’s like the common cold. And some people seem to want to look at everyone’s medical records to see if they’ve been diagnosed with a “mental illness.” Creepy.

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking as a parent than knowing your child is considered “different” and does not “fit in”. Nancy Lanza must have suffered greatly from the realization that her child would probably never get better so I refuse to judge her parenting skills.

    It had to be an equally isolated road for her as well. Bringing him to a shooting range is probably not a good idea in hindsight but it does appear that over the years she did her best to help him overcome his issues which more than likely drove others away.

    This is likely a small consolation for the parents who also lost their own children during that massacre but it just makes my heart bleed since whatever she tried to do for him seemed to have the best intentions in meeting his needs.

    We can weep for the loss of life that happened in Newtown but it may not have happened had he not had access to so much firepower in the first place.

    I am convinced that Nancy Lanza, whatever her own private issues, never saw this coming.

    • NW Luna says:

      It would be a lot harder to massacre dozens of people if all you had was an 18th-Century musket, which is what the writers of the “right to bear arms” had in mind — not machine-gun-type weapons like the semi-automatics and automatics available now.

      • cwaltz says:

        More people die from handguns than semi automatics or automatics. This was a real tragedy but the truth is you can do a decent amount of damage from a pistol. The semi and automatic argument is just a distraction that the politicians came up with so they don’t have to address why they haven’t funded the database for mentally ill or actually clarified the rules as to who should be placed on it(For example, Cho was seen outpatient after being ordered by a Judge to seek help and never put in a database.)

  7. NW Luna says:

    Thinking about those violent video games and what all those visuals of violence may do:

    Teaching parents to switch channels from violent shows to educational TV can improve preschoolers’ behavior, even without getting them to watch less, a study found.

    The results were modest and faded over time, but may hold promise for finding ways to help young children avoid aggressive, violent behavior, the study authors and other doctors said.


  8. dm says:

    Having 2 very close friends who both has sons with “issues” (bipolar, anxiety, depression), I am incredibly sad reading about Adam. His family support (dad, brother) certainly left him more vulnerable…I would never begin to judge or blame his mother. Having witnessed more parental hell than I can ever imagine with my two friends, it is exhausting and the resources to help these families are far and few between. I do the best I can to support my friends and their sons and mostly just try to be there for them when they need to vent.