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The Heart of a Killer

I am part of a family that has had to face mental health head-on in a variety of ways.

When it’s come to our son—diagnosed with ASD in 2005—we have not had the luxury of denial, and we could not do our child the disservice of attributing his struggles to personality, quirkiness or behavioral problems.

He needed our help.

And two parents aren’t enough. He’s needed a whole community of adults around him offering whatever pieces of themselves that might ease some of his frustrations, bridge gaps of communication and provide opportunities for him to work within his strengths so that he might further develop in those challenging areas.

how many more must kill before we make difficult changes to how we approach mental illness.

We’re among the lucky… our boy is sweet and gentle, and although he has difficulty controlling his emotions when easily frustrated, he has never suffered from angry or violent compulsions. But for many desperate families that is sadly not the case, and they need our help.

Even though Autism is not a mental illness, but rather a neurodevelopmental disorder; we still fall within the mental health community thoroughly enough to see first hand how this system is failing. I live in a world where my son does not have access to therapies that could help, because insurance companies (including Medicaid) do not cover them. Even in a home with educated and informed parents, my child is handicapped by a system built for the well-being of executives rather than helpless kids.

How many more troubled young people must we watch destroy others before we relinquish some rights for the sake of our kids?

As much support as we’ve received from our immediate community, we’ve seen equal parts lacking from the greater community of our nation. Many children like mine cannot receive the help they need to thrive or maybe even survive in this society. A handful through decades of suffering eventually find that disparate condition compelling them to kill… some perhaps who could’ve been saved through better resources as children.

Right now many are asking how many more must die before we as a nation make difficult changes to how we approach guns.

I am asking how many more must kill before we make difficult changes to how we approach mental illness.

Our children need help. No number of armed guards or metal detectors or confiscated weapons can save them until we first find a way to rescue them.

Our nation must make mental health care resources readily available to all children.

How to Save our Kids

  • Parents, you can no longer ignore your child’s compulsiveness, social anxiety, rage, speech challenges, behavioral quirks. Investigate the issue. Talk to an expert just in case your child is suffering from something deeper than a bad temper.
  • Teachers, you have a responsibility to intervene in those cases when parents are uninformed and undereducated about the signs of mental illness, social and learning disabilities.
  • Administrators, you must stand behind your teachers. You must make those tough phone calls to specialists and parents and you must not skimp on your special ed budget.
  • Pediatricians, you must overcome the fear of your peers and offer parents some options. Have the courage to admit you might not know what’s going on. Connect with area resources that can step in to offer children the expertise you lack.

But most of all… our nation must make mental health care resources readily available to all children.

Where to Start with Mental Health

Find local resources for you or your family via NAMI

Know the warning signs of common mental health disorders

Believing that a child’s anger is “just a phase” that he or she will eventually outgrow is to deny what could be a serious problem. Before uncontrollable angry behavior escalates to a point of no return, parents can confront it and get the professional help they need. —Psychology Today

If you haven’t already, read Liza Long’s painfully transparent article about her own son’s rage disorder and mental illness in America, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.”



“Teachers, you have a responsibility to intervene in those cases when parents are uninformed and undereducated about the signs of mental illness, social and learning disabilities.”

As a former high school mathematics teacher – and I’m 28 – I disagree with this statement. I’m only speaking my mind on this particular point because I have experience. While I can agree that teachers should speak up, it’s not their responsibility. I mean, add that particular responsibility to the already incredible demands put on them? I quit teaching because of the load I took home each night. I already had to treat students differently based on their capabilities – and it was my responsibility to educate the parents, too? You mean the parents that I called who didn’t give a crap their kid wasn’t going to graduate.

Seems appropriate.

I’m not trying to be confrontational, but you’re assigning responsibility where it doesn’t belong because you can’t get your hands on what you need. Note that I’m not disagreeing with your need.


BTW, I do realize this is your blog and your place to speak up. I’m not trying to downplay that.


I found your blog via Margot of Pitch Design (via Twitter) and while I realize this post is almost a year old, I wanted to say I appreciate it. Also as a former elementary school teacher, I wholeheartedly disagree with the previous commenter. It is absolutely a teacher’s responsibility to engage and involve parents. I’m glad that someone who cites having to treat students differently based on capabilities in a negative light (at least that’s how I’m reading it) is no longer in the classroom.

Anyway, keep on keepin’ on, from one parent of a child with ASD to another.


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Zoe. I really appreciate your perspective!

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