Adam Lanza has been reported to have Asperger Syndrome, although not confirmed, and was a young adult who isolated himself. It is now also known that he had Sensory Processing Disorder.
New reports, including an investigative report on PBS Frontline, interviewed family and friends of Adam and Nancy Lanza, drawing a clearer picture of his life and the struggles of a mother trying to help her child.
Adam was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) as a young child. The diagnosis is not always recognized by school districts. That can make it difficult to get the services to help the child.
Sensory Processing Disorder is a complicated disorder that presents differently in each child. For some any touch is painful, while others crave deep pressure to calm them. Simply transition from short sleeves to long sleeves can lead to a tantrum for some. Some of the difficulties can be Brushing hair, brushing teeth and even socks with a line over the toe can make the activity unbearable for some leading to tantrums.
The Academy of Pediatrics gave guidance to pediatricians directing them against using SPD as a diagnosis, but referring them to other disorders with symptoms of SPD, such as Autism. Despite urging for SPD to be included in the revised edition of the DSM-5, due out in May 2013, it will not be included.
The DSM task force states that further research is necessary before it could be included in an edition of the DSM manual. The newly identified Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis includes a sensory processing criteria.
In Adam’s case, his difficulties did not lessen as he got older. In addition to his SPD symptoms he was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. Crowded hallways at school and noise became a problem in middle school. The report indicated multiple changes in education placement between schools and even partial school at home under the guidance of the school district.
The information in the report appears to draw a picture of a mother trying to meet her child’s needs with the goal of independence. It is not clear if the mother had difficulty getting the child the proper supports and services in his educational placements. It might be interpreted that she had difficulty getting him the help he needed as evidenced by the many different placements.
If you speak to parents of children with special needs, whether SPD or another disability, they will tell you they need supports and services without having to fight for them.