His eyes flashed.
“Alex*, put it down. Please,” I added, glancing nervously at the many smallbuzzing and flying and and princess-playing all around the room.
“Alex . . .” But it was too late. The plastic shopping cart was in the air, flying towards a ballerina with a baton. Crash! The girl and a Lego tower behind her crumpled into a heap. “Whaaaa!!!”
Alex, 7, was running from the room.
[The next day, after a visit with the principal and half-day suspension]
“Good, eat your lunch.”
“I don’t want this.”
“Well, that’s what your parents packed. It looks good to me!”
“No, it’s not. It’s yucky. I won’t eat it.”
“Why don’t you just try it? I thought you liked peanut butter and jelly.”
“Well, I don’t have anything else to give you. If you eat your sandwich, we can get ice cream.”
“Well, then, I guess you’ll miss recess. You have to eat before you can play.”
“Nooooooo!” Suddenly, Alex was on his feet in his chair, dumping the contents of his lunchbox onto the floor. Hot tears streamed down his bright red face. “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!” he screamed.
The teacher’s aide, my hero, swooped in and carried Alex, kicking and screaming, back to the classroom. The other children began to whimper.
“Shh, shh, it’s okay,” I told them, my eyes following Alex. “Just eat.”
• • •
I am not Adam Lanza’s mother, but I have been a teacher. I know what it means to deal with difficult children.
I’ve seen kids hit, bite, scratch, and throw things at other kids (and. I’ve seen kids who won’t sit still, won’t obey, won’t stop talking, won’t follow directions; kids who stand on desks and tear decorations off classroom walls because they’re mad.
I’ve seen kids who, without their medication, cry at the drop of a hat. Everything is misery.
According to the CDC, 8.4 percent of children ages three to 17 in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. Other common disorders include anxiety, disruptive behavior, affective (mood), and pervasive development disorders like autism and Asperger’s syndrome. And these disorders don’t just affect kids in the U.S. I was a teacher in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Are any of the cases I saw as extreme as Adam Lanza’s or Michael’s, the star of Liza Long’s article, “‘I am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective on the Conversation in America”? Absolutely not. I can only imagine what it would be like to have a 13-year-old wield a knife. But I’ve seen enough to know that she’s right: Mental illness is not something that should be ignored. Parents need better options for their children.
But . . . Also . . .
What is it with the rising numbers of mental illness amongst kids in the past few years? The CDC states ADHD counts have increased by nearly one-quarter in the last decade. Are we as a nation really getting sicker and sicker? Or is it . . . something else?
After all, Alex was a sweet kid with very real problems, but sometimes, I swear, that kid just needed to be smacked.
*Name changed to protect the innocent—namely, me
And on that note, Happy Holidays everyone! ;)
- Conn. school shooting: South Jersey mental health experts discuss Adam Lanza’s possible condition (nj.com)
- An ADHD Primer (everydayhealth.com)
- “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” (outsidethebeltway.com)
- Digging Deeper (jesscy.wordpress.com)