We Need to Talk About Adam Lanza
And then blogger Liza Long torpedoed that progress with her viral post I Am Adam Lanza's Mother, in which she described her unpredictably violent and possibly autistic son as a budding version of Newtown's mass murderer. My heart broke yet again, because as difficult as Liza's son's situation is, and as legitimate as his need is for more and better mental health -- for him and kids like him -- she publicly and virally humiliated and demonized a 13-year-old boy. Who can read, and use the Internet, I'm guessing.
Yes, those media outlets that reprinted her post under the headline "I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother" made serious errors in judgment. And yes, Liza has since issued a joint apology with one of her critics, saying in part, "We are interested in opening a serious conversation on what can be done for families in need. Let’s work together and make our country better." We do need to work together. We do need to support people and families in need. But Liza’s initial choice to publicly compare her own son to a mass murderer is a choice that she will have to work very hard and long to undo, if she can undo it at all.
So I want you to remember: One way you can help Liza's son, and kids like him, is to call out wrongful accusations whenever you see them. It is our culture's pervasive misinformation and stigma regarding autism and other atypical neurologies that makes the help Liza's son needs harder to get -- because stigma doesn't just compound prejudice and fear among the populace, it compounds it among lawmakers. Lawmakers being the ones who determine, at the root, the breadth and scope of services available to our children. And as we saw in the recent autism congressional hearing, lawmakers are generally underinformed about matters like autism, and susceptible to absorbing loud misinformation. If we want real change to happen -- to protect all our children, to guarantee all people who need mental support the best resources possible -- we have to start by helping the rest of our society understand that those needs are legitimate.
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