"I Am Adam Lanza's Mom" Sparks Debate, Advice

By Lisa Fernandez
|  Monday, Dec 17, 2012  |  Updated 6:31 PM PDT
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A woman who blogged about her mentally ill son in relation to the recent tragic shooting in Connecticut, has created a greater debate about how families with special needs children are helped. NBC Bay Area's Kris Sanchez reports from the Morgan Autism Center in San Jose.

A woman who blogged about her mentally ill son in relation to the recent tragic shooting in Connecticut, has created a greater debate about how families with special needs children are helped. NBC Bay Area's Kris Sanchez reports from the Morgan Autism Center in San Jose.

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The blog of a mother in Boise, Idaho candidly telling the world that she is - figuratively - Adam Lanza's mother has gone viral, sparking a national debate on what parents should do with children who suffer from violent streaks and mental illness.

Liza Long wrote a blog titled, "I am Adam Lanza's mother:' Another mom's cry for help." That title references the fact that she too, has a son who is bright but disturbed. "I live with a son who is mentally ill," she wrote. "I love my son. But he terrifies me."

Long spoke on the Today show Monday morning: "Every time I hear about  a mass shooting, I think about my son. And I wonder if someday, I'll be that mom," Long told NBC News in an exclusive interview.

Meanwhile, her essay has been read by countless people - all of whom are scratching their heads on how to prevent what happened Friday in Newtown, Conn., where the real Adam Lanza killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza also killed six adults, including his mother, Nancy, and himself. Reports are that Lanza had a developmental disorder, and possibly was autistic, but there have been no definitive diagnoses reported to the public yet on that.

Jennifer Sullivan, executive director of the Morgan Autism Center in San Jose, said that government funding for the mentally ill is "woefully inadequate," and she, too, sympathizes with mothers and fathers in similar situations to the Longs and the Lanzas of the world.

Karen Fessel, executive director of the Autism Health Insurance Project, a California nonprofit, certainly didn't have all the answers on Monday. But she did offer some personal advice in light of the fact that she has raised a son, now 17, who has Asperger's.

She said that parents who fear that their children are violent can call police, who have the power to take the child away to a mental facility where doctors can observe and evaluate them. She said that sometimes, children who are acting violently could have another issue in addition to autism or Asperger's - such as anxiety, or another diagnoses - that can be and should be addressed in the context of their other mental challenge.

Several experts were quick to jump on that point across the country: There is no evidence that links autism or Asperberger's to violence.

Aside from the violence issue, Fessel says she does what she can to make her son feel connected and part of a community. She sends her son to a special school - Springstone School in Lafayette - where her son doesn't have to feel alone, but can make friends with other children who have Asperberger's.

Most importantly, Fessel said, is that parents with children of special needs should join some type of support group to vent, share and get advice. In the South Bay, that group is called Parents Helping Parents, in San Mateo County, there is Community Gatepath, in Marin County, there is Matrix Parent Network, in Contra Costa County, there is CARE Parent Network , and the Family Resource Network in Alameda County, to name a few.

"I hope she gets a lot of people reaching out to her and so that she doesn't feel alone," Fessel said. "There are a lot of people out there who have gone through this."

NBC Bay Area's Kris Sanchez contributed to this report.
 

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