Shit!…Ayo. I checked my gut, my insides. I knew in my heart he was okay. It’s one of those things all mothers do. No one had to tell me, I felt it. My 14-year old freshman was okay.
After that moment, I could hear more. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 20 minutes north of me. 17 killed. My friend’s son is okay. As the evening rolled on and more information came out, I moved from worried, to sad, to pissed. I got pissed when I heard “it was an act of evil” and all we do is “send thoughts and prayers.” I’ve stayed pissed since. Pissed works. It tells me there is something more to SEE. It tells me something needs to CHANGE. It tells me it’s time to DO.
So what is there to SEE, Change and DO? Let’s start with this:
Nikolas Cruz had a chronic battle with mental illness and depression, which didn’t start recently and often never does. Physiological limitations in his brain and in the brains of many of our children can often be present and go on as undiagnosed Processing Disorders. These unseen and unrecognized Processing Disorders can be highly correlated with later diagnosis of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. I’ve worked for over 20 years in this field, I see kids who struggle with these disorders and I see the effect it has on their emotions and state of mind. I’ve seen how troubled brains and troubled minds work… and troubled brains cause trouble.
Processing disorders are identified by breakdowns in functioning and/or behavioral abilities that cannot be attributed to brain structural damage or abnormalities. In other words, with these disorders, the brain LOOKS like it is intact and SHOULD be functioning intact, but IT IS NOT. Rather, poor wiring and connections in the brain can cause disruptions in everything from motor, communication, learning, social, emotional and behavioral function. When these disorders go unidentified or undetected AND untreated, they can lead to emotional and mental breakdown. This is why early detection and treatment is critical.
This isn’t new! There’s evidence that not only was THIS shooter’s brain broken, but that the brains of MANY of the mass shooters were. A disrupted brain in an environment that is stressful, that doesn’t recognize what is happening and more importantly doesn’t know how to handle it, is a recipe for DISASTER. Cruz showed early signs of a possible processing disorder, but nothing in his history suggested that this was identified or addressed.
BROKEN BRAIN + BROKEN ENVIRONMENT = BROKEN LIFE
We look at situations like these and after the fact we say, what could we have done? We get caught in the arguments and feel helpless. We can pray and send good wishes yes... BUT we must also ACT!
We can begin to open our eyes to SEE these early signs in our children and we can CHANGE the way we think about these issues and we can DO something by getting the right help early.
I’m NOT saying that ALL processing disorders lead to mental illness and mass shootings. I am NOT here to be an alarmist. I am saying that there can be a correlation AND it is important enough for us to take a look! I am urging us all to SEE what we are missing. CHANGE how we think about and handle these situations and DO- act by getting information and help when necessary.
WHAT WE NEED TO SEE
It is our DUTY to see what is happening with our children. Sometimes we don’t see because we don’t want to and other times it because we don’t know what to look for.
Below are some signs of a Processing Disorder that can help you identify early signals of emotional dis-regulation and instability in your child indicating that they are struggling with adapting to their environment and the demands of life.
See if your child:
- Is inflexible
- Has trouble making friends and prefers to be alone
- Has difficulty with change in routines and activities
- Has trouble controlling their emotions or have emotional outbursts
- Seems obsessive about specific activities
- Has difficulty respecting authority or consistently challenges authority
- Appears impulsive
- Has difficulty identifying or solving their problems/turns to you to solve problems for them
- Is a problem teller rather than a problem solver
- Blames everyone and everything else for their problems
- Is often the victim...everything happens 'to' them
- Struggles academically
- Has difficulty with social communication
- Demonstrates challenge in motor skills and coordination
- Gets frustrated easily
- Has difficulty with persisting to task
- Is having emotional and behavioral challenges at home or school
- Isolating themselves
- Is not adapting to the social demands
- Wants to control situations
- Always needing to know what is happening
It isn't any ONE of these things that indicate the possibility of a Processing Disorder; it is a cluster of these behaviors. In addition there is other testing that can be performed to confirm or rule-out the presence of these disorders. This is a place to start.
So don’t be afraid to SEE. It is only when we adults are willing to open our eyes and SEE what we don’t want to see, then we can move onto the next step of change. You can’t change what you can’t see. Are we willing to SEE the early signs?
WHAT WE NEED TO CHANGE
The definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect a different result. We keep doing the same thing when these tragedies occur. We are shocked, we feel bad, we pray, and we talk. How about we ACT! How about we take another look? How about we focus on prevention rather than reaction!
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. If you notice any of these types of disorders while raising your children don’t be an expert. Stop, get help! As heartbreaking as it is to hear your child may have a processing disorder, it is far better than receiving the call that your child is one of the nation's mass murderers. It's not only your child's life you are saving, but your community's too."
Let’s CHANGE the conversation. Let’s CHANGE what we look at. Let’s CHANGE when we start looking (BEFORE it’s too late). If we make it our duty to open our eyes and look early, we could CHANGE the trajectory of a child’s life and potentially protect our selves, our children and our communities.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Instead of feeling hopeless and helpless in the face of all of this, instead of just calling this “an act of evil” which leaves us praying and hoping. Let’s DO something different.
Here’s what we all CAN DO…parents and teachers alike.
A) Identify if there are possible early signs
B) Prioritize your child above all else and get testing to rule out or determine if your child and your family needs help. You are not an expert in this. GET the help of an expert to give you answers. Not knowing is NO excuse. FIND OUT!
C) Get the right intervention... it is possible to rewire the brain and move it from a broken brain that could possibly lead to these broken children that then break society!
Parents, teachers and health professionals need to look at these problems from the beginning, when they start in early childhood. They need to SEE these problems, which can begin to show themselves through social, behavioral, learning, motor and communication problems. These deficits can start in early childhood, from the beginning. Let’s not wait to start looking for them in high school or worse after a tragedy. There are signs!
Let’s stop talking about this after each tragedy and work to address the brains of the children who need help before it becomes catastrophic for our society. Let’s create a new environment for these types of disorders.
Let’s start a conversation around changing the minds and brains of all children and supporting their parents with tools on how to deal with these types of issues. We CAN DO something NOW!