Our Children Need Our Help.
What happened on Friday, 12/14/12 in Newtown, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary School brought this nation to its knees. This has happened before, way too many times. But this time it happened in an elementary school, to really young children who had their young lives stripped away entirely too soon. And the surviving children had their innocence taken away forever. I could go on and on about how terrible this tragedy is and all of the people who are affected and will forever be affected by this senseless act of evil.
But the real question is, how can we as a society prevent this from happening again?
According to news reports, the shooter had a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome. I can’t pretend that I know much about it. I do know of a few people who have been diagnosed with it. Here is the definition from Mayo Clinic: “Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Children with Asperger’s syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics. Doctors group Asperger’s syndrome with other conditions that are called autistic spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders. These disorders all involve problems with social skills and communication. Asperger’s syndrome is generally thought to be at the milder end of this spectrum. While there’s no cure for Asperger’s syndrome, if your child has the condition, treatment can help him or her learn how to interact more successfully in social situations.”
I have no idea whether or not this particular person received help for Asperger’s Syndrome. I am also not implying in any way that Asperger’s Syndrome caused this young man to commit this terrible atrocity. I believe he did attend public school for a while and was then home-schooled.
What could have happened with this young man that would cause him to become so enraged that he could do these horrible acts, not only to his mother, but to innocent children and school staff? We may never know the full answer.
All we can do as parents, schools, and communities is anything in our power to not let this tragedy go down in history without having learned something from it. And most importantly, what can we do to reduce or even eliminate the chances of this ever happening again?
I personally believe there are many things that can happen in a child’s life that can shape their personalities, their sense of empathy, compassion for others, and their morals. I could talk about violent video games, divorce, internet access, bullying, t.v. shows, gun control, latchkey kids, etc. But the two main things that are of utter importance in a child’s life are parents and schools.
It begins first and foremost at home with the parents. There must be a solid foundation in the home with the parents as appropriate role models. Children are sponges and model the behaviors of their parents. Their sense of self-worth is molded through the years based upon not only the positive and actively involved attention they get from their parents, but also appropriate discipline. Children require and actually crave boundaries. It gives them a sense of security and accountability. Parents must be a strong, positive, and active presence in their child’s life.
The second major influence in the shaping of a child’s identity, is the school system. The schools that I have personally been involved with are very receptive to parents’ concerns and do everything they possibly can to ensure that ‘no child is left behind’.
Mainstreaming has been a part of school culture over the last several years. Wikipedia’s definition of mainstreaming is this “in the context of education, the practice of educating students with special needs in regular classes during specific time periods based on their skills. This means regular education classes are combined with special education classes. Schools that practice mainstreaming believe that students with special needs who cannot function in a regular classroom to a certain extent “belong” to the special education environment. Access to a special education classroom, often called a “self-contained classroom or resource room”, is valuable to the student with a disability. Students have the ability to work one-on-one with special education teachers, addressing any need for remediation during the school day. Many researchers, educators and parents have advocated the importance of these classrooms amongst political environments that favor their elimination. Proponents of both mainstreaming and the related philosophy of educational inclusion assert that educating children with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers fosters understanding and tolerance, better preparing students of all abilities to function in the world beyond school.”
In my opinion mainstreaming is a good thing. Could it be better? Most definitely. The one-on-one aspect of mainstreaming needs to be addressed. Schools are understaffed and staff is underpaid. Teachers are not only looked at as educators, but also as protectors of our children while they are in the confines of a school building. It’s a huge job to work with children, especially those with special needs. It is a job that is way undervalued in our society. We need to add more value to special educators, teachers, and school administrators by way of salaries and staff education. These kids are our future. Aren’t they worth it?
The bottom line is that parents and school staff are the most important factors in a child’s life. It Takes a Village, a book written by Hillary Clinton back in 1996, rings so true right now. That was 17 years ago.
It’s really about time that we as Americans come together and come up with a solid plan to help the children of this next generation grow up to be confident, compassionate, empathetic, productive adults. If we don’t act now, we will continually be looking for ways of putting a band-aid on the problem – gun control, need for metal detectors in schools, home-schooling, etc – as opposed to preventing these types of acts from even entering a person’s imagination and acting on it.