Nikolas Cruz, 19, opened fire on the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killing 17 students and injuring 14 others. In an interview with the DailyMail, Nathalie Brassard, an FASD consultant with FASCETS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Consultation, Education, and Training Services), said: ‘Some of the characteristics suggest that he [Nikolas] might have been living with an invisible brain-based condition – it could have been FASD or many others, but this young individual may have been functioning differently,’
According to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office report, Nikolas was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons, prior to committing his shooting. In an article by CNN, Nikolas had purchased 10 firearms within a year’s time, according to a law enforcement source in Broward County. In the police report, Nikolas was reportedly living with the Snead family at the time of his crime. Nikolas and his brother Zachary were adopted by Lynda Cruz and her husband Roger P. Cruz. After Roger Cruz died, Lynda reportedly raised the boys on her own before passing away this past November. According to people who knew Nikolas, he took the death of his mother very hard.
The Snead family who took custody of the children had no idea they had a potential criminal living under their roof. Nathalie Brassard suspects there were other factors to blame, including the potential for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome according to her interview with the Daily Mail. Nathalie has worked with women and at-risk youth for well over 20 years, including supporting women with addiction issues, and women at-risk during pregnancy. According to her biography on the FACETS webpage, Nathalie is also the director of the FASCETS US, an organization dedicated to helping train people unfamiliar with FASD.
In her interview, Nathalie explained that in Nikolas’s case of adoption, “He was kicked out of school because of behavioural issues, and that is something that often happens.” Nathalie added to this statement, saying, “Very often the information is lacking [such as alcohol consumption during pregnancy] so the formal diagnosis of FASD may not come. That’s why we use the language of “brain-based conditions” because regardless of why they have this behaviour.” This, of course, brings up the question of why someone like Nikolas who may have been suffering from a mental health problem had access to assault rifles like this in the first place. The entire subject has sparked up a new debate for reform in America’s gun laws, championed by the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The traditional facial features of someone suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome include a low nasal bridge, minor ear abnormalities, and thin upper lips among other traits. Nathalie Brassard suspects that “We only see facial characteristics in a minority. In the majority, there are no facial characteristics, but they are still functioning differently.” Nathalie added to her statements with the DailyMail saying: “They may have impaired short-term memory, problems with abstract concepts, language and communication issues, behave younger than their age. These can all lead to them acting in a way that we as a society think is bad behaviour and we punish them for it, so they get frustrated.”
There could be other ARBD (Alcohol-Related Birth Defects) involved, which include some that place children somewhere on a spectrum of functionality, but this again is a matter of speculation. According to an international survey by the NHS Foundation Trust, nearly 1 in every 1000 children have FASD, which is actually the most preventable of all prenatal medical conditions. Only around 10% of those suffering from FASD suffer from facial deformities according to NHS. The diagnosis of FASD is a long and difficult process.
Whether or not Cruz suffers from these features, or even if has fetal alcohol syndrome remains a matter of pure speculation. The surviving victims of this tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are taking this time to speak out in favour of gun-law reform. Emma Gonzalez, a teen from Marjory Stoneman Douglas gave a harrowing speech following the mass shooting at a protest. In it, Gonzales shouts at Trump and the NRA, claiming: “I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this isn’t just a mental health issue. He wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife!” The issue has sparked a national debate over gun reform, including mass walkouts by high school students who are determined to see a change following this latest in a long line of school-shooting tragedies.
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