Adam Lanza was quiet and fidgety, with brown hair that never sat quite right.
His thin face only emphasised his perpetual expression of worry, his blues eyes always staring intensely at a world he did not seem to be able to make sense of.
Adam was not even three when his parents recognised something unusual. He suffered developmental delays, struggling with communication and any sort of socialising, and engaged in unusual repetitive behaviours.
For four and a half years, Adam attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he was diagnosed with a sensory-integration disorder. The condition does not hold official status in the medical community, but is widely understood to be one of the leading characteristics of autism. Years later, as an adolescent, he would be diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.
The constant in Adam’s life, even from childhood, was anxiety.
According to his mother Nancy, he was “wracked by anxiety”, unable to cope with moving classrooms or loud noises. As a child, it became so overwhelming, his mother had to take him to the emergency room.
As Adam grew into adolescence, his parents noticed he was washing his hands incessantly, and over the course of a day would change his socks upwards of 20 times and go through a box of tissues, given he could not touch a doorknob with his bare hands. At 14, he was officially diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a mental illness typified by unreasonable thoughts and fears that manifest in unhealthy patterns of behaviour.
Eventually, Adam’s mental state deteriorated so severely that he was placed on “homebound” status – meaning that he was unable to attend school, even with programs, support and appropriate accommodations.
This just further reinforced his sense of isolation.
In documents released this week by the FBI, a number of details about Adam’s life were made public.
At about 15 years old, Adam was visited at his home by federal agents after he hacked into a confidential government computer.
LISTEN: The recent massacre in Las Vegas was the deadliest mass shooting in modern history. Post continues below.
His mother tried to convince officials that he was, “just very intelligent and was challenging himself to see if he could hack [his way in].”
According to the report, the authorities said that if he was that smart, perhaps he could get a job with them one day.
One woman, who is not named in the documents, described him as “the weirdest person online…” who “devoted almost all of his Internet activity to research and discussing mass killings.” She said he was “extremely intelligent,” but simultaneously depressed and highly cynical of what he saw as a “broken society”. The same woman said he became increasingly preoccupied with school shooters, and viewed them with “respect and understanding”.
His mother, it is reported, was a gun enthusiast who “loved the feeling and power of a gun in her hand.” There were a number of weapons accessible within the house, and according to close friends of Nancy, she never harboured concerns or was scared of her adult son.
In the months before the deadliest school shooting in US history, Adam fell deeper into depression. He would sleep for more than 12 hours a night, rarely ate, complained that natural light stung his eyes and forbade his mother from entering his bedroom. He told an online friend that he thought he was “asexual”.