FASD Family Life

Parkland School Shooter Nikolas Cruz: FASD, Facts, Fiction, and Stigma

November 03, 2022 Robbie Seale / Rebecca Tillou / Miranda Bezell Season 4 Episode 9
FASD Family Life
Parkland School Shooter Nikolas Cruz: FASD, Facts, Fiction, and Stigma
Show Notes

Welcome to Season 4, episode  of the FASD Family Life Podcast. the show for families by families raising children and youth with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. I am your host, Robbie Seale. I am an FASD educator, advocate and mom of five incredible people; including three teens diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. If my 30 years of parenting has taught me anything it is, that the struggle is real and so is success.

I am thrilled to be with you today! Thanks for taking me along with you. If you enjoy the podcast, consider being a monthly sponsor. This podcast is supported by listeners like you!  Click here to Support the show

This is a special edition of the podcast; I am here today with my friends Miranda Bezell and Rebecca Tillou to talk about their response to the way Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder has been mischaracterized and further stigmatized in the wake of the sentencing hearing for Parkland School Shooter, Nikolas Cruz. Miranda and Rebecca will debunk myths about FASD and speak about the negative impact of the systemic and societal stigma that shrouds FASD.

Cruz plead guilty to the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he killed 14 students and three school staff members.  After a lengthy sentencing hearing in October of this year a jury recommended Nikolas Cruz, 24, be sentenced to life in prison, as opposed to the death penalty due to mitigating circumstances. Cruz was formally sentenced on Wednesday, Nov 2nd to consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for killing 17 people. 

During the course of the sentencing hearing the Cruz defense team highlighted many mitigating factors including a troubled childhood, diagnoses of ADHD, OCD, and autism spectrum disorder, history of being bullied and marginalized. We heard about his proclivity toward violence, his poor social skills, and Cruz identifying himself as a school shooter years before the event in 2018.  During his time in custody Cruz was assessed for an FASD and was diagnosed with Alcohol Related Neurobehavioral Disorder (ARND).

Dr Kenneth Lyons Jones, the Father of FASD a pediatrician who first identified Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in 1973, testified as an expert witness about Fetal Alcohol Sprectrum Disorders. In Dr Jones' testimony we learned that Cruz's birth mother had very poor nutrition, limited prenatal care, and used alcohol and drugs throughout her pregnancy.  As a result, Nikolas Cruz had experienced significant trauma prior to his birth. The prenatal alcohol exposure resulted in Cruz being born with alcohol related neurobehavioral disorder. In his testimony Dr Jones explained the primary characteristics of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, the challenges parents experience raising a child with an FASD and the inordinate amount of stigma that persists around this disability.

In his arguments, the prosecutor in this case tried to discredit the expert testimony, the diagnosis of an FASD, and would not permit testimony about stigma as he argued it was not relevant.  These are the points that Miranda and Rebecca wanted to address with me today.  Miranda and Rebecca both have an FASD and they say they experience stigma every day. Let's hear from them....

FASD is a significant global health issue that needs attention which is why I decided to go on a WORLD TOUR to highlight the issue of FASD around the world as well as the tremendous work being done to re-educate society of the risks of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, to advocate for systemic changes that would recognize FASD as a permanent disability, and provide support for individuals, and their families, impacted by prenatal alcohol exposure.

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