DEAR ABBY: On March 4, you printed a letter about "Logan," a 5-year-old boy who said he tortured animals because he enjoyed it. His counselor said he was "fine," and the child's behavior was the result of his being "neglected." May I point out that the writer of that letter has only the boy's father's word that that was the counselor's "diagnosis"?
I'm no expert, but Logan's behavior seems like the result of much more than lack of attention. In fact, it seems like that of a textbook psychopath. Your advice that the child needs serious psychiatric intervention was spot-on.
Many parents ignore or play down these behaviors, but if unattended, such violent children often spend the rest of their lives in prison. Please stress to your readers the importance of following up on violent children. It's in the child's best interest, and the community's, for these kids to get immediate help. -- SEEN IT ONE TOO MANY TIMES IN COLORADO
DEAR SEEN IT: I agree, and I will continue to do so. As an advice columnist, I am in no position to diagnose a child. However, children cry out for help in various ways -- some of them nonverbal. A child who cannot fit in, or who displays antisocial behavior, needs to be evaluated by a mental health professional so steps can be taken to correct the problem.
Readers, the mail I received about that letter was alarming. Please read on:
DEAR ABBY: Years ago, my son's longtime playmate, "Timmy," killed the guppies in our aquarium. I spoke to the boy and heard his lame excuse that "he just felt like doing it." I was sadly remiss and let other things take my attention, so I didn't mention the incident to Timmy's parents. Years later, Timmy took a gun to school and killed his teacher "because he felt like doing it." If only he had gotten help before that fatal action left an innocent family without a parent.
Please keep pounding home the importance of seeing early warning signs and getting good help for these troubled children. -- LOU IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: We had a child we obtained guardianship of when he was 10. I'll call him "Randy." We weren't given his complete history. Within six months, Randy had killed birds, kittens, stabbed my husband twice, and tried to kill his biological brother. (He had a plan for how to do it, and a backup plan in case it didn't work.) I could go on and on.
When we started talking to Randy's family and people who knew him, we learned that his behavior had started when he was a toddler. We had to take him to several psychiatrists/psychoanalysts before we could get any help for him. Randy functioned well when institutionalized, but couldn't function in a "normal" environment. It took us two long years to have the boy legally removed from our home.
He is 14 now, and was recently sent to detention because he attempted to beat up a teacher at school. This happened two years ago, but we are still feeling the after-effects. -- MOM IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR ABBY: At age 5, my friend's son, "Gavin," threatened to kill his mother and his brothers, and he meant it. After two horrible years, they finally found a pediatrician who said it wasn't because they were "bad parents." An MRI showed a portion of Gavin's brain had no electrical activity. It's the part that allows him to understand right from wrong and feel empathy.
Gavin is nearly 18 now, and soon to be out of a system that has been trying to train other parts of his brain to take over. My friends have never given up on their boy -- they're angels on Earth. -- KAREN IN COLORADO SPRINGS