Photo: Dr. Daniel Geschwind
If you’re in the SoCal autism community and haven’t heard yet, tomorrow (May 17, 2013) is going to be an important media day for autism and research; but not just for California, nationally. Because for once, the scientific spotlight will be on African-American children and their genetic vulnerability to autism.
Dr. Daniel Geschwind (above), who received a $10 million dollar grant recently from National Institutes of Health to study autism and genetics, will be met in Los Angeles by leaders in the autism and scientific communities, as well as politicians, to talk about the inclusionary nature of his research. It is wonderful to see someone incorporate our children in a well-financed and important study that will take place over 5 years because we often hear that autism is non-discriminatory…that it strikes in every race/culture across economic lines. Yet, what does that mean? Do our children have the same genetic susceptibility as Whites? And, what are the dynamics in the genetic equation when the child is bi-racial like mine?
When one thinks about the challenges that many African Americans already have in this society, there is little wonder as to whether or not their children with disabilities get the help they need and in a timeframe that gives the best opportunities for recovery. I, myself, have often pondered whether or not my own child would have made the progress he has had our lives been different…surrounded by the confinements of urban blight, lack of education, and limited resources.
I fear that many of our kids are simply swept aside, looked upon as if they have insurmountable behavioral problems. The dismissal of these kids starts young, especially when those around them don’t have the wisdom or compassion to dig deeper for other answers. It’s not a far stretch to think that the parents are blamed for not being able to provide a team of autism interventionists and a therapeutic environment for the child to develop in. Professionals may look down their noses as if that’s a solution to the issue at hand and will help the child survive.
Sometimes by the time we figure out what’s going on, the child has spent years in Special Ed. or remedial courses and excluded from mainstream students due to behaviors. I’m even willing to go as far as conjecturing that undiagnosed kids and/or those who lag in proper therapies have a high drop-out rate. So, they go out into the society (if they are able to) and bomb. Or, they’re regulated to group homes and institutions.
I applaud those in our community who are asking these tough questions, doing research, and looking for answers. Genetics is a start!