17 March 2009

Autism in Somalian Communities

I'm concerned whenever I see articles from a seemingly reputable source making references to autistic people as being "lost in their own worlds" and the like. I'm also concerned that here's the inference that the Somali people are experiencing an epidemic of autism in their children when they move to the US. The implication is, of course, that autism is caused BY SOMETHING and that if we just threw these children off to the African lions, somehow they'd get all better in their homeland because, like, the medical care is soooo much better there, right?

Sigh. Just read the quote from this article (or better yet, read the whole article) and tell me what you think:

“They say, ‘There’s more sunshine, there’s less pollution, the food is fresher because the animal was killed that morning,’ ” Ms. Abdull said. “They say: ‘My kid won’t talk? Throw him in the middle of 20 other kids, and he’ll talk. They’ll tease him till he has to.’ You know the way kids run around in Africa? People are so isolated in their apartments here. They think maybe they’ll snap out of it.”

Yeah, that, or they'll be injured or killed. Survival of the fittest and all that (shudder). Mayyybe there are genetic or environmental causes of autism, and certainly with parents' permission these can be investigated. But wow. After reading this article, I would wonder if the equation "Somali = likely autistic" will be implanted in the readers' minds just as "Haitian = likely has AIDS" used to be in the 1980's. Remember those bad old days? Me, too.

Ok, even worse than that? The idea that anti-vaccine people who stand to make money through their own "treatments" for autism are swooping in like vultures for the kill:

"... He warned them not to trust the state health department and suggested they slow down their children’s shots and get exemptions to school vaccination requirements. He also offered to pay for some to attend an antivaccine conference. The appeal has had an effect. Many parents, including Ayub’s, now say that their children’s autism began after seizures that started after they got shots."

“People in the Somali community have gravitated to that theory, and many are resisting immunization,” Dr. McLellan said."

Oh, greaaaat. Now, I'm not pro-vaccine all the time, but I'm all for not scaring people into doing what you want for some money. Don't scare people into getting shots for their kids, and don't scare them into NOT getting shots for their kids so they can buy your stupid product, either. Each parent should have all the information he needs to make an informed decision. To my mind, if I were living in a large unvaccinated population and the mumps started going around, that might make me seriously consider the mumps vaccine that my children do not currently have. To alienate a large population that is experiencing a medical crisis from the state that is at least TRYING to help through various programs is, I think, a travesty.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you might say "the state? Helping?" and really rail on me. But listen. Here are newly-immigrated people without a great deal of connections or conventional education about immunities, lead testing, city living, etc. etc. etc. And here are some granola-toting hippies trying to sever the ties that they might have gotten from conventional medical sources.

Not that we found conventional medical sources to be all that helpful. And not that I don't like granola sometimes, too.


Aargh. I guess it bothers me that everyone in the article doesn't seem to be diligent about letting the parents decide. That there's such a ... oh... paternalistic? kind of feeling running through it. Maybe that's it.

Ok. Signing off this post now, because I want to hear what you think and see what ideas I get bounced back. :]


  1. I hear you. Ron's family has several people who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum of disorders. His Dad's cousin is in his 60's and I am sure he would qualify. Do you know why he never got diagnosed? As soon as he could read and write enough to get by, he was whisked away to do farm work. I don't think there is anything new under the sun. People with atypical brain development have always been a part of our culture. We are just seeing them as a burden now.

    I am not really anti-vaccine either. When the kids got home, the doctor recommended that I accelerate all their immunizations so that I could catch them up in like 3 months. I just said no. I did allow David's Hepatitis B series to be given at an accelerated rate. And, there was an outbreak of whooping cough in our area. So, that was accelerated for both kids. You see I figure that even without vaccinations, my kids would only be infected with a disease if it were in their environment. And, here is something that boggles the brain. I could sign all the financial paperwork stating that Ron and I could financially support the kids. I didn't have to have our bank send letter. There was no credit check. Nothing! I could have said I was a millionaire. But, I had to have the promise to vaccinate the kids notarized. Dumb!

    Have you read Don't Mourn for Us? The author, an autistic man, would likely agree with your first paragraph. "There's no normal child hidden behind the autism. Autism is a way of being."

  2. No, I hadn't read that, Julie. I have a lot of mixed feelings on the autism. You know, I love my kids as they are but I want to enable them to be able to function in our society. My real concern... for their survival and their children's when I am gone or unable to help. :]

    PS I would wonder if you accelerate the shots too much whether you get the proper immunities. Then again, if you're in the middle of an outbreak you do what you have to do!!

    PPS We had whooping cough here about two years ago. Well, I meant in town,not our house.

  3. I don't really have enough information to comment sensibly but I do think there's nothing new under the sun. Every village had its idiot & some of them were probably autistic.

    I also think it is a way of being. You can rub off some of the stranger edges to allow people to function within society but the core is forever different.

    However, as a society, I do think we are becoming more & more intolerant of differences. Strange, isn't it? but seriously, so many people seem frightened or threatened by differences ~ look at the whole designer baby thing. God would never do that. Differences are for our good & our learning...& now I'm veering way off track.

  4. It just seems so hard to know who and what to believe these days. Every "disorder" becomes a way for someone to make a buck, or becomes the poster issue for some group. Maybe I would feel differently if my autistic child had seemed completely "normal", you know, had speech and everything, and then lost it suddenly like some kids I hear about. That isn't the case for me, so I am still somewhat skeptical about the "vaccines are all evil" theory.

    Yet, when I hear about vaccines having junk like mercury in them... I am just glad that we only do the basic ones here, and on a sllower scedule. It seems like the US medical community is so hyper about vaccines, and so eager to stick everyone as much, as early, and as often as possible.

    I feel really sorry for those Somali parents who are dealing with so many things that are unfamiliar, and are at the mercy of others who may or ay not have their best interest in mind.

  5. My real concern... for their survival and their children's when I am gone or unable to help.

    Me too. I just don't think Marissa will hang around until I am gone. She doesn't like the rules here. I am thinking I will be unable to continue to help her on the day she turns 18.

    And, you want to know what stinks? She is wearing off on Beverly. I heard her words come out of her mouth. The other day when I told Beverly she couldn't watch television, "When I am 6, I am going to move away. I don't like you rules."


  6. Ganeida, I wouldn't want to think of my kids as village idiots, but I know what you're saying. Instead of, oh, that's Mrs. C's weird kid... you know that Mrs. C family... it's WOW what's wrong with you and quit acting like that. :] I think being crammed all together in one place doesn't help tolerance either.

    Sue, that's what really bugs me about this article. NO one seems to really be trying to ask each family what they want... they all think they know what's best... and we just DON'T. We just don't.

    Julie, I'm hearing ya. We get some interesting comments from the younger kids b/c of some of the behaviour G displays.

  7. Dare I say it outloud? Somalians [my source is NPR radio] how they are being recruited here for terrorism.......add that to the autism connection = fireball. I doubt if duck and cover will work here. I know it's percolating......I wonder how long it will be?
    Best wishes

  8. Already I have heard of mentally disabled people being strapped up with explosives and detonated remotely. Very sick. But I think extreme fundamentalist Islam calls for that sort of thing.

    The liberal Muslims, I've known a few and have been very fond of. It is a shame that their religion has such zealots currently. :[


Non-troll comments always welcome! :)