BY SIMONE SMITH
The one thing that I want to continue to do for my readers is provide them with information that is going to make life easier for them and their family members. I will be introducing a series concerning an issue that is beginning to surface in the African and West Indian communities. This issue is either ignored or hidden, and now is the time that it is brought to light. Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) refers to a group of disorders that are characterized by delays in the development of social and communication skills. One of the most prevalent diagnoses of PDD is a disorder known as Autism. Until recently, I was unaware of how prevalent this disorder was.
Mark Blaxill wrote an article for “Age of Autism. Daily Web Newspaper of the Autism Epidemic,” called, “Out of Africa and into Autism; More Evidence illuminates the Somali Anomaly in Minnesota.” In this article he highlights the evolving Somali experience; first with their rising awareness of autism, as more and more cases of autism are diagnosed throughout the Somali community. He notes that there is an organized denial by public health authorities of both the rising numbers and the obvious potential causes. There are some facts that need to be noted.
- Autism has always been rare in Africa. The rates have been so low that it surprised researchers at the high rates here in North America.
- Most Autism in Africa occurred in families that have access to Western health services.
- Among Africans who migrate to Western countries, Autism rates are high and continue to rise. Coincidently (and I use this word lightly), these immigrants usually face unusual risk of over vaccination.
Research was done in nine cities in six African Countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa) in search for as many Autism cases that could be found. 1,300 mentally handicapped children were screened over a two year period. The results were surprising; only nine of the 1,312 mentally handicapped children he saw in nine cities were Autistic. That equates to 1 in 145 children in the entire American population. So, Autism was confirmed in Africa, but not at the extent as it is seen in North America. From this study, it was inferred that the low rates of Autism in Africa, were due to the fact that many of the children were not exposed to child vaccination as they are here in North America.
There has been other research conducted on the rise of autism cases in Canada. On May 2, 2013, CTV News did a story focusing on the rise of autism cases in Canada. They provided some research of their own:
- Genes could possibly be a factor. It was found that if one identical twin had Autism, there was an increased risk that the other would as well. The risk was seen as less for non-identical twins and other siblings.
- There seemed to be a greater risk if a child had other medical conditions. According to Center of Disease Control, about ten percent of children who were diagnosed with Autism also had a genetic, neurological or metabolic disorder.
- Babies who were born either extremely overweight or underweight were at a higher risk of being diagnosed with Autism.
So what does this all mean? It means that we have an issue that has been identified, and it is our job as a community to assist families who have children or young adults who are dealing with this disorder. I will be running a series on Autism which will cover the following topics: Understanding Behavior, Developing Communication Skills, Teaching Play and Social Skills, Toilet Training, Reinforcement, Teaching Social Communication, Learning How to Play and Playing to Learn, One Bite at a Time, Steps Towards Positive Change and finally Introduction to Applied Behavioral Analysis.
The majority of my data will come from a workshop that I am currently taken, that is being put on by Erin Oaks Kids, a center dedicated to the treatment and development of children diagnosed with Autism. It is a ten week workshop that has cycles occurring during the summer and fall months. More information can be found on their website, but I am going to do my best to shed as much light on this topic as I can.
This is the amazing thing about learning, just when you think that you can‘t learn anymore, you learn something new. One thing that I hope to accomplish is to open the communities’ eyes to the seriousness of Pervasive Development Disorders. These disorders cannot be ignored or denied any longer. It is affecting our children, which in turn affects our families and finally affects the community. Let us continue to learn together and grow with each other. Have a great couple of weeks and I look forward to sharing more with you.