Dr Andrew Wakefield wants to study the immigrant Somali families in Minnesota who have observed an unpleasant phenomenon: many of their children are Autistic, to an extent that this is being called ‘The American Disease”. Immigrants realize that this is not due to a lack of vigilance on the part of Somali doctors. They have the opportunity to visit their colleagues in their home country, and in comparing their own children and the children of their contemporaries, the result is glaring. A handful of countries, such as USA, UK, Australia, Vietnam and Sweden, have significantly higher numbers of autistic children, of which the Somali children are a small percentage. Can we find a cure? How do we prevent more Autistic babies?
Autism amomg the immigrants from Somalia:
The controversial Dr Andrew Wakefield is of the opinion that the answer may lie within the Somali community in Minnesota. He is trying to recruit Somali families for his self-financed study. You can see a video here of Fox news interviewing Dr Wakefield on January 6, 2011. You can see a videohere of CNN channel interviewing Dr Wakefield on January 5, 2011 and a photo of a severely autistic boy.
The Somali Autistic children in Minnesota:
Anne Harrington, the special education district coordinator of Minneapolis district noted that the Somali families sometimes have more than one autistic child and it is a more severe form of autism. The kindergarten classes are about 12% Somali but autism cases in the early childhood special education classes are about 17% Somali. Read more and get involved.
It has been observed that there is a cluster of Somali families who have autistic children in Minneapolis. Other immigrant Somali communities have not experienced increased autism rates. A search for a set of triggers should be sought asking two questions:
First, why a cluster of Somali families in Minneapolis has autism, while the other Somali families do not and also, why these families have no autism in Somalia?
The next question is why are Autism rates higher among Somali families than in non Somali families in Minneapolis?
The Somali Autistic children in Sweden
It was observed that many Somali families in Sweden had children with autism. All these families had never heard of autism or observed any symptoms defined as autism in their homeland of Somalia. Dr Barnevick-Olssen and colleagues, psychiatrists in Sweden, published a report of their observations in 2008. They noted that children from Somali backgrounds are over-represented in the total group of children with autism and suggest a search for triggering factors is warranted. Read more. The Somalis living in Sweden have named it the “Swedish disease”.
Researchers in Sweden have requested access to a confidential database for information on Somali and Swedish children to search for clues. Some researchers ask if Somalis need more Vitamin D, coming from sunny Somalia to dark, long, Swedish winters. Is it the lack of sunlight and excessive use of sun protection? However, there is autism being observed in sunny Australia. Read more.
Video: “True wisdom about Autism” – An Autistic Child’s wish by Matthew ward who is Autistic and the forum that made it possible for him to present his wish, his mother, Nancy Alar. If there is one video you must see, it is this one, November 6, 2011. It made me cry. You will see for yourself in this video that an autistic child is intelligent. We must find a cure to help Autistic children speak again.
So what causes Autism? What cures Autism? Scientists still cannot answer these questions. However, they fear that Dr Wakefield’s controversial published paper (see below) may have diverted the study of autism, with too much emphasis on an incorrect hypothesis. The search for both the set of triggers and therapy continues.
What is Autism? When you see a severely Autistic child, you will ask, “What is wrong with this child?” I am not discussing the autism spectrum here, but only severe Autism. To truly understand the Autistic child see video number 4 below, as narrated by an Autistic child, whose simple wish is that he could speak better and that the world was educated to be tolerant of Autistic kids.
Why should all of us be more aware of Autism? Because Autistic kids are here to stay unless we find a prevention or a cure. The CDC says that 1 in 100 kids born today in America will be autistic. They will grow to become adults with Autism who will need to be employed. One in every hundred adults seeking employment in 2030 will be Autistic. You may be the employer or the colleague who will have to adjust because the Autistic adult may be effective at the job skill. What should be society’s role? Knowledge, tolerance and acceptance. Tomorrow it could be someone in your family.
Autistic children are easy to identify even by a layman. They are simply children who are very uniquely different from other children, with a defined set of one or more of the following characteristics:
* Does not communicate or talk – even though they talked as toddlers;
* Smashing head against a wall repeatedly;
* Increasingly violent and aggressive;
* Special bowel, food, intestine issues and acute hearing, olfactory and sense of touch;
* The child may throw unusual tantrums, and needs to be calmed down and not punished; Special aids workers with special training on Autism are superbly able to calm down an Autistic child. They may appear far more anxious than the average child, in a new situation.
Autism – The New Disease: The uninformed and those who are ignorant are naturally unaware of Autism. It is, after all, a “new” disease, a “life style” effect of our modern society’s advanced choices. For those of you who have never witnessed or been in contact with an autistic child, I have selected a few videos here of how Autism in our children exists in our daily life in developed countries. As responsible community members, we have a role in ensuring the safety of all our children. The Autistic child is very healthy, but possesses a special neurologically and intestinally dictated condition. We have not discovered what this phenomenon or set of triggers that produce an autistic child is so far. We owe our Autistic children a decent, safe place in our community.
Videos of Autistic children and how our community responds:
1) An 11 year old Autistic child being beaten by untrained aids in a school bus;
2) A father of an Autistic child in Canada, shoots his 11 year old son and then himself, after learning his child would have to be housed in a facility that does not understand the special needs of an Autistic child;
3) Hopes of Autistic children graduating from a special school;
4) “True wisdom about Autism” – An Autistic Child’s wish by Matthew ward who is Autistic and the forum that made it possible for him to present his wish, his mother, Nancy Alar. If there is one video you must see, it is this one, November 6, 2011. It made me cry.
Who is Dr Andrew Wakefield? Dr Wakefield published a paper in The Lancet, saying that the MMR vaccine is linked to the rise of rates of autism in children. Subsequently, his medical license of revoked with concerns raised that his publication was an ‘opinion piece’ and not a scientific paper. Panicked parents avoided and some still continue to avoid the MMR vaccine which prevents measles, mumps and rubella. This avoidance of vaccine has raised concern among the health care community. His co-authors discovered much later that Dr Wakefield had been financed by a law firm, with an intention to sue vaccine manufacturers with the results of his study data. This is a serious conflict of interest which had not been disclosed prior to publication. The fraud allegations arose because of the twelve children in his study, five of the children were autistic before receiving the MMR vaccine and three of the children were not autistic. Dr Wakefield defends himself from the fraud allegations by saying that the claims of the link between the MMR vaccine and autism came from the parents. Such parents remain Dr Wakefields core group of supporters and continue to believe autism is caused by the MMR vaccine. Dr Wakefield prefers to use the term “linked” rather than “cause” when discussing MMR vaccine and Autism today.
Impact on Health Care Resources:
However, we are running out of time. Our burden to our future health care community is mind boggling. We have a large population of aging baby boomers presenting with Alzheimers. This is already draining the medical in house facility resources. What will happen when the Autistic children out live their parents? They are very healthy. Originating from different cultural, ethnic and immigrant backgrounds and yet, most presenting with the future task of requiring safe supervision. Civilized society has to begin preparation to face this unique care giver situation of looking after a healthy, aging population, unable to navigate the world on their own.
Lets begin to ask: How are we going to take care of Autistic adults as their baby boomer parents age with Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Multiple Sclerosis or simple frailty? These children will grow up to be adults who will need supervised living. Autism research funding: who is paying and how much?. The time to begin the dialogue in today. George Braddock, President of Creative Housing Solutions LLC is offering solutions for community living for adults with autism.