Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Numbers

There is many points of view on autism. Some people think that there is no scientific proof the autism rates now are higher than they ever were in the past. They seem to be very data oriented but passionate about it and call some people with different opinions poorly informed and liars. I find it interesting. It completely negates my own personal experience, and so I hesitantly posted couple of my own comments to that post, together with link to Somali autism puzzle article. I decided to post them here.

Here is quote from that article:
Ali's parents had never come across this condition back home in Kismayo, a city where children run in the streets and everyone knows everyone else's business.
...Somalis call the "western disease" or the "disease from abroad,"
Somalis did not have the word for that condition - the same way the Inuit language never had a word for robin.

That is very similar to my experience.

I am not much into numbers. I prefer my personal observation. Low functioning autism in children like my son is difficult to miss. It also has certain characteristics specific to autism and not present in other forms of mental retardation like repetitive behaviours, obsession with specific objects, that would not be missed by gossip loving, story telling, village people from the Polish village I was born at in 1963. My natural story teller father was born in 1913 and grew up in tavern my grandparents owned. He knew every family in 6 km radius of of our home, going back many generations. He had a great memory and a lot of tales to tell, and these would sometimes include stories about mentally challenged people (it was common in our area mostly due to very poor nutrition). None of those people resembled an autistic personality. That was before the time "undesirables" with peasant backgrounds were being tucked away in institutions. My villagers would not point the finger and say "autism". But they would notice an odd behaviour, stimming, echolalia or obsession and make it into a story.

Thorough my childhood, my parents rented our house to children's summer camps. There would be about 200 kids (30 to 40 at once ) and their caretakers stayed in our home for about two to three weeks at the time every year. My parents were doing it for about 20 years. Conservatively, there was more than three thousand people going through our home, and some of them we get to know better than others through that time. I have met and heard stories of a lot of people and not one of them included anything resembling autism.

In my neighborhood in Hamilton Ontario, in about a 1 square kilometer area, I know 4 autistic children. This includes my boy, 6 and low functioning; 6 years old low functioning twin girls; and my neighbors boy, now 10 and verbal but kept from having meltdowns by medication. His mother claims that she knows about 8 autistic kids in our immediate neighborhood and I think we will make a little map in the future. But I am certain about the four I know. Four is already a lot. I asked our 68 year old neighbor who has been lived here the last 50 years if there were many mentally challenged kids in the area when her kids were growing up. She remembered one "mongoloid" boy. My perception based on immediate experiences is parallel to Somalian Canadians described in article. Also allergies were very rare in the place where I grew up even amongst "city kids". I do not have anybody among my first and second cousins (about 30 people)allergic to anything. My boy has strong allergies.

Of course, all those observations can be easily dismissed. The "No scientific proof" sentence has been used and abused many times before. I personally have a strong agnostic streak in me and try to keep my ears and my mind open. "No proof" does not mean that something does not exist. My direct personal experience has no ambitions to replace science. I can not ignore the evidence of my own eyes though.

2 comments:

  1. We have 7 Autistic kids within 2 blocks of us. Scary shit.

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  2. It is an epidemic and no one wants to admit it. We are from Pakistan, I don't know anyone autistic in my almost 30 year old life. I did not grow up in a village. I had a western education and went to university. My parents are both educated and well travelled in the middle east and they never heard of anyone autistic or seen anything similar in their 60 year old existance. I could go on. It is a Western disease as far as I am concerned. But it is spreading everywhere. I know a few autistic kids in Pakistan (in Karachi). But then Pakistan is more western now than it was 50 years ago! I mean everything from food, medicines to the way people behave.

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