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Disabled Children: Why are the numbers rising?

Updated on December 27, 2009

Thoughts from a parent of an asperger child

Even before my son was diagnosed with asperger sydrome 11 years ago, my colleagues and I had been discussing the rising numbers of disabled children we were seeing. As teachers, we felt as though we were referring children in greater numbers as time had progressed. Of course, as a parent of a "differently abled" individual, I tend to notice the number more than someone who does not live with this issue. It seems as though everyone I meet these days has a story to tell about their son, daughter, grandchild, niece, nephew or friend who has some sort of disability. True, they tend to share with me because my son has Asperger syndrome, but I am noticing this in other avenues as well.

I joined Facebook almost two years ago. I have had the wonderful pleasure of reconnecting with friends from grade school, high school, and college years. What has amazed me is the number of my former classmated who have children with some sort of disability. Many of my facebook friends have children with autism, down's syndrome, asperger syndrome, as well as various learning disabilities. It makes people wonder if the rising numbers have anything to do with our environmental changes, or the medical breakthroughs we have had, or the chemcials that are added to the foods nowdays.

My oldest child was two months premature. Thinking back on those two weeks we spent in the neonatal intensive care unit with him, I remember many of the other babies who were in the hospital with our son. One of the babies was less than a pound at birth. She survived and was released five months after our son. I know that many years ago, most of the babies I saw in the NICU, including my child, might not have lived past birth. The process of natural selection would have taken over. This may be one factor in why there are more disabled children. Medical science has enabled these babies to live. Our lives are both challenged and enriched because of the ability to save these lives. Of course that is just at theory, but it is something to ponder.

Other issues to ponder are the large number of hormones and chemicals we are pumping into our foods. Many years ago, life was simplier, food was natural, may have not lasted as long, but it was eaten when fresh, discarded when old and far healthier for us all. Shots given to our children need to be noted as well. True, giving our children the ability to fight diseases through vaccinations is indeed a wonderful breakthrough of medical science, however, it can also be harmful to certain children. It is definitely worth looking at this factor. Doctors who say that vaccinations do not cause autism are the same doctors who report that they do not know what causes autism, so how do they truly know that vaccinations DO NOT cause autism? My husband and I often watch the video tapes of our son before he had his 2 year old vaccinations and we do note a difference in the way he behaved. We know he had the tendencies beforehand, but we tend to think the shots put him over the edge.

Of course. let us not forget the environment. We have blamed environmental changes for so many problems, why not issues with our children? Again, it is worth thinking about. In truth, we probably have more disabled children now than we ever did before because we are better at diagnosing than we were years ago. Our diagnostic tools are far more sophisticated than before. Teachers are alert to disabilites, as well as parents, pediatricians and other caregivers. This also leads to the problem of overdiagnosing and misdiagnosis, but that is another hub for another day.

The bottom line is that we have the tools now to understand and care for our children. I am very grateful to medical science and educators for the knowledge available to those who live with and care for my son and others like him. We, as a society have come a long way from the years when some who was a bit different was locked away, never given a chance to contribute, to be a vital part of the world. Disabled children now have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and become productive adults. Maybe one of those adults will be someone who helps others with his or her disability. Its possible, if we keep growing.



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