A day in the life of a single mom raising a teenager and a child with autism. I believe that it's not what we receive, but what we give away that defines us. I want to give away all that I have learned and experienced in hopes that it will help families raising a child with autism or any disability. This is my candid journal where I open up my world and share my joys, knowledge, lessons, disappointments, challenges, frustrations, fears and successes - one day at a time.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Autism: another example of how being poor is bad for you
This just in...more confirmation that Autism is still a "Survival of the Fittest" disease :( , unfair and not likely to get better soon.
A study just
came out with some very interesting information about how children with autism
do or don't get better over time. Guess which ones did better?
The ones whose mothers were white
It's true. Researchers looked at
the records of more than 6000 children ages two to 14 with autism followed by
the Department of Developmental Services in California. They found that for the
most part, even though they made progress, children who were low-functioning
when they were diagnosed stayed low-functioning. Children who were
high-functioning at diagnosis made more progress. And then there was a really
interesting group, about ten percent of the children, who they called
"Bloomers". Bloomers started out low-functioning, and then made rapid
progress and ended up as high-functioning.
The researchers also had birth
data about the children, which gave them information about the mothers: their
age, place of birth, race, education level, and whether or not they were on
Medi-Cal, the public insurance for low-income people. This is where it got
really interesting. The researchers found that:
children were more likely to have mothers who were minority/foreign born, less
educated, and on Medi-Cal
children were more likely to have mothers who were white, more educated, and
not on Medi-Cal
·Bloomers were more
likely to have mothers who were white and educated
What the researchers didn't have
was detailed information about what kind of treatments and services the
children got, so we are left to guess about the reasons for these findings--but
it's not so hard to guess. Parents with more money and more education are more
likely to be able afford more and better services. They can live in school
districts that provide more. They are better able to fight for the needs of
But it's more than that, because
having a mother who was poor didn't just make it less likely that a child would
"bloom"--it made it more likely that they would be low-functioning,
not high-functioning, at the start. Either being born to a poor, less-educated minority
mother gets you off to a bad start--or the high-functioning poor kids get
passed by and never get diagnosed, let alone get services, because neither
their parents or their schools have the resources to help them. It's probably
Being poor is bad for you. It's
that simple. And it's not fair. Especially when you are a kid.
This is particularly bad news
given that just last week the Centers for Disease Control reported that the rate of autism has risen to
one in 88 (one in 54 in boys!). The largest increases were in
Hispanic (110 percent) and black (91 percent)--kids who, according to the
study, are less likely to make real gains.
But here's the thing: it's not
just autism. Being poor really is plain old bad for you, especially when you
have a chronic disease like autism or asthma or obesity. I see it in my
practice: despite my best efforts, children with chronic disease who are poor,
whose parents are minority and less educated, do less well. There's so much
about being poor that affects health--your home environment (which can have
unhealthy exposures), your ability to afford medications and get to
appointments, your ability to be home with your children (instead of working
two jobs to make ends meet) or enroll them in extra activities that could help
As I listen to news stories about
the Supreme Court arguments over health insurance, I can't help feeling like we
are colossally missing the point. Instead of getting upset over individual
mandates, we should be getting upset--really upset--over the fact that so many
people are doomed to poor health because of their income, their education, or
the color of their skin.
Hope--or the lack of
it--shouldn't be an accident of birth.