Tag Archive: vaccination

Talking science

Rosi and I have been discussing having a science series on the weekends here at Blue Jersey. The problem is I find it difficult to find topics to blog about that have a New Jersey angle.

After all, so many important problems are settled. One of the great government triumphs of the last century was the system of childhood vaccinations that defeated dangerous diseases. We don’t have to worry our tough-talking governor would be wishy-washy on vaccines.  

Meanwhile, the great challenge of this century is controlling our greenhouse gas emissions, lest we suffer disastrous global warming. Our own Rutgers is a leading center of research on climate change. If nothing else, we have to fear the sea level rise wrecking the coastal towns and beaches. Our governor loves the Jersey Shore, so we don’t have to worry he’d break the law to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Oh well, something will come to mind. At least our governor didn’t run away from evolution.  

One in 50

With the shocking news this morning that 1 in 50 children now has autism I had to write today.

Because New Jersey has one of the highest rates, this is an increasingly emotional issue here. Many autism activists reside here, because NJ children appear to be on the front lines of this battle.  We tend to manage treatment much better than some other places in the United States. Perhaps how we treat these children encourages parents in need of services to move here, and that increases those numbers in NJ, but the real story should simply be the staggering number of children with an autism diagnosis.

This story brings up memories of a boy I knew growing up and it breaks my heart now to think of him. As a child I lived in a quiet neighborhood at the end of a dead end street. Our backyard fence was shared with the yard behind ours where a childhood friend lived. She would always visit our house but we rarely if ever saw the inside of hers and never played in her backyard.   I never really got to know her little brother, whose name I am ashamed to admit, I can’t even remember, but he was a constant presence in my life then.  As a sat on my child’s swing in my backyard and played with my friends in our kiddie pool and I sang songs with my sisters, he was always there.  On the other side of that darn fence that had slats I could barely peak through. I could not see him – he was always hidden away but I could hear him, breathing and pacing and grunting. Always moving.  Restless but never speaking, always there, he seemed agonized by something that only he could see or hear.  He liked to be near the fence, close to us. Maybe he liked the singing.  I always wished he could speak or participate some way. How he was kept there by himself always alone and silent but tortured was so very sad to me.  He seemed  an injured creature pacing fretfully in a cage that nobody knew how to unlock to help him.

The thought of that makes me cry when I think of it now – knowing what I know now about autism. He may have  been able to completely understand what we said but not able to speak to us.  He may have been in pain – looking back it seems that he was.  He would sometimes grow very agitated but he could never tell us what was causing his agitation.  It was haunting.  I grew up and moved away and life intervened, but now, I look back and understand better than I did then.  I want to help children like him. I want to unlock those cages.  I want to calm them and communicate with them and find out what is inside – what they are thinking what they are feeling.  If they are feeling pain, I want to help heal that. Maybe that is what led my older sister to become a speech pathologist – who worked with autistic children when she was a grad student at Rutgers in the 80’s. It must be the most maddening thing to be a parent who knows their child is in distress and not having that child able to speak and actually tell them what is wrong so they can fix it.  I don’t have any children of my own, but I could not imagine being able to bear that kind of heartbreak.  Maybe because I couldn’t have kids, each one I see is so precious and unique and special and deserves to be treated as an individual and their needs not thrown under a bus in some quest for the Greater Good, or herd mentality.  Autistic children are still outnumbered by children who are not, but we need to understand exactly what makes them different and special because then maybe, just maybe, we can prevent a child from developing autism, or help treat them and relieve their pain, soothe them, understand them and free them to communicate so we can include them in our society in a way that elevates all of us.