Tuesday, February 8, 2011

African American Children Have Disabilities Too

As my daughter and I circulated within the mall, events occurred reminding me of her autistic related social ineptness. Studies show that approximately one in every 150 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As of 2009 in Illinois, the number of children ages 3-21 was approximately 12,232. My daughter has been set in the category of autistic disorder/developmental delay for about 7 years, although there were suspicions of being on the spectrum prior to her official diagnosis. Yet when she displays behaviors related to her disorder, she is not viewed as a child with a developmental disability, but rather that of just an unruly black kid reared by a bad mother.

It is a common misconception taken upon by society that African American children do not have developmental disabilities. They are often mislabeled or relabeled in the categories of “behavior disorder/emotional disturbance.” There is no Dyslexia, Attention deficit (except in bad behavior) or Autism in spite of the myriad of celebrities who have come forward such as Whoopi Goldberg and Holly Robinson Peete. I must admit the black community has not done much in the way of dispelling these misconceptions. We as African Americans often exacerbate the problem by choosing to ignore the existence of a possible developmental disorder and do not actively seek out reliable, non-biased testing. So we often suffer the disadvantage of having our children written off and discarded as behavior problems.

Since first suspicion of my daughter being on the spectrum, I have studied, researched and proactively assisted in the facilitation of optimizing her functioning. I have sought out paraprofessional services in speech, sensory, physical and social therapies when there was no funding. I have purchased items such as weighted gloves and blankets, a body glove and vibrating pillows as well as created a multitude of social stories and body relation programs to aid in the stabilization of her disorder. Unfortunately all the training, assistance and self-awareness still has no bearing on the cursory glances and raised eyebrows I receive when my daughter displays autistic related behaviors. She is still looked upon as just being a “bad seed.”

I am in a constant state of apologetic and teaching mode due to society’s loss of empathy when it comes to an African American child who displays undesirable behavior. We are mentally punished by both black and white individuals when the behaviors are displayed. Many times I want to scream “Guess what guys, black kids can have a developmental disability too.” So the next time a child, any child, displays an undesirable behavior instead of mentally writing them off, please allow your first mind to question if that child may be displaying disability related behaviors and offer compassion and assistance instead of disdain and judgement.

No comments:

Post a Comment