The Statements of Toni Braxton garnered a lot of reactions. Nadine Finigan- Carr has written about the issue. Please comment and share. Thanks so much.
So Toni Braxton has been promoting her memoirs, Unbreak My Heart. As a result, she has been granting interviews and doing the talk show circuit to sell her book. I have always loved Ms. Braxton’s music. I was sorry to hear of her financial difficulties a few years back. I’m glad that she has been able to move past that phase in her life; and, I originally hoped that her book would sell and help her to continue to do so. Now that I have read a few of the articles from the interviews and seen her on Good Morning America, I am not sure if I want to read the book.
You see, Toni Braxton’s son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her family is an #AutismFamilyofColor. The fact that the media is spotlighting one of us should bring us joy. The part of her story that continues to be highlighted in interviews is what she originally thought was the cause of autism. She believed God was punishing her for an abortion she had in 2001 by “giving her son autism.” In fact, on Good Morning America today she stated at one point – “I thought that it was God’s punishment (Source: http://gma.yahoo.com/video/toni-braxton-reveals-details-her-131945370.html).” Headlines in major newspapers like the Washington Post “Toni Braxton laments son’s autism as ‘God’s payback’ for abortion” abound. Ms. Braxton no longer believes this to be the case but this is what the media keeps highlighting because controversy and drama nets more readers and viewers.
Many people question why they were blessed with a child on the Autism Spectrum when first
diagnosed. There is truly a mourning period for the child one thought you would have. This is
understandable and acceptable. Many of the parents in the survey I conducted last month had grief and mourning as a part of their narrative. A feeling of ‘what did we/I do wrong’ which you have to work through. One of the most poignant of the responses describes how one mom felt when she found out about her child’s diagnosis and the grief she manifested...
“…there was silence in the room my heart was cracked open I was crying I was upset I was crushed and I was confused I felt as if I couldn't breathe. I was in so much pain I couldn't even stay there to finish hearing the rest”
– African American mom, aged 29 with 3 ½ year old son on the Autism Spectrum.
That being said, what are the causes of autism? The short answer is scientists aren’t sure. It is believed to be the result of both genetics and the environment. A number of genes have been found to be associated with the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Other studies have shown association between brain development during pregnancy and the disorder. However, association DOES NOT equal cause. One thing that has definitely been disproved is the theory that parental practices cause the disorder
Let me say this again – Science has proved that NOTHING YOU DID AS A PARENT CAUSED YOUR CHILD TO BE AUTISTIC!
As an #AutismFamilyofColor, there are things you can do to not only help your child now but to improve the lives of other families with children on the Autism Spectrum in the future. Among these steps are the great advocacy and treatment work that many of you are already doing. My additional charge to you is to find a way to participate in Autism Research. I know that as a community, we shy away from research of all kinds. There are many of us who cite past inhumanities such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment as reasons to avoid research. However, one of the reasons there is very little known about us and our experiences living with a child on the Spectrum is because there are very few of us who take part in studies about children on the Spectrum. So few of us participate in research that it came to light recently that some researchers stopped reporting on the race or ethnicity of participants in autism research studies.
Lack of participation -> Lack of reporting -> Lack of knowledge about #AutismFamiliesofColor
It’s a nefarious cycle that we can break by participating more in Autism Research. The National Institutes of Health have a number of research studies in which you may consider participating. This research covers many domains interventions, diagnosis, genetics, neurobiology, and services. Check them out at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/nih-initiatives/index.shtml.
Let’s not let the only discussion of #AutismFamiliesofColor be one of misinformation. Let’s use this as an opportunity to keep getting our stories out there.