Part of my learning disability assessment involved giving a history of my family, my childhood health and my mom’s pregnancy. This is likely done to eliminate physical causes for whatever cognitive challenges exposed during testing, but it does present an interesting philosophical question.
Do we need to know the causes of neurodivergence?
So long as neurodivergent folks receive needed supports, does it matter how they got to be the way they are? Does the why behind their differences really matter?
The Onset of Fear
New parents are offered the choice of whether or not to abort when their fetus tests positive for Down Syndrome. While I like to think most parents who are presented that choice decide not to, but I know there are those who still do. It’s not right to abort because of disability, but it still happens.
The anti-vax movement has caused incredible suffering to huge numbers of people, because of the fear incited by a debunked medical study linking autism to vaccinations. Yes, there have been measles outbreaks, but now those who cannot get vaccinated – the very people who are protected by herd immunity – are now stigmatized as ignorant anti-vaxxers.
Those with chronic neurological and immune system diseases already suffer from symptoms directly caused by their diseases. They also deal with constant stigma associated with chronic illness, but now they must deal with rage from those who don’t understand there are real medical reasons against vaccinating.
When cognitive function is impaired by environmental problems, like lead poisoning, the urge to blame parents is strong enough to make many families miserable. Lead poisoning is much more common in low-income areas because homeowners can’t afford the high cost of renovation, or renters have no control over what their landlords do.
That, in turn, can make the struggle for children to break out of already difficult situations.
Using Knowledge For Good
On the other hand, finding out about a high likelihood of Down Syndrome may present a way for future parents to better prepare for their new baby’s future needs. They’ll be able to find support systems before birth, study up on what to expect and how to find resources for early therapy and accommodation.
Although the fallout from the bogus study has caused massive damage, it’s still healthy to question common medical procedures, especially if there are demonstrable side effects. Although modern vaccines may be generally safe, they weren’t always. For instance, one of the versions of the polio vaccine that eradicated the disease from the US actually infected 200 children.
Examples like that one highlighted the need to regulate and test vaccines for safety. When unexpected reactions do happen, there is now a system on which to report them, VAERS. This program works to monitor post-market vaccines and will start the investigation process into side effect patterns.
The knowledge that lead poisoning leads to neurological problems has prompted removal programs of lead from homes. That does cut down on cognitive function challenges as well as overall health.
Like so many issues surrounding neurodivergence and science, the issue is fraught with pros and cons.
As for my personal situation with dyslexia and whatever other labels I’ll be carrying in the near future, the cause isn’t a big concern for me. I never liked looking back and lingering over the question of “why me”, so if I ever find the causes out, I doubt it’ll bother me much.
I am curious about it, but it’s not something I absolutely need to know.