AUTISM

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Being a parent of a special needs and medically fragile child is a daunting task, especially if you have other children. One Georgia stepfather is now facing murder charges that deal with the death of his 11-year-old son. Police are saying that Michael David Smith, 32, a second grade teacher in Clayton County, Georgia, was giving his autistic and wheelchair bound son a bath when he became distracted with the care of his other three children. He left the young boy in the bathtub while he checked on his other children and when he returned his stepson had drowned in the family bathtub.

Clayton County Fire and Rescue responded to the home but tragically were unable to revive the child. Police have now charged Smith with several crimes that include murder and second degree cruelty to children. The charges for what seems to be a tragic accident are shocking and heartbreaking for all involved. Smith is now being held without bond at the Clayton County Jail. The mother of the children was not at home at the time and is not facing any charges. The other three children in the home are now under their mother’s care.

Tragically, autism is a silent epidemic sweeping America and it affects the Black community the hardest. Autism and what is known as the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a developmental disability of severe chronic conditions due to mental and/or physical impairments. For people with developmental disabilities, major life activities such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living are much harder. Usually, these disabilities begin in the early years of a child’s development up to age 22 and then last throughout a person’s lifetime. It is estimated that one in 68 children were identified with ASD across multiple areas of the United States. CDC data indicates that early intervention is essential when it comes to treating a child with ASD. However, Black children are less likely to be diagnosed with ASD than White children. According to a study completed by the National Institutes of Health, “On average, white children received the Autism Disorder diagnosis at 6.3 years of age, compared with 7.1 years for black children. White children entered the mental health system at an earlier age of 6 while black children entered around 7 years of age. However, after adjusting for age, sex and time eligible for Medicaid, black children required more time in treatment before receiving the diagnosis.”

 

Mo Barnes

"Mo Betta" Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician.