Why I Write
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
– Edmund Burke
Knowledge is power
– Francis Bacon
Each of us also has an obligation to try to leave the world a little better place than we found it. I write, as one way of trying to meet this obligation. Life is a continual struggle between the best and worst in human nature. I write as my way of engaging in that struggle – my way of fighting back against ignorance, superstition, and intolerance. So much for why I write. More importantly, why should you listen?
By upbringing, I am the sibling of a person with special needs: My kid sister has mental retardation. From the vantage point of elder brother, I have witnessed the impact of my sister’s disability on her own life, and on the lives of those around her. I have also witnessed the changes in society’s attitudes towards persons with special needs. I can talk the talk, and walk the walk, because I’ve been there.
By training, I am first and foremost a pediatrician. Pediatrics is dedicated to the care of the whole child, within the setting of his or her family or other caregivers. I have attended the births and deaths of many children; I have witnessed medical miracles, as well as death by cancer, child abuse, congenital anomalies, infectious disease, or medical misadventure. I do not have the power to convey these experiences to you in words. But my hope and belief is that I can pass on to you some of the wisdom I have gained through those experiences.
Within pediatrics, I have sub-specialty certification in two fields: Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP), and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (NDD). These are the two major pathways by which pediatricians can obtain expertise in child development. Certification in DBP is open only to pediatricians; certification NDD is open to pediatricians and Child Neurologists. I am one of a handful of physicians holding specialty certification from both boards. This dual training enables me to speak on topics ranging from normal child development to cerebral palsy; from the genetics of autism to family mental health.
You should also consider listening to me because of who and what I am not:
I am not the provider of any particular form of therapy. Sure, if you are the parent of a child on the autistic spectrum, I hope you will buy my book Making Sense of Autistic Spectrum Disorders, but that’s about it. I’m not selling nutritional supplements, hyperbaric “dives,” listening therapy, or any other product or intervention as a way of supporting myself. Nor, for that matter, am I the recipient of millions of dollars in royalties on vaccine patents. You may or may not agree with everything I have to say, but at least you can set aside any doubt that my opinions are driven by hope of financial gain. I’ll have more to say on this subject when I get to talking about how to recognized medical quackery (Rule #1: Follow the money).
So, if I’m not in it for the money, why am I doing this? Having a sister with a disability, plus professional training and 30 years’ of experience working with children with disabilities are useful attributes that hopefully will make me credible in your eyes. But these facts do not fully explain why I’m doing this. Many physicians come from homes in which parental approval was hard to come by. Growing up, intellectual achievement was one area in which I could earn praise from my father. At the same time, as the Gershwin lyric says, “They cant take that away from me.” In other words, what was between my ears was mine alone, and not subject to being taken away in punishment. So my intellect was both the source of approval from my dad, as well as my single biggest asset – something that no one could take away. I have carried those traits over to my adult life – making lemonade from the lemon of my unhappy childhood. It may not surprise you to learn that my father, too, was a crusader (and one of the first chapter presidents of what was then known as the Association for Retarded Children – now the ARC). So, I have wound up as a crusader of sorts myself – not too far from the parental tree. More than that, I can’t say.