Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Back Yard Think Tank

Every once in a while I get to thinking about the "heavier" things. Most of this thinking comes when I am in the midst of doing something else, like mowing, raking, weeding, or staring blankly at the wall. The last one happens far more often than I would like to admit.

The latest thought to bother me is the fact that 1 out of 166 births will result in the individual being diagnosed with autism. 1 in 166. That is a horrible statistic.

Autism, in all its forms, has been around forever, but why now do we have this disturbing statistic today Is it because we are trained more to recognize something that has always been prevalent, or is something in our environment causing it? Many will say that the mercury based preservative Thimerosol, used in stabilizing vaccines is the culprit. Others disagree, and say that the preservative has been used for a long time, and there was not a spike in the occurrence of autism before the recent increase in numbers.

Maybe we are just more aware, and are assigning the diagnosis to characteristics that were undiagnosable before.

Another popular diagnosis is Attention Deficit Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This condition made a sharp increase in those diagnosed in the late 1980's, and throughout the 1990's, until another condition came into vogue, Bi-Polar Personality. Heck, I know I had ADHD, probably still do, but back in 1965 the behavior was not given a diagnosis, it was merely described. "Walter is disruptive in class.", that was a favorite. Class clowns in third grade were frowned upon. Still are, but aren't called "clowns" any longer, they are given another label. The behaviors are the same, only the names have been changed.

For the past 20 years or so, parents would make an appointment with their pediatrician after the school nurse, or some other official at the school recommended that their child be seen due to their behavior. Back in 1965, a note was sent home, read by the parents, and some form of punishment was invoked. In my case, it was more corporal punishment, with a side of grounding. So, the present day child is brought up before the pediatrician, some questions are asked, an exam performed, and maybe a referral made, but most often the next step is the prescription pad is taken out of the drawer, and some medication is ordered for the child to make them less likely to be "disruptive".

Problem solved, but new ones can evolve.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are certainly individuals that meet all the criteria to be diagnosed with a particular condition, but there are far more that do not meet the criteria, and are labeled, and medicated anyway. Poor practice, demanding parents, or just an "off" year for the child? Maybe a little bit of each.

The diagnosis of being "Bi-Polar" is now challenging the the number one position of ADD/ADHD. I have no idea why. Is the condition stressed more in undergrad programs? Are new clinicians that much aware of it, hence the increased labeling? Or, is there actually something to all this? Is there something that is actually affecting the way our synapse spark, and our neurons respond? Something like the interference one sees, and hears if using a hair dryer in a room with a TV, or a radio playing. The picture and sound is there, but just not as clear as it was without the interference.

What sort of things could be "interfering" neurologically with our children, and has been doing so with a greater frequency over the past couple of decades?

Wish the heck I knew, but looking back over the past twenty or so years there have been many, many changes to our environment, and I don't mean just the land around us. The prevalence of computers, and sitting 24 inches away from the CRT screen is something "new". Infants aren't using them, but their moms, and dads do. When I was a kid, we were told not sit closer than six feet in front of the TV because of the "radiation". The radiation, or Electronic Magnetic Field (EMF) could do us harm. That debate is ongoing, but why allow one to sit so close to a CRT today, when 40 years ago it was "verboten"? I know, shielding is better, the appliances don't throw off as much EMF, but every appliance is labeled by the FCC as to its ability to emit EMF, and interfere with other appliances. Could it also interfere with our biology?

We are also inundated with "beams". I know, rather sci-fi sounding, but true. From satellites beaming our GPS coordinates, to receiving our TV and radio signals, we are pelted the entire day with "beams". Wi-fi signals, radio, signals, and the ever present cell phone signals pass through us constantly. Do these electronic wave lengths raise havoc with our biology as they pass through?

Truth is, no one seems to know, and those that say they do know, and that we are safe, have little data to back their statements up, or hold a stake in Verizon. They could be way off base, just as I could be.

The packaging, and preserving of our foods, the plastic in our baby bottles, the chemicals used to grow a better apple, the chemicals in teeth whitening products all have a way of affecting the function of a basic cell. Could all these things we have grown used to having actually be adversely affecting us?

Of course they are, but just how, and to what extent is anyones guess.

These are things that are trumpeted constantly by environmentalists around the world, but when spoken in such generic, all encompassing forms, they do little to make us stop and think. If one statement was made, with facts behind it, such as, "Microwave ovens cause male pattern baldness.", then microwaves would dot our curbs on trash day across the country, and a greater impact would be made.

I guess we need specifics. Generalities confuse us, and we don't pay them any heed.

Well, these were the thoughts that hounded me yesterday as I was busy moving leaves from one part of my yard to another. I have more mindless chores to do today, and this thing about why kangaroos have pockets has always bugged me.

I've got some serious thinking to do today.

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