Chicago: The Deadliest U.S. City for Children?

America is no doubt one of the “best” nations on earth. But all is not well here. One of the country’s best cities – Chicago, seems to be a death trap especially for children. In a special report in his program – AC360°, last Wednesday, 6 May, 2009, CNN’s Anderson Cooper X-rayed the growing death toll in Chicago, where school children are being killed in an alarming proportion.
So far, 36 students have been murdered in Chicago, during this school year; with 16 – year old Ramone Morris, as the latest victim. He was killed early Wednesday. Police found him on the street, shot in the back of the head. It should be noted here that most of the shootings are believed to be part of gang turf war – a common phenomenon in the city.

Chicago, according to Maureen Miller, an AC360° contributor, “is now the deadliest city for school children in the United States”. The program (AC360°) gave an up close look at the problem through the eyes of a 10 year old boy, whose brother was murdered. Meanwhile its presenter Anderson Cooper also talked with Chicago’s Police Superintendent, Jody Waise, on what the cops is doing to try to stop the calamity. Waise told Anderson Cooper, that the issues of Death, Violence and gang activities are being provoked by the proliferation of guns and illegal drugs on the street.

But Chicago’s Mayor, Richard Daley, told AC360, “This happens in every big city.” A statement many took as an opportunity to condemn, and fault the mayor for being uncaring, and out of touch about the issue. 
“Mr. Mayor, tell us what you’re doing to stop these murders and protect the CPS students?” Louis questioned. Adding, “He can’t tell us because he’s not doing anything about it. These murders will continue to occur as long as Richard Daley is our mayor. His #1 priority is securing the 2016 Olympics, not the safety and well being of Chicagoans”.

Sullivan Anu on his part expressed great concern on the children who witness these killings especially those who are directly affected. He further marveled about the counseling system for the younger ones who are still at school. “How do the younger ones deal with such experiences?” he queries. Though Sullivan honestly recognizes the hard work of the police in handling the situation, he intimated “we need to understand that every action is a reaction to some other action and if the community in question is not seeing any breakthroughs, developments, changes… that too contributes to the numbness that was pointed out so much more effort is needed in Chicago”.

But Mike strongly believes race has a part to play in the whole issue. Hear him “I am wondering if it were well off white kids dying in these kinds of numbers if more people would take notice. The point is that “well off” White kids don’t murder each other at anything even approaching the pace that “disadvantaged” non-white kids do. And that’s even when you count the much-publicized Columbine-type shootings – the overall numbers still aren’t even in the same ballpark. Ask yourself why”.

People react to temper tantrums in several ways. Whenever they see a kid scream, some of them point out that the scenario could be the inspiration advertisers of contraceptives really need. Many a person who hears and sees a choir of squalling youngsters at the mall wishes that the parents would spank or even hotsauce them. Some others just stare, then ignore them ‘” that’s all.

But what if they ever judge a kid who might have autism, who is flailing his legs and hitting his head while screaming?

Well, there are certain differences between your neurotypical terrible twos and the autism meltdowns. The former are the ones we know all too well ‘” kids scream and flail because they are tired, hungry, thirsty, or just deprived of what they want. Meltdowns are usually ten times or even more the magnitude of regular tantrums. Unlike them, they are caused by the environment or sudden changes in routine.

One meltdown gist is the environment. What I mean by environment is the aspects of the world around the children that affects them negatively. Even low-frequency noises like pipe organ blowers and coolers can set them off.

Ditto for sudden loud noises like boom cars passing by their curbs, cruise ship orchestras, walls covered in bright paint, or textures of surfaces. Being overwhelmed by at least an aspect of the environment is called sensory overload, and even a pin dropping can set some kids off.

Let’s say you’re a parent of a nonverbal autistic. You wait on the curb for that special education bus early in the morning. Suddenly, a car with loud pop music (not technically a boom car) passes by. Your child not only screams bloody murder, but he also slaps and punches himself while making weird noises as he screams.

A few neighbors wake up and bark out of their windows and front doors that your child needs a good spanking on the bottom. One of them even shouts: “This would be the perfect commercial for condoms!” That’s what a meltdown by sensory overload looks like.

Another common cause of meltdowns is the transition time. What I mean is that someone disses someone affected by autism by changing him from activity to activity.

For example, you have nobody to babysit him and you are going to the supermarket to pick up a few things. Your autistic child is watching his favorite television programs in the living room like he always does every day. You turn that thing off and ask him to get dressed because you have to take him shopping with you.

Then, he rebels by screaming and stimming, with you not knowing what to do. If he is audible so that anyone within range can hear it, you hear some neighbors telling you to control your kid or saying that your situation should be a birth control PSA. A sudden change in routine can set an autistic child screaming.

Parents should really do more than share social stories, arm themselves with earplugs, and make visual schedules for their children. They should not be afraid to mitigate that embarrassing moment when a child screams and stims. Simply saying that she’s autistic is not enough. It can be as simple as handing an ignorant onlooker a card that says, “my child is not a spoiled brat; he is autistic,” along with the facts and statistics.

As for the public, quit assuming that all young adults without children should practice birth control and use condoms just because they see a child screaming. A lot of us hate screaming children, but wouldn’t it be nice to either just ignore them or ask them for any help? Isn’t that too much to ask?