I am deeply worried about the myriad and horrific consequences of the poisoning of the water supply in Flint, Michigan. These could lead to serious disabling conditions in young children, ranging from intellectual impairment to anemia, slowed growth, hyperactivity, inattention, and moderate to severe learning disabilities.I am particularly concerned about the emotional impact that this man-made environmental tragedy will have on the affected children and their families over time.
Many parents of children with learning disabilities are eager to know why their child has LD, and many worry that they might have done something that caused it. Others beat themselves up, feeling they should have done something that would have prevented it. The resulting shame, self-blame and embarrassment that is often seen in parents can affect the quality of relationships between the parent and child and between spouses, or even grandparents.
The egregiously neglectful and probably criminal actions that took place in Flint will most certainly add a level of anger to that mix; an appropriate emotional reaction, but one that will exacerbate intra-familial and intrapsychic tensions and stress in a way that will make the future for these kids and families even less optimistic.
The inestimable costs (financial, emotional and time)associated with this unconscionable action will mount and grow over time. And in a few years, when the kids ask: "Mom, Dad...why do I feel so dumb all the time?" telling them that the government poisoned their drinking water will bring no comfort at all. For all but the most forgiving of families and individuals, the anger will persist and unfortunately become a factor that will affect the trajectory of these kids and their families for years to come.
It goes without saying that support for appropriate educational intervention for these victims becomes a moral obligation for the civic leaders of Flint. However, we must not ignore the long-term collateral effects of this thoughtless and disastrous re-routing of a water supply through a network of toxic conduits. We need to be thinking of ways to support these families and children emotionally as they navigate the (forgive me) murky waters that lie ahead.
For more information and advice, please contact The Learning Disabilities Association of America, which has pledged its support in this important matter.