By Dan Olmsted, Editor of Age of Autism.
You know we’ve entered a brave new world when the title of the most popular album among kids today refers to the singer’s battle with juvenile diabetes.
“Got the news today, doctor said I had to stay/ A little bit longer and I’ll be fine.” So opens “A Little Bit Longer,” the title track on the new Jonas Brothers album of the same name.
Nick Jonas said it took him just 20 minutes after he got his diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes to sit down and write this haunting melodic gem. The song and his comments about having diabetes are all over You Tube if you want to check them out. Nick, by the way, was born in 1992, which some of you will find pertinent. (His two older brothers and band mates were born in 1987 and 1989, and they do not have juvenile diabetes.)
In the olden days, when I was a big pop music fan in the ’60s and ’70s, you were supposed to be an adult before you encountered chronic illness and mortality. To both date myself and prove the point, just this morning I picked up Jackson Browne’s new album, Time the Conquerer, in which he is sporting a gray goatee and what I’m guessing are prescription sunglasses — time the conquerer, indeed.
But the young and healthy, not us graying baby boomers, seem to be the sick ones these days. Take Michael Phelps, the great Olympian. Does anyone on the planet have a more charmed existence or brighter future after eight gold medals?
The only shadow is the fact that he has ADHD. That, too, has almost been “normalized” in our cultural conversation. Either it’s over-diagnosed and not really that big a deal, or it’s so wonderfully, eminently treatable with fabulous new drugs, or it sends its owner into a marvelous new direction that might never have been possible if he hadn’t been so … well, sick.
Just looking at the four top Google entries tells me all I need to know:
1) Michael Phelps’ ADHD Hyper Focus Concentration Helps Win Gold
2) Michael Phelps ADHD has not stopped him from success
3) Michael Phelps struggled with ADHD as a child
4) Michael Phelps ADHD shatters the stereotypes
Wow, it’s nothing but good news all around. His disability is actually a super-ability. It hasn’t held him back, in fact his struggle has led to his success and shattered stereotypes. More ADHD, please!
Finally, Sarah Palin — to put politics aside — shows the degree to which special needs are getting to be pretty ordinary needs. She has five kids, and one of them has Down syndrome. Her sibling has a child with autism. So that’s two in however many children they have between them. And that’s too many. (Spare me the e-mails about how Down is solely genetic.)
Here’s what I say: Nick Jonas shouldn’t have to write a precociously great song about having diabetes. Michael Phelps is plenty inspiring without having to overcome or harness or otherwise deal with a developmental disability. Sarah Palin is debatable enough without having disabled children in her family.
On You Tube, Nick Jonas asks for a show of hands from the audience from other kids with diabetes. There shouldn’t be ANY, but there are. A pediatrician I know told me that in her relatively small practice with 1,600 children, she has four with juvenile diabetes — way too many based on historical rates.
This is getting kind of hard to ignore. A little bit longer, and we’ll be ruined.