My son is autistic. We've known that officially since he was about three years old, but I think I've always known that something was just a little bit different about my boy. He was a quiet but happy baby - never any trouble but even then, he always seemed a little distant, as if he often chose to hang out in another world. I thought of him then as a wise little man that had a few quirks here and there. It wasn't until he got older and I saw him amongst his peers that the differences started to stand out and the evidence started to add up. Those observations and subsequent frustrations eventually led us on the path that would ultimately determine the autism diagnosis.
When people find out that the Beast is autistic, the responses are varied, but the two most common responses are these: "But he seems so normal" and "Oh, that's from vaccines, isn't it?" The vaccine comment always gets under my skin. Well-meaning as they might be, I always feel as if it is a personal attack on my parenting. As in, "Oh, you took your child to get vaccinated and now he's autistic. It's your fault that he's this way - he probably would be completely normal if you had skipped the vaccines or at least spaced them out more."
My son has been autistic since birth and will be for the rest of his life. Oh, with therapy and help, he will make definite improvements in areas such as social interactions, physical interactions, and general sensory behavior, but he will never be "cured." With the knowledge and experience I have now, I can look back and see signs of his autism even in early infanthood. My son's autism was NOT caused by his vaccines. He did have every vaccine on schedule as suggested by his pediatrician, but I did the research and decided that it was not worth the risks of deadly or injurious diseases to skip the vaccines.
There is a large group of autism parents out there that have what they call "vaccine-injured" children. They maintain that if it hadn't been for a specific vaccine, or perhaps the number of vaccines given their child in one office visit, their child would be not be on the autism spectrum today. Most notably, the celebrity Jenny McCarthy has perpetuated this school of thought and rallied thousands of parents against vaccines. Due to her activism, people who don't even know anything at all about autism will quickly spout off a comment on how autism is caused by vaccines. McCarthy and other vaccine-opposers quoted the research findings of one Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who used twelve different families in a study in 1998 to "prove" that in all cases, vaccines had been the cause of autism. Last year, another research study discovered that Wakefield had altered the medical histories of the case studies and reshaped the facts to support his claims that vaccines caused autism. He was a fraud, and his research study no longer can hold any merit. Still, it took over a decade to find out the data had been falsified, and during that time, hundreds of parents used that misinformation to make the decision to decline all vaccinations for their children. Since then, diseases which had mostly been eradicated in the US and Great Britain (where Wakefield's study took place) have made a reappearance. Here in the Northwest, where it is even more common to forego vaccinations, many cases of severe measles and whooping cough have been recently reported.
I am not trying to convince you that you should vaccinate your children, although that is what we have chosen to do with our four littles. That decision was made with much careful research and prayer, and it continues to be the right decision for us. I personally know people whose children have not been vaccinated, but I know that they also made that decision carefully, researching all the risks and benefits. Other people choose to vaccinate on a delayed schedule so that they have a little more control over the what and when.
No, I am just saying that don't assume that those vaccines are the culprits behind autism. And even more importantly, don't make your decision on whether to vaccinate or not based on that assumption.
Don't be a Jenny McCarthy follower. And while you're at it, visit JennyMcCarthyBodyCount.com. I think you'll be surprised and even a little shocked at what you find there.