Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Autism and Vaccines

I just don't know what to think. I honestly don't know whether immunizations contribute to Autism or not. I tend to believe it's more about genetic and environmental factors than immunizations. Maybe because, with our kids, it didn't happen overnight. The symptoms came on gradually. With our son, he developed fairly typically until just before his second birthday. He didn't backslide, he just kind of stalled. And he'd had quirks even as a baby.
I remember one toy in particular: it had a little door that would open and close. If that door was open, he'd close it. He'd never open it. We'd open it, and he's close it. Even if he was playing with something else, on the other side of the room, if one of us picked up that toy and opened the door, he'd stop whatever he was doing, crawl over, and close the little door. I remember thinking one time "that seems like Autistic behavior." Then immediately trying to put the thought out of my mind because, of course, that was silly; our son didn't have Autism!
Our daughter didn't develop typically. She had a lot of delays, and cried more than seemed normal; huge, piercing crying jags that went on for hours, and we couldn't pinpoint what she needed. She still has them, when she's not feeling well (like this week). She doesn't speak, so she can't tell us what's wrong. I can only try and guess, and go from there. And when her little lip sticks out, and her big brown eyes fill with tears, it just rips my heart out.
Jenny McCarthy was on CNN a few months ago, and she told a doctor that she doesn't immunize her son anymore. "Give him measles!" she said. "I'd rather have measles than this!" (Meaning Autism.)
The problem is, it's not just about measles. It's about horrible, potentially deadly, highly infectious diseases that spread through populations very quickly. Especially populations that haven't been immunized.
Truth? I HATE that my kids have Autism! I worry about them constantly. I hate seeing them struggle with things that other kids do naturally. I'm angry and scared. But I'd rather they have Autism and be ALIVE than without Autism and seriously ill or dead from a preventable disease.
Ideally? We have immunizations that don't have the potential to harm. We don't force parents to choose between disease and Autism, as many parents feel they are doing. I realize we're in an economic slump, but this should be a priority, because A LOT of kids are going without vaccinations, and it's scary.
I try to focus on the positives, and there are many. My kids are happy, and physically quite healthy. They don't need to take medication (other than the occasional cold medicine or tummy remedy). We have met many amazing people through their Autism: teachers, other parents, social workers, therapists, and on and on. If our kids were "typical," we'd probably still be living in L.A., pursuing acting careers, and being unhappy. And I do believe that it has made us better parents, and brought us closer together as a couple.
I wouldn't trade my family for anything. I happen to think our kids are pretty amazing. Everyone who meets them falls in love with them. They bring a lot of joy into the world around them, and get a lot of love in return.
When I look at it that way, it's pretty darn good!


Charlotte said...

Way to count your blessings! I'm always so impressed with your great attitude. I also appreciate your honesty about vaccines. I really don't know what to think either. Half of my family doesn't immunize although Jase and I definitely do. I'm way too terrified of polio:) it just seems like it's been too long since a serious outbreak of one of these diseases has occurred and so people alive now don't remember the horror.

That said... autism. It's such a strange disorder and such a wide variety on "the spectrum." Some of your daughter's behaviors sound like my son's but at the same time, totally different.

Your kids are so blessed to have you! They sound darling.

neversaydiet said...

i think the open/close door toy anecdote is sooo interesting - almost metaphorical, like the toy represented how he felt on the inside. Very interesting...

azusmom said...

Thanks, Charlotte! You're right, it's such a HUGE spectrum. How is your little guy doing?

NSD, that's true, I never even thought of it that way!