Monday, April 6, 2009


I wasn't planning on doing this post but I popped over to today and found this topic. I have to say I'm slightly relieved because we sat around our house all afternoon today and that wasn't going to make for a very interesting post about spring break. . .

I have mentioned before. It is a very popular site that has nothing to do with autism, usually. Heather B. Armstrong, the author, is currently on a book tour around the country. She is rather successful and I enjoy reading her. She also takes part in "momversations". I have found many of these momversations quite interesting. It is different blogger moms who each tape their views on a topic. This one is about, vaccinations. Oh boy. This is a big one. It has become quite the hot topic. I watched a Dr. Nancy Schneiderman on The Today Show get so worked up about vaccinations I thought her head was going to spin completely around. First, the video.

As always, I have my opinions. When people find out I have a child with autism, I would bet half of them say, "do you think vaccinations caused it?". It is so hard for me. My answer is such a wimpy non answer and it's "I don't know". Daniel definitely went backwards in his development. He developed speech then lost it. Until age 2 he ate everything put in front of him, then stopped. He didn't tantrum all the time, then he did. He CHANGED, at about age 2. I remember, probably more than others, exactly when he got his MMR injection. For those of you who don't know, it is the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) shot that is the one with all of the controversy. I remember because we went to the allergist office to have it done. Daniel had tested positive, but not very high, allergic to egg. The MMR vaccine contains egg, so he had this shot in a controlled environment able to help if an allergic reaction occurred. He had no noticeable reaction on his arm. No reddening, nothing. It was a significant amount of time after that he changed. I really don't think it was in direct correlation to that vaccine.

I HAVE, however, heard stories. Lot's of stories. I'm not saying they aren't true. Not at all. Some have sounded true enough to me to put the fear of God into me. Parents who gave their kids the vaccine, then they lost their child little by little. They worked and worked and the child had speech, then they got the booster at age 12 and it was gone again. I don't know if this is the autism urban legend or what. It was a friend of a friend. I've read all the studies. Total honesty here, I have not given Daniel his booster. I just can't bring myself to do it. What if something happened? Could I live with myself? Could I watch him regress in front of my eyes again? It is gut wrenching to me. I completely understand why the moms on this video wouldn't understand this. I don't, however, understand why if they are vaccinating their children, WHY they would be so emotional and upset about it. Their kids can't get the measles. So why judge? I have sat CRYING in the Dr's office about this. I have talked to the Dr. on the phone about it, with tears streaming down my face. It is a hard decision. The obvious flip side is, what if he gets the measles? That's the question isn't it? He could die from any of those diseases. But most likely not. I have yet to find the answer. It angers me that we, as parents, are put into this position. For the people who have been shown that they "fudged" their research, it infuriates me that you would plant that doubt into my head.

The people who anger me are the people who have no reason to be afraid, but listen to someone like Jenny McCarthy who goes on her book circuit saying vaccines did this to her child. She says "she knows". She does not KNOW. She thinks that is the case. I guarantee you there are people out there who then say, well, we aren't going to give that vaccine. Because an actress THINKS she KNOWS something. She is a parent just like you and I. But she has pull, she has a louder voice because she can go onto Oprah. I don't think it's right for her to scare people when she doesn't really KNOW. I've had people ask me if anyone has ever written a book about autism, as a parent, besides Jenny McCarthy! There are 100's maybe thousands. But people only know HERS.

It isn't just people who are scared of autism who aren't vaccinating. Plenty of people do it for religious reasons. I know several families of chiropractors who haven't vaccinated any of their children. It's what they believe. Why is no one mad at them??

I'm going to fess up that Zachary hasn't had his MMR vaccine either. BUT he has an anaphalactic reaction to eggs. He can't have it. Part of me feels that this is a blessing. He can't have that vaccine because of a medical reason and it's an acceptable reason. I don't have to decide. Thank God. At this time we don't have an alternative. He has had all the rest of his vaccines.

Dr's say they KNOW it doesn't cause autism, some parents say they KNOW it does. Some of us, like me, are caught somewhere in the middle. The Dr's are frustrated with us that we are scared, the parents who we don't agree with think we are traitors, and there are parents who are mad at us for not vaccinating our kids. Who's the winner here? I'll tell you, NO ONE! I hope the answer will be known someday. Whatever it is, I really hope we find out what causes autism. Not because it should be "cured". But so this madness, finger pointing and blaming can STOP, and we can get to the business of taking care of our kids, to the best of our ability.

So if you happen to find my little blog Heather B. Armstrong. I hope this gives you some insight. You said you didn't understand so I wanted to try to give you and everyone else in your shoes a glimpse of the why, at least my personal why. I'm sure there are a million whys out there. You are welcome your opinions we all are. I hope this helps you understand a little bit the pain that this topic causes. You can never understand entirely until you have seen your child slip away from you and I hope that is something you never ever have to know, for sure.


Anonymous said...

Well said, Michelle. I am also in the category of 'I Don't Know.' Like you, I remember VERY WELL the day my daughter got the MMR b/c she was sick. Did it cause her autism? I don't think so... but years later I did find out she had an egg sensitivity and so I wonder sometimes. (My daughter Hope has a severe egg allergy -blood and skin tests. Dr. says it's still ok to give her the MMR. We just have to 'watch her closely.' Um. What???)

Eventhough I vaccinate my kids (on a slower schedule), I get pretty angry at these moms who resort to name-calling and casting judgement on people who choose not to vaccinate. They have no idea what it's like to helplessly watch your child slip away.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

I believe there are many contributing factors, with Thimerosol only one of the possibilities. I think it's a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Sure hope we get it figured out soon.

JoyMama said...

All the shouting really puts us in a tough spot, doesn't it? Even though I am intellectually quite convinced that there is no autism-vaccine connection, the whole swirl caused me to request a thimerosal-free flu shot dose for my Joy this past fall. I just hate the gut-level doubts, whether they're right or not.

I recently read Autism's False Prophets, by Paul Offit, which shed some interesting light on the timeline of the whole controversy. I've only lived in spectrum-land for 2 1/2 years since Joy's diagnosis, so I didn't quite realize just how recent some of the pieces of the shouting-match have been. Sigh.

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