I know that the purpose of my blog is to spread positive vibes and feelings, and not dwell on the negative, but I wanted to address something that bugs me. My biggest pet peeve ever. It is the argument used by many people when talking about immunizations. I don’t know how many times I have seen it, but one of the primary arguments used against parents, who are opposed to vaccinations is “Autism is not caused by vaccines, fear of autism is bad, and autism is not bad,” or “I would rather have an autistic child, than a child with measles…”
I see red when I read these statements. I have autism, I agree that it’s not 100% bad, autism is part of who I am, but that doesn’t mean I like it. This is what autism does for me– it makes me question my intelligence, it makes me feel stupid, it makes me feel inadequate, and it undermines me when I attempt to make friends. It hinders my ability to concentrate, and often I find that people, who know about the fact I have autism use it to undermine me. So while, yes, life is in general good, and I love living. I don’t like living with autism.
It’s even more heartbreaking when I look at my son. I love him, please don’t question that. I don’t love autism. I hate it passionately. There is NOTHING good about his autism. It has robbed him of his potential. It often made him inaccessible. It has made it hard for others to relate to our family. It may not be always death sentence, but it is a life sentence. Though I love him, my son will be someone’s burden for the rest of his life. When I die, I will hand the burden to someone else– like his sister (how fair is that?). He will probably grow up to be a man-child. He won’t go to college. He won’t get married. He won’t have children. He is not Max from Parenthood. If I elect to do so, he will probably live in a group home with other men and women with limited mental capacity and hold menial jobs the rest of his life. I don’t see how that is good or bad, compared to a disease that lasts 14 days with a 97% survival rate.
If it were between him having autism, and him having measles. I would take the measles every day, and twice on Sunday. Measles, though deadly in the past, is hardly deadly anymore. Less than 3% of people who contract measles presently die. Whereas, the death rate from autism and co-morbid conditions– 60%. Yep that’s right– 60%. That doesn’t even account for 75% of children with autism will be abused in some way, and 45% of those 75% will sexually abused. Autism is a lifelong condition. The 97% who survive measles have it for 14 days. If I went to Vegas, I would bet on Measles.
I realize that autism probably isn’t caused by vaccines. I get that. I’m not an idiot. But pro-vaccine camp, please don’t belittle the everyday struggle that parents face with children on the spectrum. While autism is not all bad, it’s not great, and it is a path that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Every child with autism is different, just like typically developing children. Some children are violent, some are pacifists. Some children are highly intelligent, some children have low-IQs. And yes, goods often outweigh the bad things, but when a parent, who has never walked the path, states that autism can’t be that bad as to avoid vaccinations. Autism is scary, autism is expensive, and autism is life altering. If there were definitive proof (and my son didn’t react negatively to shots), that vaccines caused autism, you bet your ass I would not give immunizations to my children.
Further, as a mom of a child on the spectrum, I ask both sides one favor. Don’t use my son’s condition as an argument for, or against vaccines. It’s just that simple. Pro-vaxers, it is not as simple as vaccines cause autism. Most parents are not that stupid as to follow Jenny McCarthy down that rabbit hole. There are MANY factors that go into making that kind of decision, and faced with ridicule, a constant barrage of negative shit, and even being told that I abused my son, it took TWO adverse reactions before I decided NOT to vaccinate him further. As for my daughter, she was vaccinated on a delayed schedule, and only receives the bare minimum. Watching one child in the hospital was enough to make me question the safety of vaccines. Just about every person I know who is opposed to vaccines has had similar reactions. Unfortunately, most doctors do not acknowledge those reactions. They do not properly document the reactions. It is damn near impossible, even with a medically documented case (I have TWO separate ER reports stating vaccine reaction) to get a medical exemption. What no one tells you when you get one either, is that it also expires, and there is no guarantee if you have to switch doctors that the other doctor will follow it. It just causes more animosity among parents. That said, I do believe that children with autism have the propensity to have vaccine reactions, but for the anti-vax camp, don’t use fear of a condition motivate your decision. There are plenty of reasons to look at vaccinations with scrutiny. Autism should not be the reason you avoid vaccinations. It is hard to be strong when there is so much opposition, and so many people who treat doctors as gods. Though the connection between autism and vaccines is unproven, there still needs to be more research as to why children with autism tend to have higher instances of reaction.