Today, my friend Gina, from high school (and an amazing advocate for natural child birthing/rearing), posted an article to my Facebook page, asking what I thought about vaccines and autism. I answered, publically, that I just got the inspiration for my next blog post. ;-)
At almost the same time, a Facebook group I belong to, The Funny Side of Autism, (because I assure you, I've laughed more than I've cried) posted a question about the popular misconceptions of autism.
I have two things people often ask me about:
1. Is Curt is mentally retarded? I understand this question, although I don't like it. Studies vary widely as to what the actual incidence of mental retardation in people with autism is. Some put it as high as 80 percent of people with autism are also mentally retarded. I'd have to argue. My theory is that people with autism cannot communicate effectively enough to participate to society's standards in a traditional IQ test.
Example: A diagnostician administered Curt an OUTDATED IQ test designed for children who were verbal when he was 3 years old and NONVERBAL. Let me stress this dianostician works far, far away. I don't think I've ever admitted this to the general public but Curt received a score, which is in his permanent school records, which labeled him as mentally retarded.
I can assure you: he's not.
And if he was, it would be OK. But I never for a micro-millisecond thought that he was. He's now 9. In third grade. He does long division in his head. He knows how many seconds the Tyler traffic lights are "off" in their synchronicity, he calculates the sales tax on my $137 grocery bill before the cashier can hit the button on her register. And yes, he has to have FOUR items in his lunch every day. Not three.
So yes, he has his strength, in math, but that does not make him deficient in other areas. He made the All-A Honor Roll in 2nd grade. He's funny. He "gets" jokes. He sparkles. He asks WAY too many questions. ;-)
He can't be labeled by an IQ score.
Let me just say here that not every person with autism is Rain Man.. OH PUL-LEEZE . Raymond was what we term a savant. Yes, he could count cards. Yes, he could remember baseball stats. But not every person with autism can or will do that. It's NOT the norm.
Secondly. And maybe firstly. Yes, firstly.
2. Did vaccines cause Curt's autism? There's no answer for this, because fact is, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT CAUSES AUTISM. The better question is do I BELIEVE vaccines caused Curt's autism.
And the answer is NO.
I do not believe vaccines are the reason for Curt's autism.
Firstly, the MMR, which is generally the culprit as the "autism trigger," wasn't administered to Curt until AFTER he was diagnosed. You see, the MMR vaccine is grown in an egg culture, which we thought Curt was allergice to. So he couldn't have the MMR until after he was cleared of egg allergy. Which was AFTER he was diagnosed.
The beautiful staff at our pediatrician's office indulged my fears and checked all the lot numbers of the vaccines Curt received before his diagnosis.
He's NEVER had a vaccine with thimerisol.
Now as far as mercury goes, I do not discount enviornomental mercury or pollutants. We lived in Beaumont, Texas, when I conceived Curt. The petrochemical of the Gulf Coast, one of the TWO main petrochemical capitals of the country. Which, incidentally have the highest rates of autism in the country.
But you CANNOT discount the genetic factor?Boys are 10 to 1 more likely to have autism than girls. How is that NOT genetic? Neither of Curt's parents have a family history of autism; yet, once you have one child with autism you are 90 PERCENT more likely to have a second with autism.
Since we're being honest, Luke was conceived before Curt was diagnosed. Or we suspected Curt had autism. And it wouldn't have mattered. Luke was coming into our family NO MATTER WHAT. And AFTER Curt was diagnosed we wanted a third child and God decided that was not in the cards. Point being, give me another child with autism.
Curt is an INCREDIBLE child. With no mental deficits, just social and communitcation challenges. We have to tell him "It's OK to touch people you KNOW on skin you can SEE." Quite practical advice for almost anyone, with or without autism, really. He's not your "typical" child (I HATE the word "normal.") But he is magnificent.
So there are the answers to your two most pressing questions and THANK YOU GINA for the inspiration. You inspire me.