*Takes a deep breathe as I prepare to dive into the deep end of the Autism and Vaccines debate*
I remember it was 3 years ago and I was sitting on a bench at one of our favourite neighbourhood spots one day after one of Princess’s activities when another Mom with her twins from the same activity were coming out of a store and decided to join us and have a snack with us. We quickly chit-chatted and helped our little ones remember each other and say “Hi’ and it just felt like another normal “Mom and toddler moment. It was what she said next that stunned me.
“So after what happened to Johnny, are you going to get Princess her shots? Aren’t you worried?”
I remember I quickly turned and looked at her and was shocked and I wasn’t sure what to say. Why was she saying that to me? Of course I’m going to vaccinate my little girl! I follow the vaccination schedule and I might have the needles staggered and not have everything at once but of course I’m going to get her shots. I even take her to get a flu shot! Where was she going with this? I should note that where we live, in order for your child to attend a Public School, you need to present their vaccination records and they must be up-to-date or your child cannot attend. All Day Care Centres, Preschools and Nursery Schools follow the same rules as well. She then says,
“I’ve been so scared and nervous and been thinking I’m trying to delay it for as long as I can and just let them grow a bit more. Let their bodies development more if you know what I mean. What do you think?”
Again I was a bit surprised because I didn’t want my little girl to ever get the measles because the complications when you are young are very serious.
“Well I was just wondering because after what happened to Johnny aren’t you afraid to have your little girl vaccinated?”
What happened to Johnny what does that have to do with anything? I know he can’t speak right now so that others can understand him but he is making strides forward. That’s when she connected the dots for me and said,
“Aren’t you worried about the link between the vaccines and Autism? Do you think that the vaccines activated something inside Johnny and now he can’t talk and has to go to special schools?”
The Mom knew that that Johnny was Autistic because her older child attended a playgroup with him. I guess I had been pretty open with her about why Johnny played the way he did and why he couldn’t talk. Princess had just turned two and we hadn’t gotten her 18 month vaccinations yet. It wasn’t deliberate. My Dad was battling terminal cancer and had passed away and 3 months later we were finally come up for air and reshuffling our lives. I sat there and I took a deep breath and I told her that the vaccines don’t cause Autism…..I’m positive about that.
“How can you be so sure?”
I told her that as far as I understood, something changes in the brain way before 18 months and it might simply a coincidence that major developmental leaps occur at 18 months at the same time the major vaccinations occur. If you think about how many people in the world have been vaccinated over the decades then surely Autism rates would be so much higher if the vaccinations were the trigger. I feel that something happens at the very beginning neurologically in the womb in embryonic development due to a combination of genetics, the environment, and evolutionary development of the brain. The brain is very complicated and for some reason Johnny’s brain activated a whole bunch of neural pathways and basically the wiring is a mess and we have to help him sort out all that wiring in his brain and grow new neural pathways and he will be okay. She pushed me some more and asked,
“But how can you be so sure and comfortable that something might go wrong with Princess? Haven’t you heard the statistics regarding siblings?”
I told her that Princess is very different from her brother and not just because she is a girl. She approaches the world very differently most of the time then her brother and has done so from the very beginning.
If was truly honest with myself, when I look back my little boy was Autistic from the moment he was born. I know now what my gut was telling me at the very beginning but now I can put a name to it. He was my first born. So much was new to me but in my heart of hearts I knew he was different. I was what I call an organic mom in terms of wanting things to just happen naturally. I wanted to feed that difference and just let him explore the world through all his five senses. He was my touchy-feely child who seemed to revel in the world around him. I thought all babies did that but I didn’t know then that he did it longer then usual. My baby who looked at me with such big open intense eyes just minutes after he was born. He was my little baby that could do a pincer grasp within 48 hours of being born and pinch me so hard I had bruises on my breasts and scratches. I was told my nurses and Doctors that babies don’t do that so young. He could do that thought. He could hit the toys in his bouncy chair hanging above him over and over and then he’d look over at me and check for my reaction. He was exploring his cause-and-effect world he was constantly looking at everything, making noise, reacting to everything around him and the world was a smorgasbord. Everyone had fun interacting with him so why would I ever think there was Autism present because he was such a social happy baby.
But now I know when I look at my 7 ½-year-old boy move through his sister’s bedroom he cannot just look with his eyes. He needs to look with his nose, his hands, and smell it. He is doing what he did as a baby and he does it today. This is Autism. Johnny lives in a world where he experiences everything huge. Everything is exponential and the volume of his life is turned up high, colours are intense and vibrant, soft is softer than anything, hard it’s harder than anything, beauty is more beautiful than anything, pain he can endure but when it hurts it hurts bad. When he sad there’s no one more sad than him and when he is feeling something profound the earth moves for him literally. His Grandmother often reminds me that from the day he was born he had these deep soulful, intelligent eyes that seemed to peer deep into her soul and she’s never forgotten that. When he gives a direct look his look is so intense and says more than any more words than you can imagine. This is autism.
Vaccines did not cause this he was born this way.