Susan Senator lives in Brookline, Mass.
For the first three years of my son’s life, I lived a kind of “Gaslight” experience. Sometimes everything seemed fine. But other times, ordinary activities such as piling him into the stroller and going to the park would feel odd somehow, false. Something was not right, but I could not say what or why. I felt as though I was playing the part of mommy, while the real me was clenched up somewhere in the background, nauseated with an unnamed fear for my son.
Nat had autism, but I didn’t know it. It was 1993 when he was diagnosed, and no one in my circle had a child with autism or even really knew what it was. When I had Nat evaluated, I asked whether I had caused it. “Oh, no, no one believes that anymore,” the doctor said, soothing me with his pragmatic, scientific manner. “Autism is neurological, genetic most likely.”
I was grateful to hear this, but only for a little while, because the real problem was still autism. Around the time Nat turned 8, he hit a rough patch that lasted years. He stopped sleeping on any kind of regular nighttime schedule, and he began to exhibit all sorts of difficult behaviors — false, maniacal laughter, hitting and pinching, breaking things. I didn’t know how to get him to calm down, and I feared for his safety. And because so little was known about autism, no one could really help us. In a way, I found myself back at the beginning, researching the condition, trying to figure out why. Why Nat? Why me?
When I came across the theory that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine could cause autism, it made a kind of Old World sense to me. From what I could gather, it sounded as though the vaccine might blow apart some young children’s immune systems, making them susceptible to all kinds of conditions. I was so worn down, so miserable in those days that I was desperate to believe there was a culprit, something or someone to blame. It was a relief to think that the problem wasn’t my DNA but an outside aggressor, a mistake caused by the medical establishment’s hubris.
I wondered, if this is true, what should I do? Shouldn’t I sue someone? Kill someone, even? I felt suffocated by anger and horror and also by not knowing what to do next. But the more I thought it through, the less clarity I had.
My husband and my mother told me I had to move on, for how could we ever really know whether the vaccine was the cause? I heard them. I also heard the whisper of those very early days with Nat, when doubt needled me. Something had been off — subtle, but there — before his vaccinations.
So I did more research, and I learned that scientific organizations around the world — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health — had proved the vaccine theory false. No one could say for sure what caused autism, but they certainly could say that it wasn’t a vaccine.
In hindsight, it’s easy to understand why some parents of children with autism want to see conspiracy and evil where none exists. Living with a person with autism can be devastatingly difficult, and learning that truth about vaccines didn’t really help me. Autism seemed to have stolen my son, and he was getting worse. He’d been expelled from school for his aggression. I needed help, and his therapists kept quitting because they were afraid of him. I was afraid of him. I was sick of my life.
I hung on, of course. Spring came. Somewhere I found the strength to keep my family together and to try one or two new things with Nat, such as signing him up for a Special Olympics gymnastics team. Nat started to do better. Nothing earth-shattering, but he was communicating a little more, and he seemed a bit more tolerant of other people. It was the first time I experienced coming through a bad time, finding a light at the end of the tunnel, with Nat.
Now I look back and see that something was indeed shifting in Nat — and in me. Maybe one influenced the other: He felt my happiness, he grew confident, he succeeded at more things and felt my approval. The change was gradual. Yet it was also all at once. I remember one heart-stopping moment when we shared a laugh on the living room couch, and his warm eyes held mine for a sliver of a second. I knew he was in there, and that was enough.
I didn’t get a perfect kid or a perfect life. No one does. But when you’re a young, scared parent, you will grasp at anything to make sense of a hardship such as autism. I know that firsthand. But the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. And more important, autism is not the only tough thing that can happen in this life. A return of deadly diseases kept at bay by vaccines would be far worse.
Whatever caused Nat’s autism did not crush him. He is all there. Still very autistic but growing toward the light nevertheless. …………….’
A sensitive subject and thank you for your insight.
No vaccine can be 100% safe, as can no other medical procedure, but one needs to assess, do the advantages outweigh any disadvantages or not and then decide accordingly.
As the mother of an Autistic child, I can’t help but put my two cents worth in on the recent uprising of controversy surrounding the outbreak of measles and the risk of administering the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination. I do believe I have a rather uncommon perspective on the matter. Unique? Maybe not. Nevertheless, here it is.
When my first son (who is completely “normal”) was one year old we went in for his MMR shot and the doctor suggested that I be immunized at the same time. Much to my regret, I did; I found out a few weeks later that I had been two weeks pregnant with my second son when I had the shot. When my second, Chris, was born everything seemed fine. He was developing according to his milestones and even beyond them. He spoke a few words and played normally. Then, at one year…
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Today’s 13-year-olds are not as bad as we’re led to believe from The Conversation.
An extract ‘In 1982 I was toying with the idea of a career in teaching. That year a controversial film, Made in Britain, starring Tim Roth was released and I almost didn’t become a teacher. The film’s central character, Trevor was a dysfunctional, violent, foul-mouthed youth – everything society hates and fears. My natural fear was how would I, as a young teacher, cope with a classroom full of such kids? Of course the film is fictional. It portrayed the 1980s accurately – but did it portray Britain’s youth accurately?
With the way some of the media represents young people, you may be forgiven for thinking that Roth’s character is alive and well and infesting our streets and schools. Different newspapers have their favourite terms for teenagers: the Daily Mail likes “yobs”, while the Daily Express goes with “feral kids”. ……….’
Within the above is the following report
Longitudinal study of young people in England* from the Department of Education
An extract from ‘ ………The analysis presented in this report shows that 13 year olds and their parents are, on the whole, positive about their school, home and personal lives. They appear more likely to make responsible choices than ten years ago – the findings produced in this report are in line with other research suggesting this is a sober, responsible generation of young
So just what is the truth? Do the media just highlight a minority group and then by either design or not imply this is in fact the majority. Is this just for the media of today or could it also be for yesteryear? For, is it not true that there as and may always will be a minority group of individuals who wish to rebel against the Values of Society and will these persons be the ones who the media wish to highlight. For in most cases what makes ‘headlines’ is it tragedies and bad events or good events?
The same can be said of the media coverage of persons on benefits, do they not publish accounts after accounts of persons claiming benefits for which they are not deemed to be entitled or misuse the benefits they receive. This then provides, to the population at large, a distorted belief of persons who claim benefits. There may be many more instances of how the media may distort information. Should the media not provide a balance in their reporting? It may be that you need to view the political leanings of each publication and should this be made clear within each media.
But in any context you will be studying statistics and can these statistics always be believed. Do we really know how the information as been obtained, is it from actual happenings, or is it from what has been said by particular persons. If it is the former are all happenings being included and if the latter, do we know what is being said is the truth. Are the statistics representative and how many persons have been included in the research. In the former have all areas of the country been included and all demographic persons.
So just what can we believe? Or do we just form our own opinions from information gleaned from a variety of sources, whether they be correct or not.
So are the media right or wrong, but this is just your own opinion as to what it is. But as it is an opinion, others may not agree, but we all do have a right to our own opinions.
* Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.
Opinions, there will always be more than one, but who should decide who is right or wrong. Why not just accept that each person has a right to their own opinions.
When I was in elementary school, I got into a major argument with a boy in my class. I have forgotten what the argument was about, but I have never forgotten the lesson I learned that day.
I was convinced that “I” was right and “he” was wrong – and he was just as convinced that “I” was wrong and “he” was right. The teacher decided to teach us a very important lesson.
She brought us up to the front of the class and placed him on one side of her desk and me on the other. In the middle of her desk was a large, round object. I could clearly see that it was black. She asked the boy what color the object was. “White,” he answered.
I couldn’t believe he said the object was white, when it was obviously black! Another argument started between my classmate and me…
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A great post from Scribblings from the Bluegrass , with which I agree entirely. I like many posts and therefore use the ‘like’ button, but I only comment if I feel there is something to add. I do look forward to viewing more posts from yourself.
Note: the following remarks are entirely my personal opinion. I make no assumptions as to what other bloggers prefer. I’m not suggesting that anyone else needs to pay heed to my thoughts.
Whenever I have occasion to follow lots of links to blogs on other hosts, I’m reminded of how much I appreciate the WordPress like button. I have the impression the other hosts don’t offer one as an option (based on NEVER having encountered one on another blog host).
I like it from both sides. As a blog writer, I’m pleased by every like I see on a post. Every one leaves me warm and smiling inside. I love the reminder that familiar faces are reading and I love seeing a new face in the list of those who have clicked like. And yes, I know…
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