About Me

A couple of years ago, I found my autistic child locked in a small cold cement cell at his school. The cell had no windows, no furniture, and was slate gray with low lighting. The cell was also sound proofed so parents and teachers outside wouldn’t hear him crying. I am writing this blog as a campaign to change the way these children are perceived and treated in our society.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Cause of Autism

The reason I am discussing this is to give something for parents with a new born to think about.  For parents who have a child who has already been diagnosed with autism, please don’t perceive this as encouragement in any way to try some of the dangerous cures that are floating out there on the Internet.
There is much disagreement on the subject of the cause for autism, so I will try to clear away some of the smoke.
There has been some evidence that autism is a genetic disease.  They asked me many questions about this when they first diagnosed my son, eventually checking that he had a family background of autism, even though NO ONE IN MY NOR MY HUSBANDS FAMILY EVER HAD AUTISM.  They did so, because I mentioned that my father was unusually intelligent.  He not only has a medical degree, but he also has a masters in aeronautical engineering.  I find this funny, as if my father has autism, then I want it too.  Neither my father, nor anyone else in our family has had any kind of debilitating sensory issues like my son.  My father does not have trouble with communicating, speech, or languages, but has, in fact, studied sixteen languages.  But the professionals, for their epidemiology studies, check off that my son had a history of autism in his family?  Why did they do this?  I don’t know, other than it is true that people often find the answer that they are looking for, and the current assumption in the medical community is that autism is a genetic disease, so that is what they look to prove.
Because so many have concluded that autism has a genetic component, I will acquiesce on this point … although I firmly believe that there has to be a very strong environmental trigger.  If my father was autistic, like they marked down, and I am also genetically predisposed, why didn’t either of us panic in the classroom when we were five years old?  Why didn’t we get up and start dancing around and completely ignore the teacher?  If there is a genetic trait that made my son more susceptible, it was a trait that never manifested in any of his other family members.  So the question remains, what was the trigger?
Additionally, they have shown a significant rise in the cases of autism in the main population of some of the developed countries, Unites States of America included.  There are many of these studies, easily found in a web search, all with slightly different numbers.  Over forty years ago, 1 child in 10,000 was diagnosed with autism.  Now, 1 child in 150 (some papers show 1 in 100, the numbers vary by study).  Whatever the paper you look at, the number of cases is on the rise.  One crazy explanation that they have for this is that the professionals are better at diagnosing these children now.  I know everyone likes to pat themselves on the back, but I have never heard a more silly explanation, as many who have an autistic child will tell you.  When I was younger, there was a special needs program at our school, but none of those children’s symptoms followed the pattern o f my son’s.  My son cannot understand what you mean when you give him a simple direction, but then he will memorize all of the planets in our solar system, as well as their atmosphere and the weather patterns on each planet.  I would have been blown away if one of the special needs children that I knew when I was my sons age was able to do that.  Furthermore, the number of overall children entering the special needs program is mushrooming and the school systems are having a very difficult time handling all of the autistic children that are being enrolled.  If it was simply better diagnosis on the part of the professional community, then there would not be an overall increase in the number of children with special needs.  Essentially, my son never would have been able to attend a “regular” classroom like I did, so he would have been diagnosed with something, so there should not be an overall rise.  Finally, if you have cases where there are identical twins and one has autism and one does not, there has to be an environmental trigger.
The main point that I am trying to show is:  There may be a genetic predisposition for autism, but there is also an environmental trigger, and this trigger is increasing over the past couple decades in our modern industrialized nations.
Now, what is the environmental trigger?  Unfortunately, they don’t know.  There has been speculation that it is vaccines.  This makes sense to me as my son received twice as many vaccines by the age of two as I did.  Many do not believe it is vaccinations because the epidemiology studies that were done suggested that there was no link between thimerosal and autism.  Other studies show that there is no link between the Measles Mumps and Rubella shots and autism.  My suspicion is that it is not one vaccine in particular, but rather an overloading of the immune system that causes autism.  Perhaps that is the reason that they are not able to link it to one particular vaccine.  Additionally, some in the medical community are starting to regard autism as an immunological disorder, putting the vaccines back on top as a list of suspected triggers.  I would be interested to see an epidemiology study that shows the frequency of autism in children who receive all of these shots by the age of two versus children who receive the shots over a longer period of time.  There is a higher amount of children who are afflicted by autism in the Northern part of the United States than in the South, a possible explanation for this is that the culprit could be the combination of vaccines and another illness at the same time.  In essence, an overload of the immune system is caused not by the vaccines alone, but by the other illnesses that the child comes into contact with.  If most children acquire autism by the age of two years old, why not give them the MMR shot at the age of three?  When one considers how just a few decades ago there were studies that showed that smoking cigarettes was good for you, it is reasonable to question the assertion that the epidemiology study proves that autism is not triggered by having too many vaccines and that overload the young child’s immune system could be the cause.
So, in summation:  The evidence suggests that there is no link between autism and high number of vaccines received by the age of two, but it is not conclusive.  Therefore, it would be advisable to 1) Try to have your child immunized during the summertime when their immune system will not be fighting off as many other infections.  2) Under advice of doctor, ask about postponing some of the immunizations.  Simply see if it is possible to have that shot at age of three rather than back to back with the booster that they just gave your child.  I would not recommend forgoing the vaccines all together, as this would be exposing your child to other very real illnesses.
Are there other possible triggers besides vaccines?  Yes, of course.  I would be suspicious of anything that has surfaced in industrialized societies in the past two decades.  As crazy as it sounds, if I could go back in time, I would keep my son away from cell phones, microwaves, and food warmed in plastic containers until he reached the age of three and was out of the danger zone for developing autism.  And, until they find conclusively what in our environment triggers autism, I would recommend that anyone with a baby does the same thing.

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