Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

My Child Has Autism and I Vaccinate

Posted in Blogher by Skepdude on May 6, 2009

Have you or would you ever let your children travel by airplane? If your answer is “yes,” then you should re-examine any concerns about vaccinating your children. Both flying and vaccination carry real risks, but those risks are statistically unlikely to affect your family.

I know it’s more complicated than that, so keep reading. I also understand the fear behind not vaccinating, as I’ve been there myself. I clearly remember the stone age of 2003: my two-year-old son was newly diagnosed with autism, and I was desperate to help him.

The first thing I did was to enroll Leo in an ABA program, because that was the only method proven to help children with autism gain skills. But ABA is hard work and doesn’t promise miracles, and I wanted changes, fast. I craved a son who could tell me, “Mommy, I love you!,” so I started exploring alternative autism therapies.

And indeed, I found many self-appointed autism professionals willing to tell me to look past the challenging but loving boy I already had and focus on a theoretical Recovered Boy of the future. I tried not to be bothered that these people were (and still are) promoting scientifically questionable approaches, and focused on one of their popular theories: they thought that mercury in vaccines caused autism.

Those anti-vaccination people were passionate about “curing” our autistic children. I was passionate, I wanted to cure my autistic child. I did what they told me.

I stopped vaccinating my kids.

My youngest child was born in 2004, eighteen months after her brother’s diagnosis and during the thick of my alternative-treatment frenzy. I was so freaked out by being told, repeatedly, that Leo’s autism was likely caused by an injected environmental factor that there was no way in hell my new baby was getting a shot of anything. Not even vitamin K.

As that fortunately healthy baby grew and thrived, so did the evidence refuting a thimerosal/vaccine/autism link. Unfortunately, so did the rates of preventable and potentially lethal diseases. Turns out I wasn’t the only parent who’d freaked out and stopped immunizing his or her kids.

I needed to know if vaccinations had in fact affected my son, so I formally investigated the possible correlation between Leo’s autism and his immunization schedule: I enrolled him in a MIND Institute study that tracked the emergence of his autism symptoms via home videos, medical records, and my own journals.

The result: there was no evidence that Leo had regressed into autism after being vaccinated.

I thought long and hard. And decided that the risks of vaccinating my children were acceptable .



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