And there is a measles epidemic. Well…that’s not particularly surprising, is it? My children are past the age when the immunization protocol is part of the annual pilgrimage to the doctor’s office, but I remember those days when -with a wail and heartfelt tears- we would bravely face the needle, and then parade home with a lollipop and the vague memory of what had just happened. They might have experienced some mild soreness, and they might have been fussy until the next morning, but they had just been anointed with a shield against childhood illnesses.
I didn’t really stop to think about whether vaccines had had a triggering effect for J’s Autism until I kept being assailed by people asking me if I thought that’s what had caused it. Upon serious, thoughtful consideration, I am thoroughly convinced that one thing had nothing to do with the other, and that J’s Autism is what it is: a neurodevelopmental disorder that, quite possibly, has traveled down the family trees and had gone completely ignored due to the mildness of its presentation in previous generations. Both families contributing genetically to the cocktail that is J have their sampling of “very quirky, isolated, obstinately set in their ways” individuals. One generation’s Weird Uncle Louie is this generation’s J, with sprinkles…
To anyone who asks I always say “vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.” The moms that meet at Starbucks before the “mommy and me” and discuss how they want their kids to be gluten-free, and their food to be organic, and their education Montessori but WOW!!!!…vaccinate. The moms that sit at their computers going back and forth between studies and articles and essays by this or that celebrity who has experienced the strife of bringing their child back from the brink…vaccinate. The moms and dads who read about how violent an intervention vaccines are to a baby’s body…vaccinate. When your kid is wrapped up in the effects of a measles epidemic, covered in welts from head to toe, and receiving no more treatment than “we have to let it run its course, and bedrest” you don’t get to choose if what they eat at the hospital is gluten-free…
I don’t recommend Autism to anyone if a choice is available. I want everyone’s children to be healthy, happy, to blossom, but I don’t particularly enjoy that children with Autism have turned into “the thing we must fear.”
Is the experience of raising a child in the Spectrum enjoyable? Well, all I can say to that is that when you don’t have a choice, you do the best you can. I don’t look at the could’ve-beens as often as you’d think. I don’t wistfully sigh and ponder of all the vacations we have missed out on, or the milestones that have been relocated to spots further down the road, or moved to a place that can only be reached through an alternate, bumpy, unpaved, uphill (both ways) road. In this household we are not conformists, but we are definitely accepting of the circumstances…and then we rebel against them with all we’ve got.
You can argue that we are already in it, and that’s a fine place from which to issue an opinion. I’ve heard it said that we “enjoy” the attention this brings us. (An aside: I’d LOVE to know what attention. Certainly not of people chomping at the bit to come help us! Certainly not from people jumping up and down, arms waving frantically, to participate in J’s life with a balls-to-the-wall, pedal-to-the-metal attitude.) I don’t know about other parents of individuals in the Spectrum, but we have yet to be issued glittered, bedazzled sashes that read “AUTISM!!!!” on them. If they were mailed to us, we never got them.
Not that long ago, I was “schooled” by a commenter in Facebook on how vaccines are bad, bad, bad and they can cause all sorts of injuries and even death. I say I was schooled because this person made it sound like I wouldn’t ever have read anything on the subject. Obviously, if my “child” is in the Spectrum, it must be because I am misinformed about vaccines. Namely, it is my own ignorance that brought this curse upon the house of Us… The good thing about Facebook is that people can’t really see you roll your eyes (which I did as I read the twisted logic this person applied in their argument,) or flip them off (which I actually refrained from doing because my ten year-old self had to run off to play with J and his nifty bumper-shot board.)
I will now say something that, I think, is necessary for me to get out of my chest: when anti-vaxxers rant about how vaccines can cause Autism, they are reducing my son to a cautionary tale. That, my friends, is a shitty thing to do. The truth is that the anti-vaxx movement isn’t about anything other than a fear of the unknown. All the childhood diseases, the world thinks, have been said, done, and we’re on this side of them, aren’t we? We’re safe and sound, and we know they’re not THAT bad, right???? I’ve said it before, and I will repeat it…walk around an old cemetery, and locate the sculptures of little angels…count the names on the headstone under it.
Measles isn’t just a nuisance illness. Autism isn’t just a nuisance either. There is a tremendous load of work attached to raising an individual in the Spectrum, yes…yes, yes…oh, indeed, yes… There is a vast source of frustration, disappointment, exhaustion, confusion, going back to the drawing board. We spend a lot of time trying to figure things out. We spend a lot of time wondering what we can do differently to get a better result. We will be doing this for the rest of our lives…and J’s. A long, long life, we hope. A long, happy, fruitful life…
Autism isn’t catching. It isn’t the end of the world either. It will take you to the edge, to the brink, to a rope dangling down the side of the precipice, but it isn’t the end of the world. Measles, maybe, won’t be the end of the world either, but…you can’t really prevent Autism. There is no known cure or form of prevention; there are interventions that get reinvented all the time, and you go along with them.
Measles can spread. Measles can kill. Measles is more of a choice if you’ve decided to not vaccinate.