I have two sons with Autism. Two wonderful, lively, beautifully unique children that brighten the lives of everyone they encounter. I’d say I’m blessed to have boys who are high functioning, but I know I’d love them either way. So, like most ASD moms, I stay informed of latest medical developments and news regarding Autism.
It’s still a mystery. What causes it? Is it genetic? Is there a catalyst that causes its presentation? What are these triggers? Why is there such a variance in the functionality of affected children? Why is its prevalence increasing so significantly? The questions go on ad infinitum.
There are many renowned scientists and doctors that have presented compelling answers to some of these questions. One such doctor was a British fellow by the name of Andrew Wakefield. If you follow Autism news, you know who he is. If you don’t, allow me to give you a quick rundown of his qualifications and Autism theories.
Andrew Wakefield, a British medical researcher and gastroenterologist, published a report in 1998 that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps, Rubella- given routinely in early childhood) and gastrointestinal cancers as well as Autism. In 2010, after a frenzy had already been ignited and a non-vaxing trend went viral (pun intended), his research was debunked and his medical credentials were stripped.
“…his research was debunked and his medical credentials were stripped.”
Now, I’m not naive enough to believe Andrew Wakefield is the sole pioneer of an anti-vaxing movement – there have many that have come before him – but with the prevalence of Autism increasing, the fear placed by Dr. Wakefield’s report was enough to give parents everywhere pause before having their children inoculated.
As you know, many layman and celebrities alike jumped on the anti-vax bandwagon, citing the MMR vaccine as a potential cause for their child/loved one’s Autism. (We all think of Jenny McCarthy, but here is a great list of other celebrities, too: Anti-vax celebs). Most recently, Mr. Robert DeNiro who has a child with Autism, has stepped into the anti-vax spotlight with his controversial decision to withdraw an anti-vaxing film (written by Andrew Wakefield) from the Tribeca Film festival.
I will NOT claim to be a scientist here, but since Andrew Wakefield’s report there has been a marked increase in vaccine-preventable diseases. (Here’s a great article on this: Vaccine slideshow). And despite the fact that his research has been proven false, there are still many that are clinging to this disproven MMR-Autism link theory. Why?
As a pro-vaccination, ASD mom I can only answer in one word: FEAR. We’re simply clinging to a hope that there is an easy fix to this Autism epidemic. Not vaccinating our children would be an easy fix! It’s a terrible thing not knowing what’s causing it. It’s even worse thinking that something we did caused it. So, we cling to a hope that may seem perfectly logical at the time. After all, Timmy’s Autism was diagnosed after that last MMR shot so it must be that! (Never mind that the Autistic characteristics were present long before that first MMR vaccination, but went unnoticed.)
“We’re simply clinging to a hope that there is an easy fix to this Autism epidemic.”
While it’s not the easiest thing in the world to be a mom to two Autistic children, it’s not the worst thing, either. You know what would be the worst thing in the world? Losing them to a disease that has a vaccine! If (a parent) decided not to vaccinate based on an irrational (and unfounded) fear that the vaccine would cause a neurological, yet non-lethal condition in a child and then said child contracted a lethal (yet preventable) disease and died….MY GOD! I can’t even begin to imagine the guilt that would play out in that parent’s mind.
So, why are we seeing this fear mongering, false-report writing, greedy ex-Dr. Wakefield in the news again? God, I wish I knew. I hate seeing this man’s name come up. I’m glad he was tossed from the medical community and I breathed a sigh of relief when his studies were proven false. I hate that he made a film on a subject that should be absolutely closed for debate. So to Mr. DeNiro, I say thank you. Thank you for pulling that film. Maybe there will be fewer dead children next year from preventable diseases.