When I had first learned my son was showing early signs of autism, I remember seeing a “change” in my son. I didn’t catch this shift until after the pediatrician pointed out the obvious. I was assuming it was just another phase he was going through that made him less social and more in a zoned out state. I remember talking with others about onset autism after vaccines, and recited certain things I remembered from watching the movie Vaxxed. For a brief minute I panicked. Leo’s shift happened not long after his 12 month vaccines, and I had some worry about vaccines being the cause. Then, I remembered back to when Leo was younger. Although he held eye contact and interacted with us, he did have some of the red flags way before the MMR vaccine. So I decided to take it upon myself to do some digging and research. I want to also point out that autism is still mostly diagnosed after the age of 3. Early signs of autism begin to show coincidentally right around the time the MMR vaccine is administered. I have read into many stories by parents of autistic children who have said their child was diagnosed at an older age, but once the autism signs became apparent they remembered their childs “shift” starting before the age of 2. I have looked into studies, read the CDC website and watched documentaries, read books, and compiled as much information from both sides as possible. It is so important to understand that all of these views are fluid and my own. If I find new information, if new studies come out, etc. I would not be ashamed nor embarrassed to admit my change of views. So if I have said something in the past that does not match up to what I say now or in the future, it is because I am constantly informing myself. I once thought vaccines played a role in my son’s autism. I now know with certainty they did not. This doesn’t mean vaccines don’t scare me. As a first time mom, everything scares me. I held off giving Leo peanut butter for the longest time because I was afraid he would have a reaction. It isn’t much different than being afraid of vaccines, or anything that could possibly cause harm to your child, even if the possibility is very, very scarce. I try my best to be as unbiased as possible, and I in no way condone others for having their own opinions. My son is fully vaccinated, however, I know many moms that are ex-vaxers and they are no less perfect than me. It is our job to do what is in our child’s best interest, and sometimes that decision can be very difficult to make. Whatever your stance, just know we all have the same goal: to keep our children safe and healthy. Here are my views on the vaccine and autism debate.
Autism Numbers Rising Due to Vaccines
This statement is one that I cannot hear without rolling my eyes. I once believed this, but then I looked at the facts. We do not currently know the true cause for rising autism rates, but many scholars do say it most definitely has to do with the broadened definition of autism and the better diagnostic tools across the board and in minority communities. Environmental factors could also play a role, we just don’t know enough yet to say this is true or not. My thoughts: think of all the environmental factors that have increased since the 1990’s, besides vaccines. We must take into account all possible causes. Could it be pollen? Growth hormones or pesticides? Maternal age when the child was conceived? There have been numerous studies done on the MMR vaccine since the controversial 1997 study published by Andrew Wakefield. This man lost his medical license and the study was pulled. I am not a stranger to corporate greed and Big Pharma. I do know that the world is not always a beautiful place and special interest groups and money can control anything. However, I do see a link between those who agree with Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, and also claim removing certain foods from their autistic child’s diet “cured” their autism. Now, I truly believe that what you eat can affect your mental health. Especially if your body cannot break down certain proteins like casein or gluten. However, I do not understand how these people can say without a doubt that vaccines caused their child’s autism, but a gluten free casein free diet cured them. That makes no sense to me, unless the vaccine sparked some type of gluten and casein allergy in the child, then caused symptoms and reactions due to the child consuming the allergens. But even if that was the case, it would be the allergen that caused the onset autism symptoms, not the vaccines directly. Then that wouldn’t be autism would it? Autism Spectrum Disorder is life long, and although there is no known cure currently, there are ways to increase your chances of eventually easing lower down the spectrum as symptoms and behaviors improve. This takes a lot of therapy, work and patience and from my understanding it does not happen over night. I do believe what we consume can effect our brain’s function, our behaviors and health. However, there is not enough scientific evidence right now that proves gluten free casein free diets cure autism. But, it does not hurt to try this diet to see if behavior and symptoms improve. Not vaccinating your child could hurt, just to throw it out there. I plan to start my son back on his GFCF diet as soon as we see his GI specialist this month for allergy testing and guidance. I will be tracking his outcome from the diet, if any, in a separate post.
Then Where Are All the Autistic Adults?
This question made a lot of sense to me at first, and I believed the information behind it. Where are all the adults with autism if there isn’t truly an increase in autism? Del Bigtree, an anti-vax activist, said numerous times, and it was even written about in J.B. Handley’s book How to end the Autism Epidemic, if autism was just as common today as it was back in the day, where are all the senior citizens flapping their hands and spinning in circles in nursing homes or in the community? They don’t exist. I agree and disagree with this. As I learned more about autism, I learned about something called passing. Passing is when someone with a mental disability, someone with autism, suppresses their stims in order to “pass” as neurotypical. According to many autistic adults, passing is draining and painful for a lot of these people. Passing can be detrimental to some, and stimming is really just helping the person to cope with all of the sensory input around them. These people were either taught to suppress their stims or do so because our society is not as accepting as it should be and judgement could be more difficult to handle than actually suppressing the behaviors, and the desire to “fit-in” could outweigh the desire to stim. I am not autistic, and I am quite new to this world. I learn something new almost everyday, and these thoughts are from autistic adults who I have been following and studying for the past few months.
If There is No Known Cause, How Can You Say Vaccines Aren’t the Cause?
We know that research still needs to be done surrounding autism. In fact, most autism research dollars are spent on genetic research. In my opinion this is just a waste, for now at least. It has shown in previous research that there is no Autism Gene. There is no one gene that causes autism, but many, many possible gene mutations that could cause autism. But this isn’t even a full answer, since some of the mutations found in people with autism are also present in people without autism. So, coming to your own conclusion on that one should be pretty simple. Genetics are just an “increased risk”, meaning if you have one child diagnosed with ASD, the chances of having another child with autism are increased. It has been said time and time again on many reliable websites, that autism is most likely caused by a number of different things and not just one thing in particular; mothers age at conception, birth weight, labor complications, genetic mutations, and/or environmental factors. So what does this have to do with vaccines? Vaccines have been studied. There has yet been a study that produced enough evidence that would conclude that vaccines do cause autism. You can follow this link to see the list of studies done.
As of right now, I do not believe vaccines are the primary cause of autism. I would categorize vaccines with environmental factors. I do believe more studies need to be done, specifically studies that take into account environmental factors other than vaccines. Genetic studies have shown such little, and there is a lot more work to be done there. I think the genetic studies should be put on hold and environmental factors need to be examined more. Until then, I will continue to vaccinate my child and research more on this topic. Science is always changing. I do not believe that the science is settled.
Accepted theories are the best explanations available so far for how the world works. They have been thoroughly tested, are supported by multiple lines of evidence, and have proved useful in generating explanations and opening up new areas for research. However, science is always a work in progress, and even theories change
The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California.