Most of you reading this probably know that I’m somewhat obsessed with autism. I post research that I come across on Facebook quite regularly and I’ve also written about it several times on this blog. I realize that I probably come across as anti-vaccine, when in fact I’m not. Brooks gets vaccinated on a delayed schedule. Since Brooks is a healthy child that is not on the spectrum, you may wonder why I’m so obsessed. I’m deeply bothered by the staggering statistics (1 in 68 kids and 1 in 42 boys!! according to the CDC’s latest report). I’m also deeply bothered by the fact that you can have a “normal” child who is hitting their milestones and then suddenly he or she not only stops progressing but actually starts to regress. My mind has a hard time grasping this and it breaks my heart.
Since I spend so much time researching this, I wanted to spend a little time sharing some of the things that I think are relevant. I realize that I’m not a healthcare professional so feel free to disregard all of this information if you chose. Please understand, though that I’m not posting any of this to be persuasive or judgemental. I don’t post research on here or on FaceBook because I want to fight with people. I understand that a lot of the information out there is flawed. I would even go as far as saying that all of the information out there is at least somewhat flawed. Research is expensive so most large studies are funded by pharmaceutical companies who obviously have their own agendas. Research that is privately funded is often led by a person or persons who also have their own potential gains. Regardless of this, I like information. I like to do my research and then form my own educated opinion. At the end of the day that’s all any of us can really do.
Since the CDC recently came out with the new statistics on the rate of autism (1 in 68), there have been many sources siting that the reason for the dramatic increase (a 30% increase in 2 years according to the The Washington Post) is better diagnostic tools and awareness. Although I believe that this could account for a portion of the growth, it certainly can’t be the only explanation. Prior to 1990 the rate of autism was 1 in 1,ooo children (wikipedia.com). It’s now 11 per 1,000 children so that’s 11x’s the number of children being affected in a relatively short period of time. Also of interest is the fact that while autism continues to be on the rise in the U.S., “autism rates in British children appear to have plateaued in the past decade” (The Washington Times) . “Taken together, the U.S. autism prevalence rate rose 78 percent between 2004 and 2008, the CDC said, even as British rates apparently remained flat.” Certainly this dramatic difference can’t be solely attributed to the U.S.’s superior diagnostic criteria.
Regarding my research, I’m going to start with the highly controversial topic of vaccines. This is a very sensitive topic and often discussions among parents (or anyone for that matter) can quickly turn ugly. I think this is so unfortunate. I feel like we are all striving for the same thing: to have healthy, well adjusted children. I would like to think that we can have adult conversations about the tough stuff without resorting to name calling. With that being said, I don’t think that autism is directly caused by vaccines. I really don’t know what causes autism but I also don’t think that the correlations should be ignored. For those of you who say that you’d rather have an autistic child than a child who is taken from you from a deadly disease, of course I couldn’t agree more. The problem with this argument; however, is that the numbers don’t add up. Did you know that the U.S. ranks 169 out of 224 in the infant mortality rate? This means that 55 countries across the globe (most of Europe and Asia) have less infant deaths per year than in the U.S. (Info from CIA 2014,click here). If you look at this special report (published in Generation Rescue, Inc. April 2009), at the number of mandatory vaccines and the mortality rate of children under the age of 5, you’ll likely come to the conclusion that all of these vaccines are not making our children safer. Iceland, Sweden, Singapore, Japan, and Norway have the lowest infant mortality rates and they all have 11-13 mandatory vaccines. The U.S. which is #34 on this list (33 below Iceland), has the highest number of mandated vaccines with 36 per child. Also of importance in this report, are the rates of autism per country. Iceland, which again has 11 mandatory vaccines, has an autism rate of 1 in 1,100 (as of 2009) compared to the U.S.’s 1 in 150 (again as of 2009). It’s also important to note that 25 vaccines have been added to the schedule since 1990.(Generation Rescue, Inc. April 2009). The authors conclude, that “This study appears to lend credibility to the theory that the U.S. vaccine schedule is linked to the U.S. epidemic of autism, particularly when compared to the published autism rates of other countries. Urgent additional study is required.” I couldn’t agree more that “urgent additional study is required”.
Again, I don’t mean to pick on vaccines but I do think that it’s valuable information that we should all have on hand. My husband and I have discussed each vaccine so that we can make educated choices and we also try to make educated choices in other aspects of our lives as well. I believe there are a lot of toxins in our food, in our cleaning supplies, and in our water. Although I don’t know for sure, I would guess that Iceland doesn’t have the large number of GMO’s and/or toxins in their food and other household supplies. I’ve heard stories of mothers who had their carpets cleaned and then noticed that their child’s behavior started to change. Food allergies are out of control and meanwhile so are GMO’s. I believe all of these things could and likely do contribute to the increase of autism. From the moment that I’ve found out that I’m pregnant (with Brooks or this time around), I try to be very careful about the beauty products that I use, the cleaning products, and the foods that I eat. I try to include fermented foods into Brooks’s and my diet and try to limit gluten and dairy (both foods can be really hard on children on the spectrum). There is a wonderful article on the Autism Research Institute about “Minimizing Risks” that I think every mother and mother-to-be should read. Since reading it, I’ve been more mindful of not carrying my cell phone in my pocket and I’ve been more vigilant about taking my probiotics.
I am in no way here trying to blame mothers or anyone else here for autism. I think it hits so close to home because I have a son and I know that I am not immune to autism. I do not write any of this in a judgmental way. I write this coming from a place of love. I know how much I love my son and I want to keep him healthy. I also know that there are a lot of things that are simply out of my control. At the end of the day, I will make the best decisions that I can and the rest is in God’s hands. I just want to know that my decisions are informed ones so that I can never look back wishing I’d known then what I know now.
In honor of Autism Awareness Day, I donated to Autism Speaks and if this is an issue that speaks to you, I encourage you to do the same.