Friday, April 23, 2010

“Is Autism Caused by Childhood Vaccinations?”

Answering another question about autism, “Is autism caused by childhood vaccinations?” This is actually a great question and often debated subject, leading to questions about curing autism or understanding and accepting it.

Many parents become aware of autistic symptoms in their child around six months of age, which also happens to be the timeframe of several routine vaccinations. This has lead to rampant theories that vaccines or their preservatives may cause autism. What makes these theories even more palpable is when a celebrity has a child diagnosed with autism but chooses to stay rather uneducated about ASDs. Jenny McCarthy is one such celebrity mother of a son with autism. Unfortunately, in our society, celebrity is confused with knowledge and wisdom, and many people are easily swayed into a certain mindset because of celebrity platform.

For many years, mothers (and families) of a child with autism found it nearly unbearable to not be able to communicate with her child. It is easy to understand how a mother could feel like her child was “taken” from her and how tempting it would be to blame an outside source for this diagnosis. In addition, we all have our own favorite conspiracy theories about what the government is trying to inject into our bodies. The truth is these vaccination theories have almost no convincing scientific evidence and are actually biologically implausible. And yet, we find a lower rate of childhood immunizations and a higher rate of measles outbreaks. In addition, in my own opinion, since the prevalence of autism is 1-2 per 1,000 people, prevalence of ASD is 6 in 1,000 people, and affects about four times as many males as females, that further shows something else is at work rather than vaccines.

As much as the causes of autism are not well understood, it is clear that autism is a neural development disorder which affects how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize. It has been found that autism has a strong genetic basis indicating a propensity toward autism in developmental stages/ meiosis. Autism is very genetically complex and I won’t get into it here.

I would also like to address the typical heartache of communication issues with children with autism. Today we are seeing more and more prevalence of assistive technologies including several devices allowing someone with an ASD to type their thoughts and have the words electronically spoken. It is truly an amazing and eye opening experience.

In closing, while I can certainly see a desire to find a “cure” for autism, I think it would come at a great loss of people who think and relate differently in the world. I find it a better case for people to understand autism spectrum disorders and accept the amazing contributions they make in their close circles as well as the world at large.

1 comment:

  1. As Temple Grandin so eloquently puts it, "We need autistic minds for our world to function."

    I would like to have the opportunity for a cure pertaining to certain aspects of ASD for those who wish for treatment.