I wonder this, seeing as we are now about a week into "Autism Awareness Month," and a couple of days following "World Autism Day." How will such awareness affect my child, and other autistic children and adults throughout the world? Will new support services, better educational and vocational programs, beneficial extracurricular activities or anything else of real benefit come to this population of individuals? Will a day of special programming on CNN, fund-raisers at Toys R Us, etc. truly educate the public and make others "aware" of autism (and more importantly of autistic adults and their needs)? Will other parents be more understanding when my child has a meltdown in the grocery store? Will children be more likely to engage with their autistic peer? Will anyone gain anything from all this supposed awareness?
AutismVox has a wonderful post entitled, "Vaccine Awareness from David Kirby," in which Dr. Kristina Chew ends with this:
If we’re going to be “aware” of autism, it’s not vaccines that should be focused on, but on autistic children and autistic adults themselves and their needs, and how we can best teach, help, and understand them.
I couldn't agree more.
In Kirby's piece, he speaks out against the CDC, as well as pediatricians in general. Blaming your physician for giving your child vaccines is like blaming the McDonald's cashier for your being overweight. You have the right to educate yourself on the fat content in a Big Mac, just as you have the free right to investigate vaccines. You can easily opt to not go to the drive-thru, just as you have the right to discuss your concerns over vaccines with your physician. You have the right to opt for your own "vaccine schedule." If your child's doctor disagrees, or will not support your preference, simply switch doctors. I've had to switch doctors once for my daughter. Her first G.I. doctor was just not clicking with us, I felt like he wasn't hearing us out and preferred a lot of invasive testing over more obvious issues. So, we switched, and found a fabulous stomach doc for my daughter. It was my right.
Our pediatrician is nothing like those that Kirby says have emailed him, irate over having to take more time to discuss vaccines with their parents. I remember very clearly, my daughter's 18 month well-visit. At that point, my daughter had been diagnosed as "developmentally delayed" for a year, she had been in therapy for nearly that long as well. By 18 months, she had several diagnoses, both neurological and physical, as well as the description of "autistic features." I had read tons of information on autism by that point.
Once the exam was done, we had our questions and concerns discussion with our doctor. Then, came shot time. My physician presented me with a choice, "Do you want to go ahead and have her receive the MMR shot today? I'm going to give you a choice, given all that is going on. I feel she should receive it, but it is up to you." I told her I had read about shots, autism, etc. and felt that for my child, receiving measles would be a real risk. Maybe I am a rare case, and just lucky to have a fabulous doctor. There's a reason why we drive nearly 40 minutes for her. The bottom line is that we do have the option of picking new doctors, of driving distances to find people we trust to care for our children.
There are plenty of physicians who do not bully their patients' parents into getting vaccines. And, ultimately, it is our responsibility as a parent to do what we feel is best for our children. And, how we come to that position, of what we feel is right for our kids, should come from factual, scientific evidence. We shouldn't be basing our decision on vaccinating our children on a journalist's or actor's point of view.