The problem with the community.
Vaccines are probably the biggest area of contention within the Autism community and there are some very strong opinions on either side.
I don’t have a child with a severe disability. I don’t know what it is to devote my life to a child who may, for the rest of their lives require around the clock care, nor do I know what it is to devote my entire life to their well being. I don’t know that anger, that sense of helplessness or the moment of grief that comes with learning that your child might not have the future you wished for them.
On the flip side, it is not uncommon for people with my form of Autism to resent being thought of as disabled. For many, the idea that we should be ‘cured’ is offensive. Many are very gifted and find their own unique niche, contributing remarkable things to society.
It is easy then to see why this argument swings back and forth, and why views on both sides get so heated.
Me & My Autism
In many ways, I am very lucky. I have an “mild” form of autism. I’m not entirely locked away in my own mind. I can for the most part look after myself and I can interact with others. My form of Autism comes with catches as much as symptoms. Sure I struggle with using the phone, and social situations are difficult self conscious affairs. but for the most part, I manage. Yes, it can be difficult, but it is for the most part manageable.
For myself, I believe my Autism gives me some very unique traits, and some interesting gifts. If I could take a pill to cure myself, most days I would say no. But there are days… I think if even the most passionate high functioning Autistic people are honest with themselves, I am sure they would feel the same way.
It is very easy for me to form a light-hearted opinion as someone who didn’t receive childhood vaccinations, but went on to develop Aspergers Syndrome. I am not severely autistic, and I am not the parent of a child who is, I’m not a parent looking for answers.
I have read countless vaccine related studies over the years and I have often written about the subject. I have publicly given stated my opinion on Andrew Wakefields’ deplorable actions with regard to his claims in 1998 and the methodology he used. In my opinion, his claims were unsupported, biased by greed and his methodology was obscene.
It is also difficult to ignore the simple fact that vaccines have made a huge difference to child mortality. In all good conscience, I don’t believe I could deny any child the possibility of immunity to diseases which can kill and are easily transmitted, especially among children.
Here is the thing though – the Autism community spends so much time on this debate, that sometimes I feel we are missing the bigger picture. We spend more time debating this one issue than we do at looking at treatment for those suffering severe Autistic symptoms. We need to work together as a community to highlight the positives and treat the negatives and to raise awareness on the practical issues around Autism. Early diagnosis, easing symptoms, and appropriate and practical therapies that give Autistic children the best possible chance need to be discussed, researched and heavily funded.
My conclusion after all these years is that Autism to some extent is a natural aspect of humanity and has probably been present throughout our history. It is, however very much on the increase, the numbers are difficult to argue with. The research on the whole seems to indicate that Autism has both genetic and environmental factors. Whether those factors are vaccines, pollution, smoking, alcohol, dietary or simple evolution throwing the dice, I am not sure it matters much. What is vastly more important is acceptance within society and a practical approach to dealing with the practical issues at hand. That is what is important and should be the focus of medical science and the community. I am not talking about curing autism, I am talking about making it manageable and reducing the suffering it all too often causes.
So there you have it, that is my view. I am sure some will take issue with it, but hopefully we can open up debate on other subjects other than cause and create discussion about more practical matters.