Sunday, March 9, 2008

Autism and vaccinations

I read an article on Thursday about vaccinations and autism. To summarize, this little girl was developing normally, had five shots at age 19 months, and steadily declined into autism spectrum disorder (ASD) afterwards. Her father (a scientist) discovered that she had a genetic mitochondrial disorder, and the theory is that the thimerosal (mercury) preservative in the vaccinations she received triggered the mitochondrial disorder, plunging her into ASD. The parents are now receiving some sort of settlement, and the girl is now nine years old.

Does this make you worry about vaccinating your children? It didn't change a lot for me. In the autism-vaccination debate, it seems that thimerosal is the 'bad guy', and it is no longer used as a preservative in vaccinations. Some argue that autism rates have not gone down since thimerosal was removed from vaccinations, but I don't know that that's a strong argument. There is so much over-diagnosing of autism, and there is no nationwide standard for diagnosing it either. Autism rates may skyrocket in one state because they have lower standards for applying that diagnosis. Here's a big problem with autism - I don't think there is any one cause of the disorder. It may be genetic in some kids, it may be environmental in others, it may be a combination of three or four things for other kids.

But here's the good news about autism. We're getting better at treating it more effectively, and getting those kids help earlier. At Boo's 18 month well visit, I filled out an autism screening checklist. And the doctor said I will fill it out again at her 2 year well visit to be sure there is no regression. There are people lobbying to get these autism screenings to be mandatory, but I am happy to see that there are doctors already screening, even without the legislation.

Now let me be clear. I am not all about slapping on the label of autism at 18 months or even 3 years just because they may show some characteristics of it. But I am all about getting a child the help that he needs as early as he needs it. I'm always a little suspicious of these people that go on Oprah claiming that this treatment or that diet "cured" their child of autism. There's not a "cure" for autism, and I think that popular media misleads parents. You have to find a therapy model that works for you, and the magic diets don't work for everyone (although I went to an autism and nutrition conference once and gained some great insights into that debate, but that's for another post).


  1. I'm so glad you blogged about this. I have been VERY concerned about the whole autism/vaccines dilemma. (ask Trav.... I've been a mess) :S I don't want to put anything in my daughter that could cause her life long problems, but I also don't want to not put something in her body that could save her from getting very sick. Great blog. I'd be happy to receive any links or articles or any more information that you've found helpful! Thanks Andrea!

  2. This isn't about the vaccines, but it is something else I've been learning lately about autism. Apparently, with the help of computers, they are now finding that assumptions that were made about what goes on inside the mind of an autistic person are very very wrong. Here is a popular blog written by an autistic woman:

    And here is a story about a 13-year-old communicating her thoughts by computer:

    Sorry to be so off-topic, but I think it's really cool stuff.

  3. Great post, Andrea.