I wanted to throw bricks at the TV.
Perhaps if I explain my own personal views/opinions on autism, you, fair reader, will understand why I wanted to throw bricks at the TV.
Ok, this is complicated, but since I'm the parent of at least one, if not three (still waiting on official diagnosis, but I know what I know) kids on the autistic spectrum, I've been around the block, read a thing or two and have lived with the realities for the past fifteen years or so. And I thank God that my kid's symptoms are on the very mild side of autism (Schizphrenia excepted which isn't autism, but which mental illness is found at a higher rate in the autistic population than the "normal" population).
The question someone posed to me on facebook yesterday was whether or not I thought autism is caused by vaccines. Hmmmm. How do I answer this?
Since I'm not a doctor, or a scientist, all I can do is share my own experience in this teeny tiny laboratory that is my own family.
At our house, only ONE of our children got their vaccinations on schedule, and that was our oldest and worst affected. The other three all received delayed vaccines, starting when they were two. The only one of our children to have very strong autism spectrum symptoms is our oldest. Score one for a vaccine connection. The others' symptoms are milder and more subtle, but there nonetheless. And I do wonder whether, if they had been vaccinated on schedule, they would be more severe. I'll never know.
Now, my husband is an un(officially)-diagnosed self-identified Aspie as well. So, score one for genetics, eh?
And here's the kicker: We never had a moment, after a vaccine when we felt like our child "went away" or was lost to us. Score one against vaccines being the cause.
Rather, the signs and symptoms sort of grew slowly over the years or were always subtly with us, and have gotten slowly worse over the years.
B was the kind of baby that never took a nap on her own. She was very difficult to settle. I nursed her until she was three. Even at that age she was already talking in a very high pitched voice with a funny accent. At the time, her tantrums seemed age appropriate, but they lasted for years beyond what would have been normal. I thought I was a bad mom. I was being told I was a bad mom. That I needed to discipline her better.
B was very precocious and was reading by age 3. Hyperlexia is a symptom. So is bedwetting, and that runs in families doesn't it? There are so many things that I just dealt with, and didn't run to the doctor about, that many moms would have. In so many ways I was isolated and on my own, without support. And by the time B was a pre-schooler, I KNEW she was different enough from other kids that I was afraid to send her to school. I felt like she would get diagnosed as ADHD (very popular at the time) which I instinctively felt was the wrong diagnosis. I remember saying that I did not want her to get "pidgeonholed". So we started home schooling but then I was too sick and exhausted to make that last, so she was put in public school. Because she was so smart academically, she never even got an IEP even though it was discussed, whether or not she should. To make a long story short: When B was in 3rd grade we had her evaluated by a psychologist, who said: "She's on the spectrum but I wouldn't call it Aspergers". For some reason, my brain was so focused on "whether or not she has Asperger's" that I did not even HEAR the "she's definitely on the spectrum" part of the evaluation. Duh, me! Fast forward three years when the pyschosis started and I kept pushing for an Aspie diagnosis from the psychiatriast, who finally gave me one, but I think his real assessment would have been what the psychologist had said: On the spectrum but not apsie. Now that I am aware that two of my other kids DO fit the aspie bill better, I tend to agree. Spectrums are strange things and no two kids are alike.
But the thing that makes me think that Dr. Wakefield is on to something is that I don't think I knew what a normal diaper ever was. And I did not realize that my kids' poops were not "normal" but now that I read up on the subject, I realize that they never were...things were too squishy, too loose. Couple that with constant butt rashes, and well, I think the gut has a lot to do with autism. But I never ever made the connection at the time.
The actual work of Dr. Wakefield is the work of a gastroenterologist. He found that when he started examining the guts of kids with autism that they had gut disbiosis. Dr. Wakefield gives it a name: Autistic Enterocolitis. And the AAP, or whomever was cited by Nightline, says Autistic Enterocolitis does not exist because it's not "in their book" of official diagnoses. Well, that's a circular argument. Sort of like, before the mid-nineties Fibromyalgia "did not exist".
When Dr. Wakefield examined the intestinal lymph nodes of these autistic children, what he found was the measles germ. Loads of it. And the presence of this in the gastro-intestinal lymph nodes DOES have the ability to create even worse gut disbiosis than was present before. Nightline barely touched on the gut-brain connection. The focus, to them was on vaccines which automatically translates into the mercury poisoning theory. And we all know that thimerasol has been removed from vaccines for years, and yet the autism rate still climbs.
But what if it's not the ingredients in the vaccine that is causing autism, but the vaccination itself: the introduction of the germs (using this term because I can't remember if it's virus or bacteria) into a kid's system that throws their intestinal flora further off balance? What if investigating the connection between thimerasol and autism is asking the wrong questions?
Another Doctor in England, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride cites Dr. Wakefield's work in her book: Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dispraxia, ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression, Schizophrenia.
Based on her own research and medical practice, going along with the same theory on the illness that Dr. Wakefield has, Dr. Campbell-McBride has helped thousands of patients. And any time I see the terms Autism and Schizophrenia in the same place, I sit up and pay attention. The only other place I've seen it mentioned together was in a book called Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottshall. This book was saying the EXACT same thing about what the cause of mental symptoms are.
So, at our house, the gut disbiosis theory is one that is very much worth paying attention to.
And here's the kicker: As soon as we took Bethany off grains and put her on the GAPS diet, she stopped hearing voices. She's more conversational, more chatty, less stimming. She hits herself less often. She can focus on her school work. She's more cheerful and less depressed. In our family experience, there is something to this.
As a parent, it's my job to find what is working for us. GAPS is working for us and because of that, I would say that my take on Autism and Schizophrenia is that it is complex, that it has something to do with genetics, something to do with gut flora (which are shared in the family and passed along primarily from mother to infant), and that vaccinations play a role in the sense that they add more stress to an already stressed out system and can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.
I would LOVE to see someone do a study on the kids whose parents say they were damaged by the MMR vaccine to see whether there's any heightened incidence of occasions in these childrens' lives pre-MMR that might have contributed to gut disbiosis...such as antibiotics for childhood ear infections, or a mother with symptoms of systemic yeast infection.
But in my mind, it's all about: Who is getting the results and actually helping people to recover?
Nightline sounded to me like it was in the pocket of big pharm...as usual. Check out the links and see what you think. And if you are a parent with a kid on the spectrum, I really really really urge you to look into the GAPS diet.
Now I'm going to go read more about Dr. Wakefield's work at the Thoughtful House in Austin, TX.