Monday, March 17, 2014

Another reason to hate the anti-vaccine movement

Scientific fact: there is no evidence that vaccinations have anything to do with autism.

I know, you've heard your favorite vapid B-list celebrity tell you otherwise, but dozens of studies on the subject have turned up NO connection. The one study that ever showed a connection was later retracted and shown to be fraudulent.

Plenty of folks in the blogosphere are, thankfully, talking about the importance of vaccinating your children for the safety of the herd, so I don't feel the need to echo their good advice.

I have a secondary concern, though: the depth of fear that parents-to-be have of autism.

The anti-vaccine crowd is so afraid of autism that they're willing to risk their children's health and the health of people around them to avoid having a child perhaps be autistic. They make the emotional (ie not science-based) calculation they do because they have been led to believe Autism is Bad; that having an ASD is worse than catching measles, mumps, rubella, or polio; that they would be remiss if they didn't do everything possible to prevent their child from developing autism.

Is autism that scary?

Autism is often portrayed in the media as an affliction, a disease, an epidemic, a societal burden. In 2010 the fear-mongers at Autism Speaks put up a terrifying video in which a scary narrator had amazing lines like, "I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined," and , "if you are happily married, I will make sure your marriage fails," or  "I don't sleep, so I make sure you don't either," or even "I am still winning, and you are still scared, and you should be." Thanks to protest from the autism community, this crap is no longer available on YouTube. You can read more of my thoughts on Autism Speaks here (hint: I'm not so fond of them).

I'll admit, I've had some scary, frustrating moments in raising a kid with PDD-NOS, and my kid swims at the shallow end of the spectrum.

But raising any child can be scary and frustrating.

Raising my autistic son has also brought me lots of moments of tremendous joy, just as every other parent experiences.

I have no evidence, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that almost nobody has ever experienced joy treating their beloved child for an infectious, life-threatening disease.

My son is healthy, happy, and atypical. Being atypical is neither good nor bad - it's just a different way of being. Illness, on the other hand, is bad - potentially painful, potentially crippling, potentially fatal.

I would be devastated if he contracted measles or polio or another preventable disease because I had withheld standard vaccinations. I find the risks posed by viruses far scarier than autism.

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Keep it civil, people.