Sunday, December 30, 2007

One Thumb Down, One Thumb Up for Jenny McCarthy

A couple of months ago I took Evie in for her one-year check-up, and, after her exam, her pediatrician asked me how I felt about giving Evie the MMR vaccine. I hadn't brought it up, but our doctor is aware of Henry's autism. I told him that I hadn't seen any persuasive evidence that the vaccine would harm Evie or make her autistic, and that I thought it would be better to protect her against diseases I know could harm her. He was relieved and agreed with me. I asked him if parents of children who aren't autistic were asking about the vaccine. He said, "Every day."

This incident occurred in the immediate wake of Jenny McCarthy's appearance on Oprah, during which she argued her belief that vaccines had caused, or at least triggered, her son's autism. She's not alone--thousands of parents of autistic kids blame vaccines for the disorder, and some of those parents are very high-profile. McCarthy's profile happens to be very high right now.

The vaccine debate is one of the hottest and bitterest disputes in the autism community, with the medical establishment pointing to studies that disprove any link versus parents and a few doctors pointing to the higher incidence of immunilogical disorders in kids with autism. I don't claim to have a right answer, but from what I've read, if a child is not genetically predisposed to have autism, vaccines will NOT give that child autism. Admittedly, there's a lot we don't know about the genetics of autism, but parents should, in general, feel comfortable with vaccinating their children. I am.

On the other hand, I just looked at the website for teach2talk, the organization that McCarthy co-founded. The materials they have developed to help increase verbal and play skills for kids with developmental disorders look excellent. I'm especially interested in the play videos, as play remains a challenge area for Henry. So I give McCarthy a big thumbs up for helping develop parent-friendly materials to help our kids.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Autism is Bad for Cell Phones

Let me be more specific--autistic three- and four-year-olds are bad for cell phones. This past summer, I had to replace my cell phone because Henry had chewed it so often it finally wouldn't stay on for more than a few minutes. The battery case had a large dent and the charger connector had turned green from the corrosion. So we learned our lesson about letting Henry play with the cell phone.

But that's not all! This morning, as I began my daily schlep getting the children into the car to take them to day care, I discovered that I had buried my car keys under the cell phone and my grocery list. I had Evie in one arm and the diaper bag on the other, so I put the cell phone and the grocery list on the hood of the car and got the keys out. I put Evie in her car seat, looked at the cell phone, and thought to myself, "I have to make sure to get that off the car." I finished strapping Evie in, turned back toward the front of the car, and saw Henry run out of the house onto the snow with no coat and no shoes. (Yes, I had put his shoes on once, but that means nothing to the boy who would rather be barefoot.) At that point, I forgot entirely about the cell phone, and I didn't remember it again until I had driven several miles. I wish the cell phone well, because I do not believe I will ever see it again.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Theory of Autism Genetics

I just joined the Interactive Autism Network, a site that coordinates and supports research on autism. They collect information from parents and they link parents up with current research projects. They also have extensive information resources. I found a fascinating article on a new theory of the genetics of autism. It offers a plausible theory for the vast genetic variation between people with ASDs, and the fact that sometimes ASDs seem to come out of nowhere, genetically speaking. In our case, I suspect that Mike and I are carriers since there are people with mild ASD-type behaviors on both sides of our family. I will be curious to see, though, whether this theory can account for the differences in severity of autism and differences between the disorders (verbal Asperger's kids vs. non-verbal autistic disorder kids, for example).

Why this blog?

Well, three reasons. One, I have a lot of friends and family that live in distant corners of the U.S., and some of them may want to know what's going on with our family from time to time. Two, I have a little boy who has autism, and this blog is an opportunity to get good information to the people I care about (Jenny McCarthy, thank you for raising awareness, but we need some science behind the hype). And three, sometimes when you're trying to raise a child with autism, you just need a forum to throw your madness out to the world, even if no one is listening.

I opted for the blog route rather than MySpace or FaceBook because I wanted everyone to be able to view it easily without having to sign up for a service they might not want. Because this blog is public, though, I will try to keep identifying details private--I'll use first names only, for instance. Let me know if it's working for you.

That's my raison d'etre--for those of you who view this blog but don't know my family personally, I hope you get something good out of it.

Welcome to Deb's Blog


This is my initial post for this blog, and I can't say I've got a lot to report just yet. However, I will be creating my end-of-2007 post soon, so keep an eye out for that.

Thanks for visiting my blog!