Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fuel on the fire of the vaccine debate

Time magazine's cover story, How Safe Are Vaccines?, offers a well-researched counterpoint to the argument that vaccines cause autism. To date, no reliable scientific studies have shown a causal link between vaccines and autism, but that doesn't stop people from believing that the link exists, and more and more parents are opting out of vaccines. After reading the Time article, I'm more nervous about the diseases that vaccines prevent than about autism--though I'm biased, since Henry can't become more autistic and Evie seems to be autism-free. But still, autism vs. polio? I'm pretty sure polio is worse. (Thanks to my brother John for the tip on this article--see his blog here!)

In the meantime, articles like this one about autism-like symptoms in apes will be fueling the anti-vaccine fears, Time magazine notwithstanding.

A good boy who's good at a lot of things

Last week Henry, Evie, and I were outside playing. I was swinging Evie while Henry walked around the garden, and I sang Henry the little song I made up for him (to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"):

Henry, Henry, my sweet boy,
Busier than a spinning toy.
Doesn't have a lot to say,
Still he brightens every day.
Henry, Henry, my sweet boy,
Henry is my pride and joy.

He kept walking for a minute, then he flopped into the swing next to Evie, making a sad little sound. Half a minute went by, and then he said, "Not good at."

Once I figured out what he meant, I said, "Oh, Henry, you're good at a lot of things! You're a really good explorer, and you're getting really good at talking!" After that he smiled and seemed to feel a lot better.

Mike and I have noticed lately that Henry's interests and anxieties are becoming more mature, the same kinds of things that any four-and-a-half-year-old would worry about. He's probably been feeling these things for a while, but he hasn't had the ability to express them, and because he still engages in self-stimming behaviors like chewing things and pacing, those behaviors mask the progress he's making.

As I've said to Mike, I think Henry is on the cusp of really making breakthroughs in his language skills, and socially he seems to be getting more sophisticated. It's impossible to know, though, and we don't want to raise our expectations too soon. But moments like this one from last week give us good reasons to hope.