Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Believing Religiously wrt Autism

The vaccine debate has always fascinated me, mainly because the debate is so polarizing that people on both sides of the debate believe religiously, zealously and fanatically that vaccines do or do not cause autism.

I have seen people who believe that there is no genetic connection to autism - it is all environmental even though: The identical twin studies show otherwise; Autism runs in families like mine; Certain genes have been tied to the prevalence of autism.

I have seen people who believe that there is no way autism and vaccines can be linked even though: All of the studies have been done statistically; Not one of the statistical studies has taken a measure of the control group, i.e., the people who have not been vaccinated; The only measure of the control group occurred before vaccines and that showed a much lower rate.

I have seen people who believe that there is no autism epidemic even though: The CDC says there is; The Ethiopians in Minnesota who suffered the autism epidemic when they came to the US had previously had no word for autism; The California school statistics says that there is; No autism epidemic would say that in families with autism, not only our sons and daughters would have autism but our brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles would also have autism.

The autism-vaccine debate has become so polarized that it is more a matter of faith, not a dispassionate observation. This does not bode well for our children.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Two questions were: What happened? What can be done about it. I had never heard about anyone, autistic or otherwise who had lost skills like David had. Our pediatrician referred David to one of the pediatric neurologists in Children's Hospital here in Denver. The neurologist took blood samples, urine samples and hair samples and ordered an MRI done on David. The MRI required that David remain still. To keep him still, he was anesthetized. The MRI on his brain was done to look at his brain structure.

When David awoke from his anesthesia, he was still drunk from it. He could hardly walk. I did not understand it. I had been through anesthesia and never felt as high as he seemed to when I woke up. But I carried David to the car with the assurance that he would come out of it soon. When I got home David needed to go to the bathroom. He was still staggering. He missed the bowl and was hitting the wall behind the toilet. I had to help him. It was hard to imagine someone coming out of anesthesia like David did, especially being only seven years old. I had heard that when old people come out of anesthesia, sometimes they can take a long time to get over the effects. Now that I know that there are physiological differences between autistics and the normal population, this behavior after anesthesia makes more sense.

The MRI showed that David's amygdala was slightly smaller than normal. The ped-neuro explained that this is normal among autistics and that if it was swollen, then David would be profoundly autistic. It is another physiological difference between autistics and the normal population.

Finally, David showed no signs of heavy metal poisoning or anything else that might explain why David suffered the skill losses that he did.

Years later, David solved this medical mystery that plagued him and I would relive this chapter of my life over and over.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How do I be God?

I have to say that I was in shock at what had happened to David. He went from a gifted and talented, albeit autistic, child to one who simply could not retain anything that was taught to him.

David, do you know what 6 + 7 is?

Uh, no.

I tried using counters so that he could see how they could be manipulated so that visually 6 + 7 would be 13. After I the manipulation, I said,

See, it's 13.


Thirty seconds later I asked him again,

What's 6 + 7?

I don't know!

And David cried. At the time, David would have to be very emotional before he would say anything more than a few words. This was more than he could bear.

Dad, how do I go back?

How do you go back where David?

How do I go back to being a baby?

At that point I knew that David understood that he had lost something and I wanted to cry with him, not only for what he had lost, but because I was afraid that this was only the start. Something had bitten off a piece of what had been David and I was afraid that that shark was still lurking in the water.

You can't go back, David.

I have to!

You can't and I can't do that for you.

Who can?!

Only God can, David.

How do I be God?

You can't be God, David. Only God is God.

The arithmetic lesson was over and for the next two hours, I learned the meaning of the word perseverative. David's math abilities were gone and replaced with perseverative behavior.