There’s been a controversy for quite some time about whether the mercury, or thimerosal, in certain childhood vaccinations causes autism in children. All you have to do is search for “mercury” or “thimerosal” or “vaccinations” or “autism” on the internet, and you’ll find numerous reports, comments, debates, and arguments over the issue.
Personally, I’ve even been asked by people, “Do you think your son Kyle got autism from an immunization?” For many months, I’ve been researching this matter, and although I can’t possibly give an ironclad answer (can anyone?), I have come up with one that feels right for me, my son, and our situation. I’m not a doctor or a scientist; I’m just a mother with gut-instinct and the ability to research and formulate an opinion.
My answer is this: I believe my son had his autistic tendencies at birth. I do not believe a vaccination “caused” them. However, I have read some disturbing things about thimerosal, and I certainly do not suggest that it is safe or that we shouldn’t make sure it is removed from all vaccinations immediately. I’m just not sure that it causes autism. Or at least I’m doubtful it caused autism in my son, Kyle.
Why is this my viewpoint? First of all, I wonder how mercury exposure could ultimately result in both high and low levels of functioning, like we often see in autism. For example, there are cases of autistic individuals having savant tendencies, or areas of genius, especially with memory. My son Kyle has an amazing memory, and can name any capitol of any country in the world in a matter of seconds. Is it possible for a toxic chemical—especially in such a minute amount– to completely rewire the brain, so that a child is left with both areas of genius and areas of delay?
It would seem more logical for a toxin or poison to cause across-the-board damage, resulting in both neurological and vascular problems. We don’t see vascular problems as a rule in autistic children. Nor do they have the movement disorders and peripheral nerve damage we would typically see in mercury poisoning. And I’ve never heard of a poison markedly improving a child’s memory. In fact, mercury poisoning is known specifically for causing memory loss.
Early Signs at Birth
Kyle had some unusual characteristics right from the start, which may or may not have been related to his autism. He was in a breech presentation, with one leg up and one down, making a vaginal birth impossible. He also had a large birth weight. He was ten pounds, one ounce–my largest child by far. His weight caused doctors to test me for gestational diabetes and question me about genetic disorders. He also had a few skull anomalies, which were not at all noticeable to me. Yet the pediatrician measured his head several times and said that Kyle had a slightly enlarged head circumference and a disproportionately small chin.
When Kyle was a newborn in the hospital, he would let out an interesting high-pitched screech that sounded like a kitten in distress. I have never heard anything quite like it, before or since. When he was just a day old, the nurse brought Kyle to me in my hospital bed and as she turned her back to leave, Kyle let out his unusual little squeal. The nurse whirled around and snapped, “Be careful with him! He’s just a baby!”
I was outraged. I glared at her and replied, “I am his mother.” I had done nothing whatsoever to cause his scream. But her reaction seemed to show that even she thought his cry was peculiar. She assumed he’d been pinched or hurt to make such a sound. But he hadn’t been.
Kyle was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, but that’s not because his symptoms suddenly started appearing at that time. With Kyle there was no dramatic “overnight change” that some parents report. His language delays only became more and more apparent as time passed. He did not have language and then lose it. His tendencies to line up toys, ignore his name being called, recreate television trademarks, laugh and cry at odd times, etc., were there all along, but only became more obvious with time. At two, it simply became undeniable that there was something wrong.
Sudden Change–or Sudden Realization?
I can’t help but wonder if many parents of autistic children begin to recognize their child’s symptoms at the age of two, when language delays and anti-social behaviors are suddenly more obvious. Prior to that age, it’s easy to explain away delays or peculiar behaviors as part of toddlerhood or infancy. Then, once differences or problems are acknowledged, frightened parents become consumed with concern, creating what feels like a sudden change. But an “overnight” rewiring of the brain, unless it was accompanied by other widespread signs of chemical poisoning, seems illogical to me. I believe that parents convince themselves that the change was sudden and perhaps point the finger at vaccinations because it’s easier to give a “face” to your enemy than to acknowledge that genetics and other mysterious causes may be involved. An unknown enemy is always scarier than a known one.
I’m Keeping an Open Mind…
I admit that I’m only going with my gut and logic here. It’s possible I’m wrong. And I can only speak from my own personal experience with my own child. Other parents of autistic children, researchers, and experts may have different opinions.
I’d like to add that I certainly wouldn’t advocate turning a blind eye to the chemicals that we inject into our infants. If thimerosal can be eliminated from vaccinations and potentially has risks, let’s get it out of there. I don’t know what caused Kyle’s autism but I believe it has to do with genetics and something that went wrong in the womb. I wonder constantly if I did anything that caused it. Did I breathe, eat, or drink something I shouldn’t have while I was pregnant? What could I have done differently? Was it just bad genetics? Was this my child’s destiny? These are questions that every parent of a special needs child must struggle with, and I am no different.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.