A reoccurring conversation that I frequently see on Social Media is the dreaded Autism and vaccines debate.
This is a vehemently polarizing issue, but I’ll let you know my stance right off the bat: from my research, I believe that Autism is primarily genetic and/or caused by complications in utero, not by outside influences, such as vaccines.
Both of my identical twins are fully vaccinated. One of my twins is Autistic and the other is not (although he does have ADHD) My two other sons (4 and 2) are also fully vaccinated and are not on the spectrum.
Sometimes, against my better judgment, I get sucked into arguing with anti-vax supporters who believe that vaccines cause Autism. This viewpoint bugs me to no end; however, I sympathize with these parents in this aspect: they just want to do what’s best their children, and their choice not to vaccinate falls in line with this desire.
It is actually a statement from a pro-vaxxer that has bothered me the most recently, when one mother wrote, “I’ll take an Autistic child over a dead one any day.”
I’m pro-vaccine but there is so much wrong with this statement that I don’t even know where to begin.
First, choosing not to vaccinate your children does not mean they are going somehow be struck dead.
Second, this statement, when directed at a parent of an Autistic child, is like nodding sagely and saying, “Well, it could be worse. He could be dead. Just think about that!”
Autism is not “one step up from death.”
It is not a disclosure that requires an apology, like when your grandma dies and people say, “I’m so sorry.”
Yet, I have experienced this exact response many times after telling people that my son is Autistic.
“I’m so sorry.”
They mean well, oh, they mean well.
But they do not understand Autism. They have never loved a person who is Autistic, because if they had, I hope and pray that they would understand this truth:
Autism is not a tragedy.
I know it may seem that way looking from the outside in, and I felt that way too before we entered into this strange new world, but I know better now.
Autism is not a tragedy because people are not a tragedy.
People are people. Sometimes they have challenges and disabilities.
Sometimes their bodies do not work in a typical way and they need help and support from medicines and therapies.
Sometimes their minds do not work in a typical way and they need help from medicines and therapies.
But people are people, who deserve to be loved, understood, and cherished, not pitied as being “one step up from dead.”
My son is a person, with a body, heart, mind, and soul.
He loves eggs and soup, Pokemon and Harry Potter.
Sometimes he hums in church even though he doesn’t like to sing.
He’s learning about the Bible and Jesus.
He’s a great big brother and he loves his twin more than anyone in the world.
We’re still working on knowing how to give hugs (he gives great “leans”) but when he shares his affection, I know it is from his whole heart.
His brain works differently. He has some challenges, and yes, my husband and I struggle to know how to parent him many days.
I’m the first to admit it: I’ve done my fair share of grieving my son’s Autism because it shook me up and turned me upside-down, completely shattering my expectations of motherhood. We have struggled intensely and I know we will have more struggles as he grows into adulthood.
But I’m so over being stuck in my grief. I’m not sorry my son is Autistic and I don’t want any one else to be either.
Sure, I have moments of sadness and fear, but I don’t live there anymore. I don’t have time for that…
…because I’m too busy learning more about who my son is and how I can accept and support him each day as he grows into the person he was created to be.
PS. More posts on our Autism Story…
Dear Mom who is scared of an Autism Diagnosis
Maybe we aren’t meant to move mountains
When your motherhood story doesn’t begin like you thought it would