Saturday, November 23, 2013

It is never easy

I think it is easy for us as parents to compare the world today to the world that we grew up in. We always say, "when I was a kid, I could do (x, x) and it was never a problem, but these days...". Let me tell you why this is a problem. When we were growing up, media was not as instant as it is today. Violent crime rates were higher, we just did not hear about it as much. Children were abducted just as often, we just kept it within our communities. We did not have Amber Alerts. It was rare that the disappearance of a child garnered national attention. We did not have social media, so our communities were basically the only place this information went. We would gather search parties by knocking on our neighbor's doors. Now, we post pictures on Facebook and the child is sought all over the world. Everyone knows about every injury, assault, crime, missing child, domestic violence situation, and drug addiction. his makes it appear as though these things are suddenly more common, when they are actually more rare.

This goes beyond crime and missing children. Now it seems everyone either knows someone who has a mental illness or has a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or they know someone who knows someone. This is due in part to social media, yes, but there are also other factors in play. The scientific advancements in the field of medicine have created a new era, where things that were once considered mental illness are not and things that were considered untreatable psychosis are indeed manageable. Many addictive behaviors used to be considered a mental illness by themselves. Now we know that they are often a symptom of a true mental illness that can often be successfully treated. While there has always been a sad and deadly stigma attached to mental illness, there are dozens of awareness campaigns to remove that. Most people with mental illness are not a danger to anyone else, though there are exceptions. Also, like any other disease, when untreated mental illness progress to devastating  levels making it impossible to predict behaviors of those afflicted.

The same is also true for Autism Spectrum Disorders. There is a new, highly uneducated theory that perhaps ASDs are the result of the MMR vaccine. The belief is that often the symptoms of an ASD become very obvious at around the age that the MMR vaccines are given, it must be the vaccine. Due to the scientific advances in the area of child development, the diagnostic criteria for ASD have become far more broad, and more children are getting the proper diagnosis. Because this changed around the time that the MMR vaccine became widely available in its current form, it receives the blame. Both of these beliefs are false, and are putting children around the world at great risk.

While the diagnostic criteria have changed allowing for help for all of those with ASDs, it is still very difficult to receive a diagnosis if you have a child that is at all high functioning. Such things make it very difficult to understand your child, and why they were just fine 3 years ago, but now life is an endless torment because you do not understand why the doctor says nothing is wrong when you know that something is just different. In fact, things are so drastically different that your daily life is in upheaval. Your whole world has been turned on its side, and because the doctors will not listen, it is your fault, and yours alone, when something goes wrong. What is worse is that without that diagnosis and someone to help you to help others understand, even the other parent cannot understand that some behaviors are beyond your child's control. 

It would be so much easier if we could blame such things on the MMR vaccine. I have heard tell of a study that links incredible acts of violence as an adult to lead exposure as a child. It makes you think that you can prevent such things happening, if you simply avoid the exposure. While we can keep our kids away from toxic lead paint, we cannot simply not vaccinate to prevent ASDs. Doing so increases the risk for a disease that will cause severe disabilities and may even cause death. There is also evidence that suggests ASDs are genetic. If there is one child with an ASD in the family, the risks of a second child having one are greatly increased. An Autism Spectrum Disorder is something that happens in the brain. It is not an illness in the way that it can be prevented, it cannot. It is not a defect that can be fixed. It is not a defect at all. It means that their brain functions are different. These are people that have incredible minds, they just do not work the same way as yours. They are not mentally deficient. Many of them have amazing intelligence. I think that is the very reason that everything else is so difficult. 

I posted this rant for a reason. My next post will be self explanatory.

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