In many respects, you can divide the autism community into two groups; those that believe vaccines put their children at higher risk for the neuro-developmental disorder, and those who don’t. Both camps have a wealth of data that they use to substantiate their claim. It is provocative and divisive.
I am not writing to take one side or the other. That’s not what I do. My mission as an advocate has always been to unite, not further divide. I do not have the medical training to be able to confidently tell you that autism is, or is not, caused by vaccines. I, like many, have a lot of questions that are difficult to find answers to. The information available is so dramatically slanted to one side of the argument or the other, I do not know what to trust. What I do know is that this argument has divided a community that needs to stand together, now more than ever.
Those of us who have a child with autism have an intimate understanding of the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We struggle every day to keep our children safe and included in our communities. We attend I.E.P meetings with statutes memorized so that we can properly advocate for our child’s right to a Free and Appropriate Education (F.A.P.E). We remodel our homes to make room for sensory equipment and hunt down the perfect socks without seams, or buy 10 pair of the same shoe in 10 different sizes because they’re the only ones we can get our kid to wear. We watch in horror and heartbreak as our child self-injures out of frustration that they can’t adequately express. We rely on friends, neighbors, and service providers to help us navigate the journey.
We have enough battles to fight, within our homes, and outside of them. Why are we turning on each other because of our personal beliefs about vaccines? As a community, we have lost sight that no matter what causes autism, we need to unite to help those effected be the best that they can be. Imagine what we could do if we put our differences aside and worked together to address the challenges we all share. Consider for a moment the power of our voices if we all raised them to advocate for the services and care people with autism need to be productive and independent.
There is an event coming up next month that features many of the “anti-vaccine” figureheads. The ones whose names, such as Andrew Wakefield, are synonymous with the movement itself. I don’t know the speakers personally, but I know their work. I know that they have worked long and hard to answer many of questions parents and the medical community have. Whether or not you believe in their credibility is up to you. There has been a lot of chatter about whether or not having the event at the local high school is “dangerous” or damaging. Obviously, in such a contentious issue, there are two very different sides. We live in a country where we are free to explore ideas, research, and form our own conclusions. This event does not demand that you believe one way or another, it is simply a collection of people offering their side of the issue. You are free to go and listen, or not.
The only danger this event poses is to further isolate and divide a community that would be a lot more effective and powerful if we could agree to disagree and stand together to help those whose lives autism has effected.