Not Every Parent of an Autistic Child Believes Vaccines Are To Blame
Sep 15, 2010

By Christine Vara
Not having an autistic child myself, I admit that I have no idea of the never ending challenges that parents with autistic children face on a day to day basis.  I think about all the physical and emotional energy it takes for me to raise my children, and I know that it can never compare to that of a parent raising an autistic child. Even though I know many people raising autistic children, without walking in their shoes, I can’t fully understand their daily concerns.  How presumptuous it would be if I ever thought I could. 
So, I wonder, how do parents of autistic children feel when someone presumes that they blame vaccines for their child’s autism?
Of course, each individual is coming from a different perspective on the issue of vaccines and autism.   I would suspect that for all the things that parents of autistic children have in common, their opinions on vaccines are equally as diverse.  Yet this difference of opinion is representative of all parents, not just those with autistic children.  One of the reasons I feel so strongly about contributing to this blog is because I believe the average parent is just not that well educated on the science behind vaccines.  However, most parents will readily acknowledge that they’ve “heard” the suggestion that vaccines are somehow linked to autism. 
For those of us who recognize the benefits of vaccines, this is an unfortunate reality.  On the one hand you have parents who refer to the experts (scientists, doctors and public health officials) for guidance in regards to vaccines.  Then, on the other hand, you have parents who are emotionally attached to the personal stories they hear from parents of autistic children who believe their child’s autism has been brought on by vaccines.  Then there is a whole lot of uncertainty and confusion that lies in between.
Personally, I believe it speaks volumes when the parents of autistic children publicly acknowledge their respect for the scientific process and the validity of the research that has been done.  One woman in particular, who is committed to autism research and awareness, is Alison Singer.  As the founder of The Autism Science Foundation, Alison is an enormous asset to the autism community.   
In their most recent blog post, The Autism Science Foundation strongly supported the findings of the recent Pediatrics article  that indicated that thimerosal-containing vaccines are not linked to Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Dr. Sharon Humiston, a pediatrician and FAAP, former member of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) and member of the Autism Science Foundation Science Advisory Board, is quoted as saying,

“In a way, it’d be great if thimerosal in infant vaccines was the culprit because the U.S. has already removed thimerosal from them.  Because we have not found the root causes of autism, we need to keep funding the research that will help us find them.  Because the resources to find what really does cause autism are scarce – money, scientists, and time – we urgently need to focus these resources on avenues that appear to be fruitful.  The vaccine hypothesis just has not yielded answers that help my autistic son or my typically developing daughter who may want to have children of her own one day.”

Other autism parents have weighed in on this as well.  Another blog post by Emily Willingham, a scientist and autism parent, has also analyzed the recent Pediatrics study, addressing the criticism that often circulates regarding conflicts of interest and conspiracy.
It is clear from these responses that there are autistic parents who accept the evidence that thimerosal exposure does not cause autism.  Yet, in reading the blog piece from Left Brain, Right Brain, that also covered the Pediatrics study in detail, I came across a reader comment that went so far as to suggest that all autism is caused by vaccines.  I wondered how that comment would resonate within the autism community.  (This reader even offering up a “reward” for anyone who could produce an unvaccinated autistic child – as if none exist.)   
As author of a recent LA Times article, “Once more, no link found between vaccine preservative and autism”, Melissa Healey highlights that the recent Pediatrics findings are just the latest in a long line of research.  She questions whether “Study Number 10” will provide sufficient evidence to put this hypothesis to rest. 
As a parent, I consider the Pediatrics findings relevant since they not only support, but also elaborate upon, previous scientific findings.  Additionally, since Pediatrics is a peer–reviewed journal and the official journal of the America Academy of Pediatrics, this report will hopefully provide pediatricians with more evidence to reference when discussing parental concerns related to vaccines.  Perhaps, as parents are repeatedly exposed to these recurring findings, they will begin to understand a new message that thimerosal-containing vaccines are not linked to autism.    
While I will remain hopefull, I’m not making any presumptions.

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