Sunday, February 24, 2013

How I Did Not Give My Son Autism

This week, the blog The Thinking Mom’s Revolution published an excellent entry entitled “How I Gave My Son Autism” in which a mother examines possible causes of autism that may have contributed to her son’s autism. [To read this blog entry, click here.] With specific references to autism research, she explains how exposing her son unknowingly to various things deemed safe, including Tylenol and sonograms during pregnancy, potentially made him susceptible to autism. Many of the possible culprits were based upon the recommendations of doctors, such as Pitocin and a Caesarian section during delivery; she was simply doing what medical professionals advised. Sadly, she still feels many of her actions are “unforgivable” because of the effects they have had upon her son.

Like her, I have often wondered what, if anything, I did to contribute to Alex having autism. I have always been a seemingly healthy person who lived a very healthy lifestyle. Nonetheless, my pregnancy with Alex was designated high-risk when I was diagnosed with the autoimmune blood platelet disorder idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which made me susceptible to bleeding. To treat my condition, I had to take the corticosteroid medication Prednisone and intravenous gamma immune while several sonograms monitored his development. When I went into labor almost a month early, he was delivered by Caesarian section. Certainly, I have wondered if any of those circumstances led to Alex developing autism, but I was simply following the direction of doctors whom I trusted. Moreover, those treatments probably saved Alex’s life and mine. I can’t feel guilt for that.

Perhaps looking for better answers and certainly seeking ways to help Alex, I constantly research autism.  As I study the research, I often discover that many of the proposed causes could not be responsible for Alex having autism. In other words, my actions should have prevented giving him autism.  For instance, this month, the media reported a new possible cause of autism: low folic acid. [To read the article “Can Folic Acid Reduce the Risk of Autism?” click here.]  Because I knew that taking folic acid prior to and during pregnancy prevented neural tube disorders in babies, I faithfully took folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy.  By being proactive in that respect, I can feel confident I did the right thing for Alex.

According to another article published this month entitled “Fact Box: 5 Areas of Research into Environmental Causes of Autism” [To read this article, click here.], potential causes of autism include the following: nutrition, mother’s immune system, traffic pollution, chemicals, and medication. To address those issues, I can honestly say that I ate properly and took supplements when I was pregnant, I trusted my doctors who treated my immune system issues, I live in a town with minimal traffic pollution, I avoid chemicals as best I can, and I’ve never taken the anti-depressants specifically cited as problematic. Once again, I can’t take blame based upon these causes.

A third research article that appeared this month also seems to suggest possible causes of autism that do not account for Alex having autism.  The article “Autism Causes and Risks, Latest Findings” [To read this article, click here.] proposes various risk factors for autism, including taking anti-depressant and anti-seizure medications during pregnancy, which I have never taken. The research also suggests older mothers and close births as potentially problematic. I was 29 when I gave birth to Alex, putting me under the older than 35 definition of “older mothers.” Also, since Alex is my only child, the close births theory of having two pregnancies spaced a year apart doesn’t fit our situation, either. Another risk factor, genetics and gene mutations, is a possibility, but not one over which I had any control. Two other risk factors could have affected Alex—fever and prenatal inflammation—as I had flu and ran a fever when I was pregnant. However, I did treat the fever with over the counter medication, which, according to the research, should have helped. Moreover, I would think many pregnant women would run a fever at some point; I question how much this might contribute to autism.

Despite the various research about potential causes of autism, nothing has arisen to name definitively the true cause and what might be done to prevent or cure the epidemic. While I empathize with the mom who wrote “What I Did to Cause My Son’s Autism,” I choose to focus on all the things I did not do to cause my son’s autism. Everything I did during my pregnancy and since Alex’s birth has been focused upon keeping him and me healthy, and everything we have done since his diagnosis of autism was to make him better so that he can reach his full potential. Like all parents, we have probably made unintentional mistakes along the way, but anything we did for Alex was out of unconditional love for him. When any feelings of guilt arise, I must remember that we have always tried to do what we thought was best.  Furthermore, we keep praying for Alex’s complete healing so that he can enjoy life to the fullest and “so the power of God could be seen in him.”

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’

‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.’” John 9:1-3


K. C. Wells said...

No guilt, my friend. Everything you and Ed have done has been out of pure love for your family. Maybe someday we'll know unequivocally what causes autism, but until then, blaming ourselves won't help.

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, K.C., for your kind words, your steadfast friendship, and your loyal support. :)

Conundrum Kids said...

I agree with you on several levels. I do a lot of research too, mostly out of trying to find how I can help my two boys. I come across a lot of research that could have contributed to my children having Autism. Pollution, genetics, anti-depressants, etc. are all factors for us. But I decided that I didn't really care why, or how, my children became susceptible to Autism. I feel like those reasons could in no way affect or change my interventions, or how much I love them. I certainly can't change any factors now. Caring for them and helping them make progress is the only important part to me.

Leigh Seaman said...

Not sure what angers more.. Possible reasons for autism with no proof or possible reasons with no proof AND incorrectly fed to the masses. Go to for the truth on folic acid. Its not lack of its inability to process what is given. Opposite of news reports. My son began taking supplements with correct form and his behaviors eased. Not a cure but closer to a verifiable proof than the others. Bottom line is you could put a woman in a bubble, impregnate her hermetically with sperm and her child could still be autistic. More concentration needs to be on the what now then on the why. My son is a gift, his autism is a part of him- it does not define him.

Mary Bowles said...

I am frustrated to end about this blog post...the following is my reply to her (in the comment section of her blog post), which she is apparently refusing to publish.

Wow! Correlation does not equal causation. She's clearly attempting to incite panic based merely on speculation. Neither personal opinion, nor experience equal valid or reliable research or evidence.

The author wrote nothing about the links between autism and bio-engineered foods (she should look into Monsanto!), hormones used in our meat & dairy supply, or even the most conclusive evidence—that autism is a genetic disorder. These just scratch the surface. This author only wrote a list of correlations professing each was the cause of her child's autism. She was not speculating. She was stating facts.

This concerns me because some could rely on her propaganda laced blog to make decisions, which could potentially risk one’s life or mental capacity. There is no way, if she’s sane or educated, that she can dispute that the majority of her list of items has also saved numerous lives, potentially even her own child! Forgive me for putting this bluntly…would she rather have a child with autism or a dead baby?! A c-section or a still birth? Would she really try to dispute that c-sections have saved lives; mother and babies? I shudder to think if she would! Would she rather have an autistic son or one with polio? Would the world really be a better place if polio were still running rampant? Antibiotics, c-sections, and (although hotly debated) vaccines have saved how many lives? Even fluoride (contested by some) and acetaminophen (a fever reducer) indirectly save lives. She ought not to forget the benefits of most items on her list.

I could profess that regularly eating from the garbage could increase our body’s natural ability to fight infection (by exposing our body’s to germs, thus increasing our immunity). And I could surely find a link to research on the internet that professes the increased need for germ exposure. But it doesn't take into consideration all the other deadly bacteria we could pick up from the garbage. Stating this belief and providing a link doesn't make it fact. It still makes it a speculation. Without replicated evidence the author has nothing.

I saw a lot more “selling” than “proving” in her blog. She has a right to her opinion, but it should be stated as such. She stated it as fact…very biased fact.

My biggest concern was the scare tactics the author used, seemingly to induce panic. I believe parents need all the help they can get and we already carry with us a guilt button the size of Texas. I believe MOST parents do the best they can with the tools and skills they have available to them at the time, in every situation. I am positive (although I am clearly stating this as my opinion) that rarely does a parent say, “You know what?! I think I’m gonna screw this kid up!” She should be helping parents make fully informed decisions, not scaring them into seeing life from her supposedly factual perspective.

I’d be ignorant to state that there are not risks associated with each of the items on her list, but in many (except for HFCS) and in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the risks. And just because I wouldn't do something, doesn't mean nobody else should. Different is not wrong. I just encourage taking educated risks if necessary. And now that she and I agree that we should all be educating ourselves, she should try a course on critical thinking and statistical reasoning.

Posted by: Mary

Her blog post is perpetuating ignorance! PERIOD!

Pam Byrne said...

Dear Autism Moms,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and opinions; you express and support your ideas clearly and rationally, unlike some of the research. ;) I often wonder if some of the research throws smoke screens to protect culpable sources; blaming parents instead is easier. I just pray that dedicated scientists will continue to pursue reasonable avenues so that we can have hope of making our kids better.
Take care,