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Posts tagged ‘Autism’

Guest Mom Susan: Making the Right Choice

Guest blogger Susan Wells is the mom to two girls, ages 5 and 8. She is an active mom who hikes, photographs, crafts, lives green, volunteers and explores with her children. She works as a blogger and social media strategist for Steve Spangler Science, a Colorado company dedicated to helping teachers and parents get children excited about science. Susan is also the City Editor for Savvy Source and blogs at TwoHandsTwoFeet.com.

My oldest daughter was born in 2001 amidst the debate that “vaccinations cause autism.” I felt inundated with many claims and stories about the dangers of vaccinations. I began to question my rock solid beliefs that inoculations are a necessity in childhood.

The sheer number of shots a baby begins to receive at two months and continues through two years is unsettling to any new parent. Top that off with claims that the shots could be toxic and parents have a hard time understanding the right path to take.

The torment that both my daughter and I had to endure at each appointment was draining. Nurses handed me packets of information on devastating diseases along with a pages of possible side effects. I had to agree to let the nurses inject her sweet baby legs with what I hoped to be life saving vaccine and not a toxic mixture that would cause her problems down the road. I had to decide, which was worse, the shot or the chance she would come down with one of the life-threatening diseases.

I chose the shot every time.

Back then I was confused about the safety of vaccinations and outside of my doctor, I wasn’t sure where to turn for accurate information. Now that I have found the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition, I have a powerful resource to look to when questions arise about immunizations. I only wish I had a resource like CCIC back in the early days to help me sort it all out.

My daughter had some of the more mild side effects from the injections. She developed large welts where the shots were injected. She had fevers for two days following the shots. The first few injections were tough, but we learned to anticipate and treat the symptoms. I reminded myself over and over that a welt for a week or two was better than a hospital stay and a 101 fever was better than a 104 fever.

The immunizations gave me peace of mind that my baby would stay healthy and protected.

I have done my research and continue to do my research on immunizations. I keep my daughters protected from the potentially life-threatening diseases that are controlled through vaccines.

When H1N1 began making the rounds, I anxiously waited for the vaccine to become available to protect my children. I stayed up on the latest research and news about the safety of the vaccine. I read the CCIC website and I stayed connected to my doctor’s office. And my daughters both received the vaccine when it became available.

Throughout the last decade a lot of misinformation and publicity has surrounded the safety of vaccinations. It has catapulted a trusted and necessary part of childhood into an international debate about the safety of vaccinations.

The claims against vaccinations have led to state legislatures adding provisions that make it easier for parents to opt out of vaccinations on philosophical or religious grounds. With some parents opting out, the occurrence of diseases like measles is on the rise.

Getting your children vaccinated can be a traumatic time for both parent and child, but it is key to keeping your children healthy. I held my breath during those shots but I have never looked back. I believe it was the right decision.

My advice; do the research before you take your baby to the doctor. Organizations like the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition and talking with your pediatrician will help put your mind at ease and help you make the right choice in immunizing your child.

Guest Mom Andrea: I’ve Read All the Research and I Vaccinate

This is a guest post by Andrea Clement-Johnson who lives with her husband and three children, Breanne, 12, Hayley, 9, and Caleb, 7, in Wellington, CO. She is the Health Education Supervisor at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment in Fort Collins, CO.  The whole family loves music, hiking, sports and animals, including our two yellow labs Jackson and Archie.

When I was a child, my cousin, Nadine, died in our home while she was visiting us. She was only two. Later we found out she had died from complications of Haemophilus influenzae, type B (Hib). Years later, I learned that a vaccine had been developed for Hib and could have saved her life.

Though I did not really understand vaccination at that point, I remember being struck that my cousin’s death could have been prevented if she had received a vaccine.

After college, I happily entered the health education field.  I got married and had two beautiful daughters. We were so happy when our son, Caleb, joined us and became the icing on the cake. However, it was quickly evident that Caleb was different from my girls. I noticed that he tantrumed very early and he was always difficult to soothe. However, I dismissed the differences as unique qualities of my son.

As a toddler, the communication and behavioral differences became more pronounced. I took Caleb to his pediatrician and insisted that I needed someone to tell me what was happening. Once Caleb was fully evaluated by a team of experts, we received the official diagnosis of autism.

I immersed myself in reading everything I could about autism. One of the first websites I stumbled upon indicated that vaccines were a “likely culprit” contributing to the high rates of autism. I was initially surprised. I had remembered hearing other moms talk about a fear of poisons being injected into their children. I remember thinking at the time that this was silly, recalling my cousin’s tragic death. I had no idea how pervasive the autism and vaccine debate was or how much this would impact my life.

I started looking at more information about autism and vaccination.  I read stories that parents shared about their typically developing children who, following immunization, were diagnosed with autism. This was perplexing. I didn’t want to doubt any parent of a child with autism. I investigated thimerosal, schedules, and I even learned how immunizations worked.

I read all the research, listened to the concerns from parents who are looking for an answer. Through my research, I began to see there was no evidence to support vaccines causing autism or any other childhood developmental disorder.

I understand that because of the complexities surrounding autism, and the variety in onset and degree of severity, it’s difficult to accept unknowns. I learned that my thoughts, though based on extensive research and good intentions as a mom, are not always enough to sway those people who see things differently, but I continue to make my feelings known about vaccination. I’ve come to learn that if I don’t convince a parent to see things “my” way, so be it. At least I may encourage those parents still weighing their options to consider talking to their provider or to learn more before delaying or avoiding immunizing their children. Through my experiences as a parent of a child with autism and a health educator, I feel I can confidently say that I have looked at the issue through both lenses. I strongly support immunization as one of the best choices a parent can make for their children.

I became so impressed with immunization that I eventually took a position as a manager with the Wyoming Immunization Section. My appreciation for and belief of timely, appropriate immunization across the lifespan has continued. I’m so fortunate to continue working in immunization in my current position in Larimer County as a Health Education Supervisor.

Like most parents of a child with special needs, I often take a path that has many uncertainties, which can create fears. One thing I don’t fear is that vaccination causes autism. The fears I have related to immunization are fears that choosing a delayed schedule or choosing not to immunize could cause a child to become infected with a preventable illness, causing unnecessary suffering or death for them and other vulnerable individuals.

Although autism would not have been the path I would have chosen for Caleb, he has been my greatest lesson about truly meaning it when you say you only want for your child to happy and to have a place in the world.  My son makes regular, fabulous progress and he is a beautiful, loving, wonderful child who is still the icing on my cake!

Guest Dad Josh: Vaccination, Against All Odds

Welcome our first guest Dad post! Thank you to Josh for lending his voice to this issue and being one awesome father.

Josh Tyson lives in Denver with his wife, Nicole, and their sons, Elias and Arius. He chronicles the media they (cautiously) share with their boys at thekidsarewatching.com and is a member of New Age Dad, the nation’s premier rock band of dads, toddlers, babies and dogs. Josh is a regular contributor to the New York Times’ Motherlode blog and is currently working on some children’s books.

My wife and I have always been skeptical of the classic American approach to well being. We don’t pop pain tablets when we have headaches and when we have colds we drink heaps of herbal tea in lieu of narcotic syrups. I sincerely doubt that either of us will ever experiment with antidepressants and putting one of our kids on something like Ritalin is out of the question.

Nicole pushed both of our boys into this world without meds and started breastfeeding them right away. We didn’t have them circumcised and weren’t thrilled about subjecting them to a battery of needles in the first few years of their lives.
In the months leading up to the birth of our first, the hasty conspiracy theorist in me was tempted to write off vaccination as another shortsighted way for Big Medicine to line their pockets, but the more research we did, the more confident we became that vaccination was the best choice for our family.

Nicole has a cousin with severe autism, so the concerns posed by famous people and concerned parents out of the limelight were not taken lightly. In the end, however, we decided that there wasn’t significant evidence to link vaccines to autism and that the risks of not vaccinating were far greater than the minimal risks posed by the catalog of recommended vaccines.

We also took into account that we want to travel with our boys, and there are plenty of global destinations we are interested in where diseases like polio haven’t been totally eradicated. Then there was the issue of civic duty. A big part of the reason that vaccines have been so effective in keeping the populace here free of nasty things like measles and mumps is that the vast majority of us are vaccinated against them.

What sealed the deal for us was the fact that every doctor we talked to had vaccinated their kids, or planned to when they had them. Out skepticism of certain elements of western medicine has always been taken with a grain of salt—namely that we aren’t doctors and what we know about the inner-workings of human body is scant compared with somebody who has trudged through eight years of medical school.

So while we’ll continue to keep our medicine cabinets bare, we’ll do so with extra piece of mind.

Guest Mom Laura: Never Losing a Child to a Preventable Disease

A few times a month Colorado Mom2Mom will feature a guest post from another Colorado parent who shares the same fears as you, has personal stories to tell and chooses to vaccinate their children. I hope that these different perspectives will help you feel confident in your choice to vaccinate your child. If you are a Colorado parent who wants to write a post email us!

Welcome our very first Guest Mom – Laura!

LaLaGirl Laura's Family

Laura, also known as LaLaGirl, is the mother of a crazy teenager and two sets of elementary school-age twins. She’s happily married, loves living in Colorado, and writes almost daily about married life, raising multiples, and parenting a child with autism. Although she’s a stay-at-home mom, she feels that the title is a bit misleading, as she seems to spend most of her time in the car. When she isn’t driving children to various play dates and activities, Laura spends a great deal of time doing laundry, stepping on wayward Legos, and sharing stories about her life at lalagirl.org.

The obituary was short – just one small paragraph, summing up the tragic, yet all-too-common death of an innocent child.

Carl Nelson, 2 ½-year-old son of  Mr. and Mrs. Nels Nelson of Ridgefield, passed away Tuesday night from the effects of that dread disease, diphtheria.

The year was 1918, and Carl Nelson was my grandfather’s baby brother. I never knew much about him until I happened to stumble upon my grandfather’s baby book. I found one handwritten sheet of paper, listing baby Carl’s vital statistics and the details of his tragic death.

Even more heartbreaking was the poem my great grandmother wrote in his memory. It begins,

We watched our darling boy, through the nights, until the early dawn. He closed his eyes, but to wake in a brighter morn.

I was overwhelmed by the fresh pain I felt, reading the words written in her flowery, font-like cursive nearly a century ago. These aren’t the words of some long-gone matriarch, present only in faded black and white photographs. These are the words of a grieving mother, someone my own age, who lost her precious child.

Thankfully, few of us will ever have to imagine the pain of losing a child to a disease like diphtheria. Thanks to the DPT (Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus) vaccination, diphtheria has been virtually eradicated from our country.

Imagine a century ago, if families could somehow catch a glimpse of the future and know that through the miracles of modern science, vaccinations would one day wipe out many childhood diseases. It’s akin to us imagining our future generations living in a world free from cancer, STDs and obesity.

Realizing how far we’ve come in less than a century makes it that much harder for me to understand the new trend of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. It’s hard to even get my head around the idea that diseases such as small pox, polio, measles, and whooping cough are on the rise in our country – after they’d been eliminated for decades!

Now the question seems to be, how do we undo all the fear and misinformation and reassure a nation of freaked out parents? I’m not sure what the answer is. The results of the original study that showed a link between autism and the MMR shot have already been officially retracted. But how far will that go with uneasy parents?

As the mom of an autistic child, I faced these same fears myself. I’ll admit that I thought long and hard before giving my younger children the MMR vaccine, but after reading up on every bit of information I could get my hands on, I decided it was in my children’s best interests to get vaccinated.

Really, I think that’s all any of us parents can do – educate ourselves as best we can and be thankful we live in an age where we don’t have to worry about losing our children to preventable diseases the way our ancestors did.

{PS Also check out Laura’s great vlog on “Is Autism Caused by Vaccinations?”}