Autism Watch: 2007

Induced Autism

Posted on: June 16, 2009

I belong to a couple of groups where I interact with a lot of other parents of autistic children. While my son would be called “high functioning,” if we used the term, we mix together because so many of the basic elements of autism are there. The difference is severity and level of improvement. Some parents struggle to potty-train their children and get them to eat, while others struggle to get their child to stop using potty language when mad or to eat more than just a boxful of waffles cut a specific way with a certain kind of peanut butter, then syrup, on them. At times, our worlds couldn’t be more opposite.

We began to get our son help at an early age, as soon as we knew that we were facing an actual problem as opposed to just being different due to a premature birth after a difficult pregnancy. We’ve tried a litany of things since then, and each day, we work on more specific issues: not expecting immediate gratification, not melting down over little things, not having to control every conversation, eye contact, remaining verbal when upset, etc. Our son has shown such vast improvement in the last four years, I wonder at times if I took him to a new doctor and said “not sure, something’s just different,” would he still be diagnosed autistic?

A friend of mine told me a few weeks ago that she doesn’t believe autism can be cured. Well, neither do I. The word “cure” is pretty strong stuff. I think a child with autism can definitely be recovered though. And to do so doesn’t mean he/she was never autistic. Dh and I had a long talk about this, and we came up with our new terminology for BB — he has “Induced Autism.” To us, it’s different from the classic/severe autism that results in non-verbal children who are not able to function at an independent level and who see so much less improvement from the daily treatments.

If I was nervy enough, I’d say it was “Vaccine-Induced Autism,” but I’m not sure if that’ll result in getting the blind eye turned on me whenever I say it. So, I’ll stick with “Induced Autism,” meaning it was caused by something other than genetics. Some toxin, vaccine or other thing injected/put into his system that his body can’t handle. To me, that isn’t negating the heartbreak that the family of a severely autistic child faces by way of not dealing with the same types of daily living issues we do — I can’t fathom that, and I feel bad sometimes saying “autism” about my child who so clearly speaks well and looks ‘normal,’ whatever that is, a lot of the time. (The good thing? Almost anyone that’s had a little time with us, long enough to say he looks ‘normal’ is around us long enough to later see one of the meltdowns or issues and agree ‘ayep, something going on there. Definitely.’)

I do hope that one day, classic/severe autism and high-functioning autism are separated more clearly. My son, four years ago, was a checklist for autism, tick, tick, tick, going down the list, checking off things that fit. Now though, with so many years of learning, therapies, supplements, you name it, behind him, not so much. To see him in a class with other autistic children is like seeing two extremes, and I’m not sure it’s fair to either.

So from now on, it’s Induced Autism. I really believe his autism was caused by something that his little premature body just couldn’t deal with. What, who knows..a vaccine, probably, but I’m not sure that’ll ever be proven. I just know that he fit the autism criteria to a T four years ago, and with a ton of help, he’s way better than he was. We’re extremely fortunate, I know that, but I do believe it’s not just because we’re lucky. I think his autism isn’t going to be found necessarily in a gene but in his immune system, his intestines, and the way his body all handles the intrusion of something unwanted into his body as a fetus/infant/toddler. We’re just dealing with a different kind of autism, and it requires different help.

1 Response to "Induced Autism"

“I do hope that one day, classic/severe autism and high-functioning autism are separated more clearly. ”

In the face of all scientific research that says autism is a continuum from low functioning all the way up to the boundary of ‘normal’?

Definitely! Throw a bunch of kids with autism in a room regardless of level of functioning, and people can, and will say (and have said) that those of us with higher functioning kids have nothing to complain about, and honestly, in some aspects, they’re right. Life’s no party, but our challenges are frequently so different, it’s hard to voice our concerns that our child won’t get asked to a dance when others’ kids are still in diapers at 14 and have to sign to ask for the two foods they’ll actually eat. There are many, many similarities, but things are also vastly different. I’d much rather say “classic autism” or “induced autism” instead of low or high anyway — who wants their child to be called low functioning? But, just my thoughts…

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