November 4, 2014

Did the headline grab your attention? Good.

Breast milk, goats milk, cows milk, prematurity, ethnicity, pollution, vaccinations, anti depressants, epilepsy drugs, diet, gut flora, vitamin intake, heavy metals in food sources, brain signal pathway building in utero, and even birth method…guys; let’s face it, everything causes autism and its increased prevalence in today’s society. These are only a handful of the stories I have reported on over the past two years.

How about I turn this on its head? EVERYONE is autistic. All people of the world are somewhere on the spectrum. Modern medicine is thoroughly advanced enough to diagnose and compartmentalise some forms of autism. Asperger’s Syndrome for example. It’s so flippant to say “the child is on the spectrum somewhere”, which child, which adult? What individual?

We recently reported on an Irish  research paper authored by Eileen Curran which states, and I quote:

“Delivery by CS [Caesarean section] is associated with a modest increased odds of ASD [autism spectrum disorder], and possibly ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder], when compared to vaginal delivery”.

The number 23% increased odds is pulled out of the small control group somehow, because the researchers couldn’t actually say if autism was caused by the C section or if babies born with autism seem to have more complicated births for some reason or another.

Coming at this as a parent, who had a completely normal two hour labour with a robust full term bouncing baby boy at the end of it, only to be told when he was four that he had Asperger’s Syndrome I asked myself where does the guilt end? Did I breastfeed my son? Yes. Did I vaccinate? Yes, but the symptoms were there long before he had his shots. Or were they? Did I ensure that I picked him up when he cried? YES! But still with the guilt and latent finger pointing that as a parent *you* must have done something wrong. Did I push too hard in labour? Did I damage my baby while he was still in the womb by taking paracetamol or headache tablets? Did my weekly trips to London affect him while I was breathing in the latent smog? Did my craving for tuna mayo salad baguettes affect his developing synapses?

Stop already.

I’m very glad that someone on the Irish Examiner is on the same page as I am with this. Victoria White wrote a wonderful piece regarding the research, and from this I quote:

“Members of the UCC research team have been out saying the potential risk is “small” but would you take a “small” risk that your child will have a chronic disability for the rest of his life? Nor should the parents of ASD children born by C Section have to suffer the guilt and agony caused by this research which has proved, let us remember, absolutely no “causal link” between C Section and autism.

As the mother of an ASD child born when I was over 35 but “naturally” at 38 weeks, I am getting very tired and very angry as my child is repeatedly pictured as the damaged victim of some enemy we don’t like: pesticides, tuna fish, the Government, fluoride, vaccinations and now C Section.

For me, he is not damaged and he is not a victim. He is the way he was meant to be. I have got over it but I’m still waiting for the rest of society to do the same.”

The question for me is mostly, where will it all end?

Scientists can continue to look for causes. Parents can continue to berate themselves with a sense of inadequacy and blame. The simple fact remains thus, we are all on the spectrum somewhere although some remain untagged, unlabelled and uncategorised. There is nothing wrong with having autism. There is nothing wrong with having a caesarian  section, and most cases it is vital to save lives.

In essence, in that magic moment when sperm met egg, we did something amazing, we made something amazing, we carried it carefully for nine months, we may have mooed a little in labour, but I counted ten fingers, ten toes, waited in anticipation for that first gurgle, first smile, first word, first step, and now we watch, taking a slight back seat as our children dip their toes in the world around them. We cannot feel guilt for something we had no control over.

Autism is not a birth defect. We do not need to be fixed, mended, haven’t got pieces missing, we laugh we cry, we feel, we work and play and life goes on regardless of a diagnosis. I’m still waiting to experience a neurotypical day…chances are it won’t happen any time soon, and if it does, I’m sure it’ll be very tedious.

Your comments are welcomed.

About the author 

Shân Ellis

Shân Ellis, is a qualified journalist with five years experience of writing features, blogging and working on a regional newspaper. Prior to working as a journalist, she was a ghost writer for top publishers and was closely involved in the editing and development of book series. Shân has a degree in the sciences, and 5 A levels. She lives in the UK and is the mother of an autistic child.

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