For Many Parents of Children With Autism, Theory Makes Sense
By Copley News Service
While scientists, doctors, public health officials and researchers debate whether a link exists between autism and trace amounts of mercury once found in childhood vaccines, there is one place in the United States where the argument was settled long ago:
Inside a lot of homes of families with children with autism.
Prevailing medical opinion be damned, many parents are true believers.
“I completely believe my son’s autism came from the end of a vaccination needle,” said Paula Sessing of Peoria, Ill., who joined a lawsuit with hundreds of other plaintiffs filed in Texas against the federal government seeking compensation. “He was born typically normal and at the 9-month mark he went in and received several vaccinations in one trip and the bizarre behavior started almost immediately.”
That’s called “anecdotal” evidence of a link, and in the eyes of medical researchers, one story, no matter how compelling, doesn’t prove anything. Sessing moderates an Internet autism group that has more than 3,500 subscribers.
“You’d be amazed at the number of stories just like mine,” Sessing said.
Susan Grimm of Groveland, Ill., has two autistic sons and a nephew with Asperger’s, a milder form of the disorder often characterized by hyper-intelligence instead of the withdrawn isolation of autism. Her sons were immunized within the timeframe of the autism epidemic, and she was at risk in other ways. She received eight dental amalgam fillings that contain small amounts of mercury and received shots in the military she suspects contained thimerasol.
“I believe there is a genetic predisposition for autism that thimerasol might trigger in some people and not in others,” Grimm said.
“Just like if you had lung cancer in your family it would be stupid to smoke, if you’re genetically susceptible to heavy metals you might want to avoid shots with mercury in them.”
Like Sessing’s son, Grimm’s son was developing at a normal pace when he received a vaccination shot at 18 months.
“He had a local reaction that was bigger than a quarter around the site of the shot, and he came home and just collapsed and slept and slept and slept,” she said. “It was very concerning.”
Soon thereafter he stopped singing his ABCs. Then he stopped talking.
Grimm has had some success with chelation, a treatment program that removes heavy metals from the body. Now both of her sons are fully verbal.
Lauri Hislope of Peoria, the current president of a local autism support group and information clearinghouse, says her son Kyle was “assaulted by vaccine.” After developing normally up until 16 months, his turnaround was dramatic and fast. In 2004 at 13, Kyle was too disruptive, violent, unpredictable and such a drain on the family’s emotional state that he moved to the residential Hope School in Springfield.
“He’s doing much better in that environment,” Hislope said. “And we’re not giving up, but it has been very, very difficult.”
All of the mothers said they support the public health vaccination effort. Studies are clear; when vaccination rates decline, childhood illness increase. Reports of a mumps outbreak in Iowa highlight how necessary and important is continued vigilance against disease.
And though thimerasol has been removed from childhood vaccines, it remains in many flu shots. Children ages 2 to 5 are now recommended recipients of annual flu shots and they are routinely given to pregnant women. Thimerasol-free flu shots should be readily available upon request.