I’ve been thinking on what, if anything, I would write about this topic all day, and finally decided that it was time to put in my two cents. So while this post will not directly concern Kaitlyn or something that she said or did, I think it is topic-specific enough to warrant my opinion.
While I was watching the Today show this morning, I heard Dr. Nancy Snyderman mention a study that linked the age of the father to an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder in children. Basically, the older the father, the more likely it is that autism may occur. I am not going to dispute or affirm the science. I will point out that I was 26 when Amber became pregnant, and 27 when Kaitlyn was born, and I think that puts me out of the “range” the study refers to, but like anything else, the study is not saying that it cannot affect children regardless of the age of the father.
I was really going to just let the day carry on without writing anything because one little snippet on morning TV usually does not have this kind of impact on my day. But then I read an article online, and I decided to weigh in (you can read the article here). The article is titled “Autism link to aging dads won’t change vaccine debate or speed cure.” The author, Dr. Art Caplan, basically recites what the study found, and offers some opinions of his own. I will share some of what he wrote, and offer my take.
It’s long been known that autism is in part a genetic disease. This newest study adding to that evidence is important, somewhat frustrating and heartbreaking.
Autism is not a disease, it is a spectrum of disorders. By calling it a disease, there is the inference that there is some sort of magic “cure” out there, just waiting to be developed. I highly doubt that there is.
Unfortunately, this study is unlikely to convince the noisy and influential few who would still link vaccines with autism.
There have been far too many Congressional hearings inspired by fringe science that have ended in pressure on the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study vaccines as the culprit behind autism.
How many celebrities have gone on TV or led demonstrations demanding money for more studies of the alleged vaccine-autism link even though the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, has twice dismissed any connection to vaccination. Why has it taken so long to discover the link to older dads and their genes as one possible contributor to rising autism rates? Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, Rob Schneider, Donald Trump turn out to be about as reliable guides to medical facts as Missouri Rep. Todd Akin and his distortions about how women’s bodies respond to rape.
Dr. Caplan is correct. Those who believe that vaccines cause autism are just sadly mistaken. That myth has been disproven by science again and again, but when celebrities like those mentioned stand on their soap box and scream, some people actually believe what they are saying. I wish they would just stop. And the reference to Todd Akin in the article is most likely used as a present-day comparison and most likely is not included for political reasons.
The study is heartbreaking because it does not bode well for finding a cure for those already impacting by autism, schizophrenia and other age-related genetic disorders.
Who all is heartbroken? I am sure that you might find some people with autism, or some caregivers that might search for a cure, but why would they want to? If all you know is life with autism, why change? What do you think life would be if you were cured? What about caregivers, what makes them yearn for their loved-one to be cured? Is it out of selfishness? Amber and I have no desire to cure Kaitlyn of her Asperger’s. We love her just how she is, and we take the good days with the bad days, and all the quirks that come with them. To offer hope of a cure somehow paints autistics as less than others (or what society would deem as “normal”). Autistics are just different, not less than anybody else. To know one is to know just one, but you love them just the same.