Sunday, October 14, 2007

Re-learning the Definition of Normal

As our son, Andrew (now 10), grows up, my wife and I find ourselves constantly second-guessing his actions. We started long before his diagnosis of autism and still do it today. The question is:
=> Do three-year olds act like this?
=> Do four-year olds act like this?
=> Do five-year olds act like this?
I think you get the picture.

We read every thing we could find. We knew he was way behind in speech. However, we were concerned with his social skills as well. Where should he be at this time? Should he be doing this? He shouldn’t be doing that. Honestly, we didn’t know. Andrew is our first. He doesn’t have an older brother, so we didn’t have a benchmark to follow.

For much of what we did, we watched how his friends acted, pressing Andrew to follow suit. Andrew do this. Andrew do that. Our goal was to improve his behavior. Many times, though, I think we just stressed him out. Ourselves, as well.

Then, we had Christopher.

Worried that Christopher might have the same issues as Andrew, we were ultra-conservative about everything, especially the potential that mercury in vaccines may be linked to autism. Our doctor had told us that mercury was no longer used in vaccines, but we took no chances. We split up all of Christopher’s vaccinations. When the state inspector filed a report at the daycare saying that Christopher was behind his vaccine requirements, we filed the proper paperwork to allow us to continue at our pace.

Christopher seemed to be proceeding along as he should. As he continued progressing, we knew he wouldn’t have the same issues as his older brother. He hit his benchmarks.

Then the misbehavior started.

Christopher started acting up and acting out. He was, in the typical phrase, all boy. And as we watched and disciplined him, we noticed things we hadn’t thought about concerning Andrew. Andrew has speech and social issues. Yet, things that we thought were due to Andrew’s autism were not necessarily so. Many of his actions were perfectly normal for a kid his age.

Yet, it took our younger son to teach us that.

I would love to hear about similar situations from other parents of children with special needs. Let’s discuss it here.

For those of you who are interested, please click on the words mercury-autism debate for more on the discussion.

Coming Next: Enter Sandman (not a NY Yankees story)


Melanie Hudson said...

I am Tara Jones' (WSBTV Reporter) sister and want to thank you for starting this blog. Let me start off by saying I'm not "anti-vaccine", I'm "anti-autism". No parent should ever have to experience the heartache of raising a special needs child. My goal is to inform people that there COULD be a link between vaccines and autism. To date, no reports have proving with 100% certainty that there is no link. Therefore, if there is even a 1% chance that vaccines could compromise an immune system, parents should know before they blindly follow the CDC's vaccination schedule when there are safer schedules proposed. Years of experience have taught me that power and money will always come before the good of the people. Sad but true. It is us, the parents, that have to look out for the wellfare of our children...and it's not an easy task!

To parents with a child of autism, take heart and know that these children can get better and lead a rewarding life. To date, my son has made remarkable progress. He's very intelligent (125 IQ) and very funny. He is also a happy, sweet and loving child who loves to interact with adults and children. He shows little to no "autistic" traits anymore but still has an expressive language delay. His doctors say that he should test off the spectrum by Kindergarten since he's barely on it now at age 3yrs. 10mos. It has been a long, heart-wrenching and expensive journey to get him this far and I will never stopped fighting for him. I owe all the credit to my family whose support was overwhelming but most of all to my son for his fight and determination. Mommy is so proud of you!

Melanie Hudson

Walt M said...

Sorry for the delayed repsonse to your post. There has been a glitch in the system and I just got your comments.

It is wonderful to hear about the progress your son has made. I wish him the best for continued improvement.

Like you, my wife and I are not anti-vaccine either. However, we do believe that the vaccinations are forced on children at too early an age and in too great a quantity. When our younger son Christopher was born, the hospital wanted to give him a hepatitis vaccine that day. We refused. Our PCP supported our decision saying, "As long as you are not planning to go to Thailand any time in the near future, it should be OK."

Again, thank you for your comments. I wish you and your family well.

- Walt Mussell