The A-Word Part 4: Finding A Voice


BAD PARENTING DOES NOT CAUSE AUTISM (or does it?)

It’s been years since experts blamed the mother for autism—since doctors believed that it was distant mothers – or “refrigerator mothers” – a lack of closeness and warmth toward their babies—that led to this condition in which children resisted hugs and eye contact.

Of course, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Yet I’ve heard from a few family members and friends who seem to believe there was something we could’ve done differently to avoid this diagnosis—or at least deal with it better now.  I know the intention was not to offend us or hurt us, but it’s still hard to hear that, just maybe, we could’ve saved our son somehow… if ONLY we’d…

Daycare

If we’d just put our son in daycare… or do it now—he would wake up to the glories of social interaction and learn to be just like other kids.

A Firm Hand

We’re far too laidback as parents.  If we yelled at our son more, put him in timeout, got in his face, reasoned with him when he isn’t obeying, used a stronger tone of voice, demanded more of him when he was younger and/or punished him more strongly when he misbehaves, we would have a much more well adjusted little boy who wouldn’t be so tempted to wander off in public.

Exposure to Chemicals

We should have left the big city environment the minute we decided to have children. And had we avoided using the commercial baby wash and the chemical-laden pajamas and the household cleaners, he never would have ended up with autism.  Then there are those dreaded vaccinations our pediatrician assured us were safe… or the makeup I wore while pregnant.  Don’t even get me started on the pregnancy.  I should have avoided dairy products.  And ultrasounds.  Yep.  Ultrasounds cause autism.

The truth is—we don’t know what causes autism.  Nobody does.  Yes, they’re learning new things every day.  Our environment most certainly plays a role—though it’s tough to pinpoint when or how or what.

Which—truth be told—makes me think twice.  While I most certainly resent people who suggest we could have prevented this, I’m probably the guiltiest one of all.  Maybe we could’ve done something to save my son from this lifelong condition for which there is no known cure.

What would we do differently?

The list is long and changes daily, but I think about it a lot.  Will we change some things with a future baby?  Probably. That fact alone makes me sad that I didn’t do better with my son (as if I could have known).  Sadly, every single decision is in question – and I resent that, too.  I envy the mom who gets to enjoy her children without that worry.

Until they know—without question—what causes autism and how we can fix it, I will always wonder. And worry.

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