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Posts Tagged ‘Jenny McCarthy

Children of all abilities were given a boost Thursday when a special court ruled that parents claiming certain vaccinations caused their children to be autistic are not entitled to compensation.  

There has been a belief among a large segment of those affected by autism (and their lawyers) that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines and thimerosal-containing vaccines can combine to cause autism. This has caught fire with celebrities like Jenny McCarthy speaking out on the topic.

Don’t get me wrong, Jenny McCarthy is a wonderful advocate for autism awareness. The dedication to improving her son’s life is inspiring. But it has been a concern among some of us with autistic children that all the publicity surrounding the vaccine debate would cause parents to forgo necessary vaccinations.

When my son, Sage, first starting showing developmental delays when he was an infant, I was convinced it was because I took Prozac and thyroid medication while I was pregnant. He was also born five weeks before his due date and had a rough delivery. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and his first Apgar score was 1. He was immediately put on oxygen and his score increased to 9 within minutes.

My doctors then and now have told (not necessarily convinced) me that none of these factors are related to Sage’s delays. He has received all of his vaccinations on schedule and I have never believed they caused him to be on the autism spectrum. His father and I are not sure why our son has always been developmentally delayed or why his social skills have put him on the autism spectrum. We are more focused on getting him therapy and preparing him to function in the real world.

According to an Associated Press story, here are some points in the ruling:

  • The judges in the cases said the evidence was overwhelmingly contrary to the parents’ claims – and backed years of science that found no risk.
  • “It was abundantly clear that petitioners’ theories of causation were speculative and unpersuasive,” the court concluded in one of a trio of cases ruled on Thursday.
  • The ruling was anxiously awaited by health authorities and families who began presenting evidence nearly two years ago. More than 5,500 claims have been filed by families seeking compensation through the government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The claims are reviewed by special masters serving on the U.S. Court of Claims.
  • “Hopefully, the determination by the special masters will help reassure parents that vaccines do not cause autism,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
  • To win, the families’ attorneys had to show that it was more likely than not that the autism symptoms in the children were directly related to a combination of the measles-mumps-rubella shots and other shots that at the time carried a mercury-containing preservative called thimerosal.
  • “The petitioners have failed to demonstrate that thimerosal-containing vaccines can contribute to causing immune dysfunction,” a judge wrote about one theory that the families proposed to explain how autism might be linked.

This issue is certainly not going to go away with this ruling. There are people passionate about it on both sides. What do you think? Please comment or e-mail me at ajh1109@mchsi.com

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It’s amazing how some people are the perfect parents – of somebody else’s child. That kind of thinking has been going on since the beginning of time but has only been exacerbated with the Internet and its endless stream of information.   

I’ll admit when I heard John Travolta and Kelly Preston’s son, Jett, died suddenly last week, I did a search on the family. I wasn’t aware of Jett’s medical problems and immediately became sucked into the comment sections of articles on them. Many of the entries and comments had varying versions of how Jett became ill as a toddler. His parents said he contracted Kawasaki disease – an illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels – from exposure to carpet cleaner.

Others, however, said Jett had autism, a development disorder that affects the ability to communicate. This is where the story gets complicated. The Church of Scientology, of which John and Kelly are devout members, doesn’t recognize autism or any other “mental illness”, therefore they never had their son treated for autism.

When my son, Sage, was 3 months old, we had his hearing and vision tested due to concerns from his day care providers. His hearing was fine but he was eventually diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia – basically a genetically small optic nerve. As the next few months went by, it became obvious he wasn’t developing like other infants his age. He was signed up for infant/toddler services and was in therapy. Over the next several years, doctors had suspected everything from poor vision to cerebral palsy.

After a series of tests in the summer of 2006, when Sage was 3, the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital diagnosed him with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. Depending on where you look, autism is a part of this category or it falls on the autism spectrum. Although it was not really a surprise, and we had been dealing with Sage’s developmental delays since he was a baby, the diagnosis was still devastating. So many questions, so many worries for the future.

 Autism is difficult for society to understand. Many afflicted with it look as normal as any other child – Sage is one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. Jenny McCarthy summed it up perfectly in the forward of her book “Louder Than Words” (Penguin Group):

“When your child is diagnosed with cancer, neighbors stop by your home bringing precooked meals, hugs, and support. When your child is diagnosed with autism, families who see you in the supermarket will slip away down another aisle.”

My husband and I have had plenty of unsolicited suggestions on how to deal with our son. Discipline him more. Take him to more specialists. Put him on a different diet. And the perennial favorite, “If he were my child…”

I’m not rock solid about a lot of things in life, but I will guarantee that nobody loves that child or cares about his well being more than his father and me. I would like to think most parents, including John Travolta and Kelly Preston, feel the same way about their children.

Sage, my beautiful boy

Sage, my beautiful boy

I’m not going to comment on Scientology other to say that early intervention and therapy have helped my child tremendously in the past three years. But to those making comments about Jett Travolta’s death and the way he was raised, take a moment to think how you would feel if you lost a child. I, for one, can’t even imagine the pain.

It’s no accident that one of the most honorable fictional characters is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  His line, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it,” is one that most students learn in junior high or high school. You learn it for a reason. Follow it.


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