All children have the right to be loved. There was never any doubt that I would always love M. I had spoken to her for months to her in the womb. When she was born, she was passed from doctor to nurse to nurse back to doctor, being cleaned, weighted, measured, all the time crying and crying. Then she was finally passed to me and I said “Hi, M, I’m your Daddy.” She immediately stopped crying and held on to my little finger with her whole hand. We had been waiting for each other.
I tell people I know when she developed autism and they look at me like I’m crazy (most people anyway.) My wife was working that day, so I took M in for her one year doctor visit. After the usual round of measurements and procedures, they started giving her shots. When they gave her the last shot, deep in her thigh, she cried for about 1.5 seconds and then just stopped, silent, and was limp, like she had just fallen asleep. The nurse said “I’ve never seen a baby do that.” I’ve described it to people as a hammer blow to her head. According to her shot records it was the MMR. What I’ve come to learn, it doesn’t matter what shot it is, IT’S THE NUMBER OF SHOTS.
My wife’s nephew suddenly seized and died hours after getting his chickenpox vaccination, so I do believe there is a genetic component in sensitivity to shots. I also believe that vaccinations are beneficial to most children. The number concerns me: in 1980 the normal course of vaccinations by age 5 was 28, the current number is closer to 98, and the rise in autism is synchronous. I dated a young lady who specialized in autistic children, being educated in Mexico; when I related to her that I knew when M. became autistic, she nodded and said “That is common knowledge at my school, though I know that is not taught here (the U.S.).”
The tragedy is these children require so much love and attention but are incapable of returning even the slightest acknowledgement of the other person’s presence, often for years. This can lead, naturally, to what psychologists call extinction, or, simply, when you try over and over again with no results, you give up. My child has mild autistic tendencies; parent of severely autistic children need all the support we can give them.
M’s autism is manifested mainly in her inability to speak above a whisper. I understand that this is common among girls. She cannot maintain a conversation even on subjects she knows everything about. Her mind just doesn’t function that way, but she is bright and appears to have a photographic memory, which I was told (by my date) is also common.
I want to leave you with two images: When I drop M off at school, she”ll walk several feet away and I’ll say “M” pause “M.” She’ll stop and turn to me, looking at my eyes. I’ll say “I love you.” She’ll look down, the smallest perceptible smile coming on her face as she waves goodbye.
The second is I know when M whispers to me, there is no other person in her life at that moment and in order for me to hear her, nothing else can be in mine. What would otherwise be minutiae becomes real communication of wonder as her soft, warm breaths fall on my ear.
I just want you to know, if that is all there is for us, I’m okay with that.