Autism isn’t going away

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

Vaccination has been a hot topic here in the United States in recent months as measles cases are popping up across the country.

As of June 27th, there have been 1095 cases reported, and no doubt there will be more.

State legislators have been introducing, and passing bills that tighten limits on vaccination exemptions and the people who disagree with vaccination have been extremely vocal in their opposition.

I have always been pro-vaccine, and I was honestly curious as to what made people so adamant; even militant, in their opposition.

So, I did some digging and found myself down a rabbit hole late into the night on a few occasions.

One of the most pressing arguments against vaccines has always been that they cause autism.

Despite the fact that this has been widely debunked, that fear has stuck with people over the last two decades.

I came across one website which featured a man wearing a red baseball hat with the words “Make Autism Go Away.”

It was designed the same way as the MAGA hats that President Trump supporters wear, and at first, that is what I thought it was.

Out of all the anti-vaccine stuff I had come across, this one affected me the most.

My 12-year-old daughter has autism. She was diagnosed at age 2.5, which is the average age of diagnosis.

This is also the time span in which children receive their MMR vaccination.

I have had people assume that her autism was caused by her MMR shot, but the truth is that she was diagnosed before she even received it.

We had put it off several times due to illness, so she was actually behind schedule on some of her vaccinations.

Besides being ableist, the “Make Autism Go Away” statement is a little deluded.

Autism isn’t going anywhere. Autism has always been around.

Leo Kanner first described autism in 1944, but since it had never been an official diagnosis before, it’s prevalence before this was zero.

There have always been people with autism, but they most likely were written off as “insane,” and I imagine many were hidden away or ended up institutionalized.

People with disabilities were frequently institutionalized well into the 20th century.

In 1965, Kanner wrote that after he made his first diagnosis of autism, “almost overnight, the country seemed to be populated by a multitude of autistic children.”

Over the years, the diagnosis has evolved and broadened, which is one explanation of the uptick in autism cases.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, there will probably always be people who avoid vaccinating their children for fear of autism, and a multitude of other reasons.

The anti-vaccination movement is relatively small, but they are loud, and the loudest voices can be quite persuasive, especially to those on the fence about vaccination.

I understand that an autism diagnosis is challenging and life is not easy, but making statements that people like my daughter need to “go away” because of something they have no control over isn’t helping at all.

Even if they are only talking about the diagnosis and not the person, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Educator, author, and professional speaker Chris Bonnello, who also happens to have autism has stated, “I don’t want to turn an autistic person into a non-autistic person. I want to help an autistic person who struggles to become an autistic person who doesn’t struggle.”

If only that charismatic energy that the people who preach against vaccination seem to emanate could be used to educate and advocate for people with autism instead of demonizing the diagnosis and using it to fear monger.

What a much better world it would be.


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