By Anne Dachel
The one undeniable fact about the autism epidemic is that it's grossly under-reported in the media. Oh sure, news stories about autism are everywhere, but they seem to be saying the same thing: the U.S. is adjusting well to having hundreds of thousands of disabled children everywhere. Articles almost never call autism a crisis. Reporters seem to be more interested in pretending that an epidemic of children on the spectrum is nothing to worry about. Two decades of health officials and medical experts with no answers is acceptable. Coverage of the controversy over vaccines and autism is hopelessly one-sided and phony. But the public hasn't been convinced by all the misinformation. Too many people are talking about THEIR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES. One of these folks is my friend, Maurine Meleck, who lives in North Augusta, SC. She has cared for her 16 year old autistic grandson, Joshua, for over 10 years. She's worked to recover him through biomedical treatments and supplements. She also an incredible advocate for the truth.
For thirteen years she's worn lots of T-shirts that she's gotten at conferences and rallies. She said she's actually thinking of sewing them into one big blanket.
Some of the messages on the shirts are very subtle, others not so much. Her first shirt was from Unlocking Autism back in 2000. This year, after attending Autism One in Chicago and seeing hundreds of parents, Maurine got the idea of making her own T-shirt to start a conversation about the link to vaccines.
She designed a shirt with a statement she says is "as obvious as a red stop light." She painted on a simple 3 words, "VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM." She often wears the shirt in public.
Maurine wears her shirt at the grocery store, the library, everywhere she goes. She's even worn it at Joshua's school!
The majority of the responses have been positive. She said that those who strongly disagreed probably chose not to confront her. A few have made comments such as, "You're endangering children," or "You are so wrong." She's surprised that lots of people still don't know there is a controversy . They say things to her like, "I didn't know that," and "You mean to tell me that vaccines can do that?" She finds it very gratifying to be able to enlighten others.
One mom with two children told her, "Oh, I know that. Neither of my children have ever been vaccinated and they're never sick."
Maurine never preaches. She gives people websites where they can educate themselves and make better choices.
One day, a young man working at Earth Fare serving burger saw her shirt and said, " I like your shirt. Last year during my senior year in high school another student did his senior project on the dangers of vaccines. When he finished with his power point, the whole class gave him a standing ovation and the teacher remarked that it was the best paper she'd had in class."
Just the other day, another young man stopped her in a department store to say that he totally agreed with the comment on her shirt. He said he would never get another vaccine because he knew what side effects were like.
Encounters with the older generation usually didn't come off so lightly. Their ideas about vaccines are more "old school" and require a bit more patience on her part. One elderly woman came up to her and commented, "Vaccines saved us from terrible diseases like smallpox and polio."
These kinds of comments are more difficult to respond to, but she tries to answer with kindness and accurate information without inciting anger.
Maurine continues her message, whether she's wearing her shirt or not. The other day, at her optician's office, she noticed an obviously pregnant woman. Very casually, Maurine started a conversation with her. After some pleasantries, Maurine said, "I'm just going to say this one time and then I'm going to close my mouth. Educate, before you vaccinate."
The woman relied, "Oh, we are, we are."
A couple of minutes later woman asked, "What do you think?"
Maurine answered, "I had two vaccine-injured grandchildren, so you can guess what I think."
The lady said, "Be more specific."
Maurine said, "If we had to do it again, we wouldn't vaccinate at all." She gave the mom-to-be the name of Dr. Sears' book.
The mom-to-be then asked, "How you avoid them?"
Maurine told her that in South Carolina they have a religious exemption from vaccinations and she explained how she could do it.
This grandmother also has a bumper sticker with her message. On her front and back bumpers are stickers she got from Bob Catalano that say, "Say No To Forced Vaccinations." Recently she came out of the supermarket and found a woman copying the website from the sticker. They ended up talking for a half hour. The woman said she was a nurse at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and that all health employees there were being forced to take the yearly flu vaccine. She already knew of its danger and wanted to opt out, but didn't know how. As luck would have it, Maurine was taking a call from me at the time on her cell phone. She handed her phone to the nurse and I gave her some websites that would be good sources of information.
The impact of Maurine's message goes beyond the relatively small number of people who actually talk to her. Many more folks have read the words and thought about them. I'm sure they reflect on them later and maybe even research things for themselves.
Finally, Maurine is an excellent role model for anyone who wants to somehow counter the massive cover-up surrounding the damage being done to a generation of children. It's not expensive to do and it doesn't take a lot of time. She's shown us the power an individual can have in their own community.
KEEP UP THE MESSAGE, MAURINE!