Ronan’s siblings tolerate quite a bit from their brother, but they rarely ever complain about it. They could – the noise he makes when he gets overly excited is ear piercing, the attention he needs is constant, and the frequent rearranging of their schedule because of his needs gets tiring. It can be heartbreaking for them. It can be heartbreaking for me as well.
Being able to live through what they have had to has made Ronan’s siblings stronger though. It’s made them more sympathetic. It’s made them more aware of issues other kids their ages are years away from being introduced to. Knowing what they know and witnessing what they’ve witnessed has made them more vocal, too. Ronan’s big sister has taken her sibling viewpoint to the classroom a few times already. She did so again last week.
Fiona was assigned to write a bill for one of her classes. She told me she could’ve picked from any number of topics but immediately knew which one she’d write about: vaccines. More specifically, she wanted to focus on vaccine choice. I had no doubts that she’d put 100% effort into her work, but I asked her, “Are you sure? Are you sure you want to go there?” Other teachers know that Fiona’s younger brother’s health drastically declined post vaccination and have been very understanding. I wasn’t sure if this teacher would also be. I shouldn’t have worried. My girl took the challenge and ran with it. Before I could ask her again if she wanted to reconsider, she confidently replied, “Mom! Don’t worry. I’ve already got a lot done, and it’s not even due for a few weeks.”
For the next few weeks, Fiona collected quite a bit of information. Some of it was added directly to the bill while other data was entered on a worksheet and saved as a reference. Because the topic of her bill is a topic we discuss regularly here at Age of Autism, I asked Fiona if I could share some of the information in today’s post. Enthusiastically, she said yes.
Topic: Health and Safety
Purpose: To ensure that all students (preK-Post Baccalaureate) in any public, private, and/or charter schools, and all employees in the private and government sectors are guaranteed their right to an education and employment without regard to their vaccine status.
Benefits: the guarantee of educational rights and employment security
Effective: immediately and indefinitely
Knowing that the bill she was asked to write could raise some eyebrows, Fiona offered comments. She didn’t need to do that, but she found a section where she could include supportive information. She wasn’t adding it wasn’t just to supply useful facts and figures but to educate others, especially those who have yet to experience negative side effects of vaccines like she has:
“This bill gives the people the opportunity to attend school and work without jeopardizing their personal or medical rights. It does not take anything away. It does the opposite - it protects citizens' rights and opportunities.
The United States Supreme Court ruled that pharmaceutical companies have ‘exemption from liability for unavoidably unsafe vaccines’ (09-152 Bruesewitz v. Wyeth LLC (02/22/11)), and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention admits that, ‘Any vaccine can cause side effects.’ (https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm)
Those statements do nothing to assure citizens that today's pediatric and adult vaccine schedules are as safe and effective as officials claim them to be. Yet, the push for vaccine mandates has risen in recent years and across several States. When there is risk, as the government agency overseeing the US vaccine program affirms there is, there must be choice. But States such as Mississippi, West Virginia and most recently California (SB277 (07/01/16)) have successfully taken away people's rights when it comes to vaccines. By enacting and enforcing vaccine mandates as those three States have, citizens have been stripped of both personal and medical rights. For some, their religious liberties were jeopardized in the process as well.
This bill proposes to end that practice of taking away citizens' rights and to protect all persons regardless of their vaccination status.”
Fiona searched high and low for the data that she gathered – the terms and benefits; current legislation already in existence; views of the political parties related to the topic; fiscal impact on the government and its agencies. To make sure that she could present a fair and balanced accompanying report, she searched for and read through websites that promoted vaccines and that supported vaccine mandates. She also read ones that defended vaccine choice and ones with information about US citizens’ rights in general. In looking up the information that she did, Fiona learned about Representative Bill Posey’s bill. Hoping to find more bills that were geared toward preserving parental or personal rights, she was disappointed to discover that current state bills, if passed, would add more vaccines to the schedule or would take existing personal rights away, like this one in Florida and this one in Oklahoma.
The next step, besides finding out what grade she got for completing the activity, is to see what her peers think of her idea. The information she collected, analyzed, and presented wasn’t just for the teacher’s eyes; it would also be reviewed and discussed by other high schoolers. I cringed when I heard that that was part of the assignment.
All of my children have at, one time or another, listened to me make calls to our Representatives when vaccines or autism have come up in legislation. They’ve read the letters I’ve sent and have also accompanied me to Congress and the local statehouse, too, They have observed their government and its officials in action right along with me. My children have also watched parents like me be insulted for speaking up about vaccine choice. I’d hate for my daughter’s peers to think that it’s okay to also insult her for thinking differently about vaccines.
Fiona will surely get all the points for following the rubric correctly and for adding appropriate references. But I’m curious if the content she presented will be respected by kids her age. Even knowing that she may be ridiculed, Fiona was adamant about writing about a subject most kids don’t think about until much later in life.
Because of what happened to their brother, all of Ronan’s siblings are passionate about health care rights and about vaccine choice. It sometimes isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I’m proud of Fiona for choosing the topic of vaccine choice for her bill. Her voice matters, and her opinion on the subject matters, too. Even if it’s a mock bill being heard in front of a mock Congress, Fiona spoke up about something important, relevant, and absolutely realistic. With all that’s happened to our family personally, she remains staunchly protective of her brother. All of Ronan’s siblings are protective of him. What a blessing they are to him, and what a great joy they are to me.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.