by Julie Obradovic
I think Autism and Schizophrenia really might be more related that I originally thought. Reflecting on the last ten years made it glaringly obvious that someone here is indeed experiencing a case misdiagnosed schizophrenia.
I had my first child in 1998. To put that in perspective, Pottery Barn Kids had just launched, and only one maternity store existed as a chain. Cute, stylish clothes for moms-to-be didn't really exist, and the only real place to shop for your baby was the brand new Babies-R-Us. Compared to what's available now-a-days, it seems like eons ago.
There weren't very many good medical books about motherhood and pregnancy either. I suppose that's why the recently published What to Expect While You're Expecting was so popular. It walked you through every month of pregnancy with great detail. I loved that book and read it like my Bible. I was a good mom who wanted to do everything right for her new baby.
I may be wrong, but I believe at that time the follow-up book What to Expect the First Year didn't yet exist. I imagine I would have had it if it did. Instead, I relied on a book given to me by my college room mate studying to be a doctor and her already board certified pediatrician husband for medical advice: The American Academy of Pediatrics Caring for Your Young Child, Birth to Age 5, The Complete and Authoritative Guide. It is the revised addition, copyrighted 1994.
"Complete and Authoritative" sounded pretty convincing, and I was certain anything I would ever need to know would be in there. In fact, inside the front cover it states, "Every effort is made to keep (this book)....consistent with the most recent advice and information available from the American Academy of Pediatrics."
Over the next few years, I came to rely on it heavily, especially when my daughter was born in 2001. About 2 weeks afterwards, she developed a rash all over her face that looked like a chemical burn. Her doctors didn't know what it was and neither did the "complete and authoritative" guide.
At 4 months of age, right after the same friend who gave me the book told me to load her up on Tylenol before her shots, she developed a hard lump at the injection site that wouldn't go away for days. The "complete and authoritative" guide had nothing to say on that either.
At 6 months of age, right after her next round of shots, she developed an ear infection that was so horrific it burst, blood and puss oozing out on the crib sheet. It was the first of 9 more to come over the next 12 months, along with a serious bronchial infection that almost hospitalized her.
The fact that she wasn't irritable with that first infection bothered me, and I searched frantically for information on loss of pain sensitivity. Nothing there. Nothing there on why a child not in day care whose family members aren't sick can't seem to stay healthy for anything.
In fact, there wasn't anything there on how many rounds of antibiotics are acceptable for an infant. There wasn't anything on the causes of eczema in a baby and how to treat it without using steroid creams. There wasn't anything on why an 18 month old can't stand the sound of a vacuum or someone singing. There was nothing there on why a child's head would grow very quickly in only 3 short months.
It seemed like everything I needed to find about what was wrong with my daughter, whose health was spiraling out of control right in front of our eyes, was not there. I quickly began to hate that book for all of the information that wasn't there.
I now hate it for the one thing that was.
On page 65 regarding the MMR vaccine, it stated, "...if your child is taking any medication that interferes with the immune system, or his immune system is weakened for any reason, he should not be given the MMR." It does not go into any further detail.
I remember reading that years later, after her fourth DTP, her third IPV, her second Varivax (chicken pox) AND her first MMR were all administered at one visit while she was on the antibiotic Augmentin. It was her 9th round of antibiotics (including Amoxicilan, Zithromax, and Augmentin) in a year. She was 18 months old.
Three weeks later, my daughter was completely lost in the world of Autism. She lost her smile, any of the little speech she had had, and the light in her eyes was extinguished. There was nothing in the book about that either.
In the book's defense, regarding development, it clearly states that if your child is not meeting a milestone, you need to speak with her physician. Of course, I did, but I was always reassured that not all children develop the same way, and that I should give it time.
But not once did anyone mention Autism. Even though I had suspected it for years, even saying it aloud one day as she stared right through me, I took comfort in knowing that my physicians would tell me if that were the case. I trusted the "Complete and Authoritative" guide, which doesn't even mention the word Autism in all 676 pages, to clue me in on the early warning signs.
Recently, a supposed expert on Autism suggested that the reason for this is because what is now considered Autism was then considered Schizophrenia. In case you missed it, today's Autistics are yesterday's Schizophrenics.
I scoff at that idea; I mean really, we're talking about 1994 for crying out loud! But to be fair, I thought I'd take a peek at the "Complete and Authoritative" guide just to see if that's the case. Maybe there were a lot of schizophrenic 5 year olds in the early 1990's.
But guess what?The word "schizophrenic" isn't in the book either.
If the AAP or other medical experts really want us to believe they were accidentally misdiagnosing schizophrenia for Autism all this time, wouldn't there be a big chapter on schizophrenia instead? And wouldn't that have been suggested to me as I questioned them about my baby's issues? And if the prevalence rates actually haven't increased, then 1 in 150 schizophrenic kids back then would have been a big deal, right? But it's not. It too is nowhere to be found in the "complete and authoritative" guide on all things pediatric.
Which brings me back to the beginning. Who's really got a case of misdiagnosed Schizophrenia here?
The missing 40 year old somewhere who actually has Autism and doesn't know it?
Or the AAP, who prints medical advice that it doesn't encourage its doctors to follow and then denies ever existed for any good reason? Who boldly makes the claim in 1999 that injecting a neurotoxin into kids is not a wise idea, but then viciously fights legislation to ensure it doesn't happen? Who advocates for not using such a neurotoxin, but then adds the flu shot as a recommended shot for pregnant women and babies that does? Who sends out an Autism ALARM several years ago admitting Autism is dangerously on the rise without explanation, but then discovers the explanation is actually their own incompetency? Who knew so little about Autism only 14 years ago that it doesn't even mention it in their "complete and authoritative" guide, but now knows so much about it that it can matter-of-factly tell us what doesn't cause it?
In the end, it turns out that expert was right. Autism and Schizophrenia really are closely related. Now if the real schizophrenics would just stand up, we might get somewhere.
Julie Obradovic is a High School Spanish Teacher in the suburbs of Chicago where she lives with her husband and 3 beautiful children, one of whom is recovered from Autism. She is a member of the NAA, a Rescue Angel, and founder of the Southwest Suburban Biomedical Support Group. Last year she threw the First Annual Evening for ACE, a benefit that raised several thousand dollars for the Autism Center for Enlightenment, Dr. Anju Usman's not-for-profit organization.