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Thinking Inside the Box

Teachable-momentsBy Cathy Jameson

I took my daughters to a walk-in clinic last summer to get their school physical forms filled out.  I wanted to bypass the pediatrician’s office for a few reasons.  The biggest reason was because it’s excruciatingly painful to sit and wait to see the doctor knowing I have a million other things to take care of on a daily basis.  Another reason to go to the walk-in was because I thought surely the Doc in a Box place would be much faster.  And, the third reason was because I didn’t want to hear the same textbook answer got from the pediatrician the year before about the vacant boxes on the girls’ vaccine records I must show as part of the exam.

As mother of five, my life is extremely busy.  I have no time to sit and wait for someone to check off little boxes on a piece of paper stating that my healthy kids are healthy.  Our schedule just doesn’t allow for that kind of sitting and waiting.  But, since the paperwork needed to be completed I thought I would veer off the beaten path for what I’d hoped was a quicker option.  (Note to self:  Doc in a Box is not a short cut and has the potential to suck valuable time away from any family, including very busy ones.)

Just a few weeks prior, my husband had taken our typical son to a walk-in clinic for some foot pain he’d been experiencing.  Since it was the weekend when the foot pain worsened, the walk-in was our only option.  Just as they were about to walk out the door, I yelled out,” Hey, take the school physical form and see if you can get that done, too!  Just tell them we’ve got the vaccine exemption paperwork so they don’t bug you about getting any shots today, okay?”  Off they went.   

A few (long) hours later my husband came home with our son.  The foot was going to be fine.  I hated to speed past the foot care information we were going to have to do for the next few days, but I couldn’t help myself and blurted out, “So, what did the doc say about the physical?  About vaccines?  About the exemption?  You know we don’t need to be so nervous about that, but what a record we have with our other doctors.  Sheesh, it’s like gearing up for battle every time one of the kids has to be seen, ‘Why are you here? What do you need?  How many vaccines are we going to give them today?’  Come on, already.  It’s like a broken record….”  I cut myself off. 

“Oh, sorry, honey.  I’ll be quiet.  What did the doctor said?  Did you get the physical completed?”

My husband stood there and smiled knowing eventually I’d hop off my soapbox.  “Well, it was actually really interesting,” he started.

“Interesting?  How so?  What did he say?  Was it uncomfortable?  Did you have to fight anything?”  Oops.  I closed my mouth, covered it with my hand and mumbled, “I’m sorry.  I’ll let you tell the story.” 

I sat down to listen and motioned for my husband to continue.

“Well, it was a female doctor, a grandmother in fact who was a family practice physician.  She said the foot wasn’t so bad and showed me how to clean it.  When that was done I asked if we could do the school physical.  Since it was technically a different appointment we had to go back to the front, sign in again and wait to be called back.  We were called back to the exam room a little bit later and started going over the form.  When it was time to ask about the vaccines I told her we weren’t going to do them.  She had looked at the vaccine record already and had offered to catch up on a few that were “missing”.  I explained no, we have another son with mito disease who reacted badly to his shots.  The doc looks right at me and said, ‘I have a grandson who has similar problems.’  Turns out he also has autism.  This doc’s daughter, the boy’s mom thought the vaccines did something to the kid.  This doctor helps the daughter now and understood why I said we were all set with vaccines.  I didn’t have to fight her like you’ve had to fight doctors.  She just said okay and moved onto the next part of the exam.”

Holy smokes!  A doctor who is living near, breathing with, helping out and watching over her own grandson go through what Ronan does?  Knowing I had other school physicals to get done I wanted so badly to jump in the car and get them taken care of that very afternoon by this promising open-minded doctor!

After hearing the rest of the story, that this doctor spoke “our language” with things like therapies we too have tried, supplements I still order and with medications that have helped some kids on the spectrum I was ready to quit our regular pediatrician on the spot.  I’d heard that many parents ditch their pediatrician after getting read the riot act for not vaccinating.  While our pediatrician didn’t berate us, it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable to have “The Talk” with her partner who was more condescending than educating when the vaccine topic came up, and who we always seemed to be scheduled with on our recent visits.  I thought maybe family practice might be the way to go.  Plus, Ronan sees more specialists anyway, so maybe I could try to manage his every-once-in-awhile medical needs with the Doc in a Box while keeping his specialists for the other more complicated needs that bring us to them anyway.  It was worth it to find out who this doctor was and if she’d be interested in joining Ronan’s medical team. 

By the time I listened to my husband recount the events of my son’s visit to the doctor, I was preparing to run out the door with the other kids and their school forms.  I first checked to make sure the office was still open since it was already well into Saturday afternoon.  I called the number on the receipt and dialed the walk-in clinic.  Too late.  They were closed for the day and wouldn’t be open again until Monday morning.  I’d have to be patient and wait a few days. 

I imagined the connection the Doc in A Box doctor/grandmother and I would make, the conversations we’d have, the referral list she’d make, and maybe even the friendship I could start with her daughter so that I could meet this doctor’s grandson who sounded similar to my own son.  It would be a nice break from the sometimes nervous situations I feel I’m in with our regular doctor.  A walk-in clinic would be a place where no one would know my reputation or where they’d have no history of how adamant I am about certain procedures.  We’d walk in, get what I wanted done for my kids and walk out.  No past, and potentially no future.  Only take care of the now, and move on.  The more I thought about it, the nicer it all sounded. 

The next week arrived and I packed my two youngest in the car leaving the others at home with my husband.  It was much later in the day when we set out for the walk-in clinic.  It was in fact early evening when we arrived, and the place was empty.  I signed us in, registered the kids for their physicals and asked who was working that evening requesting the same doctor my husband saw.  The receptionist said, “Who?”  I said her name clearer and was told, “Nooo, no one here with that name.”  Well, when you’re as busy as I am and details like remembering exactly which Doc in a Box address it is you’re supposed to go to, but that piece of information goes right out of your brain, you show up at the wrong walk-in clinic.  Our next few days were chock-a-block full with this particular evening being the only one I had available to get these school physicals done.  I had no other choice but to take the appointments right then and there.  I was crushed that I made a foolish mistake by turning into the wrong clinic, but thankful that this group was able to see us right away.  I sat in the waiting room for just a few moments.  My little girls were called back, so I got my game face on and walked them to the exam room. 

A young man with broken English greeted me.  Scanning the forms the doctor asked if I had any concerns about the girls’ health.  I replied no and that we were just there for school physicals.  Next he looked at their vaccine records and the mostly empty boxes with nary a pen mark or date stamp on them.  As he stared, his pen hovered over the boxes.  A confused look spread across his face.   “Here we go,” I thought.  He brought the tip of his pen to the first box, the second, the third now appearing to count how many empty spaces he saw.  As if using the pen as a pointer one by one, he continued to go down the record placing the tip of the pen just over the tiny boxes.  Stopping over several he seemed to write something in the air before moving on.  When the doctor stopped staring at my daughters’ papers he finally looked up.  His baffled look met my secure gaze.  Our eyes locked.  Out tumbled question after question.

Speaking out loud but not directly to me he started:

No vaccinations?

You didn’t start this series?

Do you have these vaccines recorded somewhere else?

Did you know they are very late to catch up on several?

He finally made eye contact again and asked, “Are you saying these girls have not been vaccinated?”

Without going into the every detail I could that backs up our family’s decision, I kept my answers short. 

“The girls are as vaccinated as we want them to be.”  I grinned and then waited for him to absorb my response.

Another barrage of questions:

Who have they seen?

What is their health like?

How do you avoid sicknesses and communicable diseases?

Before he could continue I thought, “Good Lord, look at them!  Look at these children of mine!  They are able to breathe!  To EAT!  To SLEEP!  To THINK and PLAY!  They are not freaks.  They are happy, healthy, active, silly, obnoxious (of their own volition) normal children!  Open your eyes, Buddy!”

Very politely I said, “They are healthy, very happy and typical.  We keep them as healthy as we can using supplements and vitamins, by eating mostly organic and by avoiding other people when we know they are sick.  I don’t think any of that is quite unusual, and in fact living like that is helpful for any family really.”

Before he spoke, he took a few seconds to take everything in.  “But, how will they get into school?”

Ahhh.  Deflecting with the school “requirements” question.  Classic. 

“Oh, we have the form already signed for vaccine exemptions,” I replied confidently.  “You know about that, don’t you?” I added.

“Exemptions…?” and his voice trailed off.  He flipped the forms and the girls’ records over possibly thinking I’d fooled him by having the reverse side filled out with the information he expected to see. 

“Tell me about the exemptions and why you get them.  Please.”  He was obviously clueless to some degree but genuinely curious. 

I let him know that every state except for a few in the US offered some kind of vaccine exemption.  Because of my son’s negative vaccine reactions we could pursue a medical exemption but garnering a religious or philosophical exemption would be quite easy for any parent to obtain as long as they knew where to find that information, and more importantly, if they knew that they had that right.

The doctor’s head bobbled a bit, not in agreement but not disagreeing either.  “So, this exemption paper, you have that already?   A doctor didn’t need to review it or sign it?”

“Nope, no doctor signature needed.  The school is already aware of our “status” and said they’d accept the form.  We just need to get the physical portion done, and that’s why we’re here today.”

A few minutes went by with neither one of us speaking.  Then, without hesitation he shared his own personal story.  Not talking like a doctor anymore he told me he had been born and raised in a third-world country.  He had no vaccines until the age of 16.  Soon after that he arrived in the US.  Where he was from no one pushed vaccinations like the doctor he encountered here do.  He was surprised, and it left an impression on him as he went through school.  He finished quickly saying, “All of them…pushing shots…it’s what they do.  I respect you and your choice.  Thank you for coming in.”  

It was grossly apparent the doctor was willing to listen and was capable of respecting that vaccinating or not was a parent’s personal choice.  He’d been in my own shoes as an individual before he put on his starch-white lab coat.  He was probably bombarded with how “life-saving” vaccines have saved “so many lives” while reading his medical textbooks.  Knowing that he survived in a third-world country for as long as he did without vaccinations must have given him reason enough to question why the US doctors force so many vaccines so early in life.  Pondering all of that and what I had shared, he was able to look at me with curiosity but also respect.  The doctor probably said what he was did about my girls’ vaccine records because he was likely being paid to say it.  Until he heard my side of the story he discovered his scripted vaccine conversation had no place in our exam room.  He was not going to be a straight up vaccine salesman like countless other doctors I’ve encountered have turned into. 

I think I delayed the young doctor long enough, so he put the papers down and started the exams.  Both girls checked out fine, got their school forms signed and we were ready to leave.  Before I got up, the doctor said, “You know I really understand your opinion and I appreciate how much you shared, but do consider at some point that whatever natural stuff you use to help your kids…they might need more.  You don’t want those diseases that anyone can catch which could bring your children harm.  I’m not saying go get the shots right now, but if you need to take some action at least consider them.  I’d be happy to help you and go over whatever it is that concerns you.  I know it’s a big decision for parents, you have a lot going on as a mom—making sure they are healthy, teaching them how to be ready for life, worrying about what they’ll be exposed to.  Just consider that vaccines could be an answer for you at some point.”

Walking into this Doc in a Box practice might have been a wrong turn according to my driving directions, but how exhilarating to have such a profound discussion without all the emotion some of my other conversations with doctors have been.   As we finished up the last portion of the appointment I looked up at the doctor again.  After our last exchange his voice trailed off, but he had a glimmer in his eyes.  He knew that I was standing firm in my decision.  His vax sale wasn’t going to happen with my kids, but his eyes still had a glimmer like something good just happened right in front of him.

I was stunned, not in the way I usually am after hearing “The Talk” from other doctors who try to add grief or unnecessary disparaging comments.  This doctor was attempting to ask me to weigh the pros and cons while offering his knowledge as the professional.  Granted, he was still pushing, convincing and selling vaccines as the “only” answer for warding off supposedly preventative diseases, but his attempt was somewhat sincere.   He appreciated me, and I he for his honesty in divulging personal information. 

I nodded my head toward the doctor as I gathered my purse, our paperwork and my little girls’ hands.  I waited to speak as I collected my thoughts.  “You know, I understand you are in a position to provide only certain types of treatments.  Because we witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of vaccines I do spend a lot of time making these very important considerations and decisions for my children.  You are right that it is very difficult to weigh all factors and to consider what has become a norm for the rest of society.  I am positive right now that the decisions our family has made are correct, for the right reasons and ones we can and will confidently live with.  But, thank you so much for listening, really listening and for asking questions about what I had say.  I don’t usually get that kind of response from medical providers.” 

I stood up and said thank you.  My children trailed next to me as we rounded the corner.  The doctor walked us to the receptionist area, wished us luck and watched us leave.  I wonder if he pinched himself after we left wondering if what he just experienced was just a dream:  well-informed Mom willingly brings children to the doctor’s office and leaves without vaccines.  Say it isn’t so!  But, it was.  Maybe I shared just enough information to pique his interest to do some of his own research about vaccine reactions and vaccine exemptions.  Who knows, maybe he’d one day consider thinking outside of the pharmaceutically-laden box when another parent just like me walks in the door. 

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.


nancy pastirik

Great article. My sibling and I have not been vaccinated. I was born in 1940 and due to a death in the family after a series of school shots, our parents declined to vaccinate us. So even that far back, there were excemptions concerning vaccines. Too bad my grandchildren weren't given that exemption....two of them have autism.

Jeff C

No problem Cathy glad I could help, and thanks Laura for posting the text of the CA Ed code. The more I dig, the more I find that much of the stuff that is allegedly required, really isn't. Most mandates have some sort of exemption, probably to protect those imposing the mandate from potential legal liability.

Since it usually only takes a signature for an exemption, those pushing the mandates use deceit, half-truths, and social engineering tactics to gain compliance. Like others here, I realized this when researching vaccine exemptions. I've come to find the same bullying tactics are widespread and used in many other areas where those in charge would like us to behave in a certain manner, the "required" physicals being a good example.


What a great article!!!

Mary R.

We've been lucky so far because when I explain that our son was vaccine injured the conversation shifts to one of understanding why our family will no longer vaccinate. I never mention autism since the point is moot. . .he was injured by vaccines, period. It took 19 infusions of IVIG to correct his destroyed immune system. Enough said.

Even when they wanted to give my daughter a tetanus booster (thimerasol free) I declined, noting that my last tetanus was probably around the age of ten. If I won't get it for myself, why would I subject my daughter to the vaccine. Third child is not vaccinated at all, and so far, doctors, nurses, etc. know that I know what I am talking about in the discussion about vaccines and they never question me further.

Laura Hayes

For CA parents, below is the Ed Code for opting out of an annual physical. I would assume that some other states have this included in their Ed Code, also.

Per CA Ed Code 49451:

A parent or guardian having control or charge of any child
enrolled in the public schools may file annually with the principal
of the school in which he is enrolled a statement in writing, signed
by the parent or guardian, stating that he will not consent to a
physical examination of his child. Thereupon the child shall be
exempt from any physical examination, but whenever there is a good
reason to believe that the child is suffering from a recognized
contagious or infectious disease, he shall be sent home and shall not
be permitted to return until the school authorities are satisfied
that any contagious or infectious disease does not exist.

Brian Warner

Yes the medicos here in OZ are the same ...although every time my GP asks me to have a flu(being 74 I get them free)but you cannot pay me to have any.Our morons in government follow the states and I must admit they are all nuts.Theyput out that no vax,no school and no child care benefits,a full paragraph on why you should vaccinate and always about herd immunity,but the small print says you can opt out but our idiot media here only put the pro stories and don't do the other side.We have a creww here called the Australian Sceptics (I have another name for them)they are provax and do their best to shut down the here in OZ but they fail miserably every time coz the people rally to back the novax unless safe message.

Cat Jameson

No physicals....ohhhhhh! Good to know, Jeff. I will definitely check that out and make sure we act accordingly. Thank you so much for sharing.

Jeff C

Hi Cat, I appreciate that the vaccines have exemptions, but in California even the "requirement" for a physical examination also has an exemption.

You mentioned you were at the doctor to get the kids physicals for school. You may be able to opt out of these too, although this usually isn't advertised.

No shots, no school, not true!

But, no physicals, no school, is also not true, at least in California for general school attendance.

Sports participation may be a different story. We opt out of the physicals for exactly the reasons you discuss in your essay, not too mention the fact it's none of the state's business.


last time we went to the ped she said, "We are starting to learn that not everybody can handle the vaccines. Not everyones immune systems can handle them."

Cat Jameson

Jeff C, I looked at my childhood school papers a long time ago when we were discovering Ronan's issues. One of the pages I had was a registration page that included a list of vaccines the school 'required'. But, also on the form was a box to opt out of those vaccines. That was the mid-80s. I have only seen that option one other time (one of my daughter's private schools had an opt-out section on their form 4 years ago). I know about the exemptions, but the typical parents who don't know about them keep thinking they have to fill out every box on every form every year

No shots? No school! So not true. I refer people to and all the time. I appreciate them for getting that important info out there.


Cat Jameson

AnneS, I was driving home from Church thinking about this post and that I probably should have added somewhere that I didn't find the first doctor. After this visit to the Doc in the Box place I searched for a doctor who could be a help instead of a hinderance. I found a DO at a family practice clinic. This docotor was fantastic, a parent as well, agreeable to respect our vaccine-free decisions, intrigued by the vaccines and mito and autism. She was integral in helping me get new therapists for Ronan right away (he needed a PT referral at the time). Then she moved. It was back to square one to find just the right person. We have someone now who is another good addition and acts as the medical team captain for all of my children's needs. Thank you for asking!



Cathy, what ever happened to the female doc - did you end up meeting her again?

Jeff C

Nice post Cathy. We've noticed there seems to be some clear patterns. At the risk of stereotyping, the absolute worst combination is a pediatrician, 30-60 years of age, raised and educated in the US. Change any of those attributes and the odds of finding a sympathetic ear increase significantly.

Pediatricians fear running afoul of their "union" (the AAP) and don't want to rock the boat. Since they vaccinated all these infants, I think they are also so militant in an attempt to drown out that little voice inside suggesting that they might be causing the explosion of chronic conditions in children. Many younger doctors have not yet lost the "question authority" mindset, older doctors remember that many of these diseases (e.g. chicken pox, mumps, flu) weren't all that bad. Not to mention that kids a generation or two ago didn't have autism, ADHD, anaphylaxis, food allergies, etc. As you describe, doctors from many other countries came of age or were trained outside this crazy vaccine-happy medical culture we have in the US.

By the way, that "required" physical for school has an opt-out in California as does the required dental examination. Just like with vaccine exemptions, they do their best to hide these facts. The mandatory dental exam is particularly galling as it was pushed through the state legislature by the dentist's lobby to pump up business. Although my kids see the dentist yearly (no fluoride yet zero cavities) we take the exemption anyways as it's just none of the state nor school district's business.

You might want to closely check the laws in your state as the exam may not be truly required.

First do no harm

Cathy, this new doctor sounds open-minded. Why not follow up by sending just one document or article providing scientific evidence for your decision, so he doesn't think your vaccine decisions are based on parental observations only?


I believe there is a momentous struggle going on at this time, almost undetected, within the arena of parental choice in vaccinations versus the State. And that it's imperative it is given a wider awareness. Thankyou for your great contribution Cat. Good luck!

Cat Jameson

Patricia, I appreciate being able to share our story and always hope it can help at least one person. Some of my articles in the past have been picked up by other media sources which is great--it keeps the message going.

Thanks for the encouragement!


I think this article is one of the the most important personal accounts of an independant viewpoint on vaccination from the parent paerspective and so important that it should be given much wider publication. Please Cathy send copies to all major media and magazine publishers. You never know It is beautifully written and deserves a greater readership.

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