I’m making my annual return trip to Illinois, which tends to be not too hot and not too cold right around Memorial Day. This year I’ve noticed how many people seem to have a story to tell about sick kids.
I was talking to a nurse in Decatur, and when someone mentioned I write about autism, she volunteered that she has a 15-year-old son with autism. He was fine until 18 months, and then everything just stopped. I asked if she had any idea why that happened, and she said she didn’t.
She has four younger children, all boys, who seem fine, she said. If you do the math, the one with autism was born when mercury was still being phased out of "most" vaccines. The others, let’s hope, escaped.
A few days earlier, in Champaign, I was talking to someone who has a friend who is pregnant. The expectant mother suffers from depression and is debating whether to get off her meds until the baby is born. (I vote yes, if humanly possible). This mom also has ADHD. The question was posed, did I think a parent with ADHD and depression is more likely to have a child with autism. No, I said, I don't think parents have anything to do with their children having autism. However, the child may inherit vulnerabilities, like auto-immunity, and parents ought to make sure those vulnerabilities aren't triggered by, oh, say, mercury containing flu shots in pregnancy.
I passed along a copy of our book, Vaccines 2.0.
A friend in Chicago has a daughter with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. And another has a son who is teetering into trouble with the law because of issues that sound like they verge on, or topple over into, the autism spectrum.
This adds up to too many kids and young adults with too many problems, problems that didn’t used to be like this, and that too many people either don't notice, or pretend not to. I had lunch at Terzo Piano, the very cool restaurant at the Art Institute, on Friday, and took a selfie with the skyline in the background. You can see the Prudential Building, which when I was a kid (a half-century ago) was the tallest, widest, most skyscraperesque building around.
Now it’s dwarfed by taller ones. Still, if the newer buildings on the Chicago skyline were sized to reflect the rise in autism since the Prudential Building was built in 1955, those other skyscrapers would be 20 or 30 times taller. They would be a visual sign for the damage that still remains too hidden, and that makes too many people feel this is all happening to them but maybe not to anybody -- in fact, everybody -- but them.
Maybe that would get people’s attention.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism