Last week Time magazine published “The Autism Debate: Who’s Afraid of Jenny McCarthy?” As much as I’d like to rant about her, as I’ve done before, instead I’ll call your attention to this paragraph, buried halfway into the article:
There are dark murmurings from scientists and doctors asking, Was her son ever really autistic? Evan’s symptoms — heavy seizures, followed by marked improvement once the seizures were brought under control — are similar to those of Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage. Or, as other pediatricians have suggested, perhaps the miracle I have beheld is the quotidian miracle of childhood development: a delayed 2-year-old catching up by the time he is 7, a commonplace, routine occurrence, nothing more surprising than a short boy growing tall. It is enraging to the mother to hear that nothing was wrong with her boy — she held him during his seizures, saw his eyes roll up after he received his vaccines — and how can you say that she doesn’t know what she knows?
What she “knows” and what actually happened to her son are not the same thing. I know what it’s like to be the parent of a child with an autistic spectrum disorder, and I know how important it is not to let emotions dictate treatment. If I had the ability to visit myself nine years ago, when I was still struggling with the news I had received about my boy, the only advice I would have offered is “You know what you have to do. Read everything you can, talk to experts and other parents, and apply your scientific training to the problem. Advocate for your son, but don’t alienate those who want to help.”
That’s what I’ve done for nine years, and now I have a quirky, happy kid whose development has caught up with his age. I didn’t have to “try everything.” I didn’t have to hope, because I knew things would improve. Science and medicine were – and still are – on my side.