He Prefers History Books, and Biographies

In addition to anonymous on-line readers, I know that these people, at least, follow Finding My Kid:

Ÿ         > high-school classmates,

Ÿ         > my mom,

Ÿ         >  members of our local special-needs community,

Ÿ         > families who use the same doctors and practitioners we use,

Ÿ          > neighbors from our former residence in the City,

Ÿ          > Adrian’s secretary,

Ÿ          > some person who likes to Tweet at me that children can’t recover from autism.

I know that this person, at least, does not follow Finding My Kid:

Ÿ          > my husband, Adrian.

In the past, I’ve been peeved by Adrian’s indifference toward my blog. I ask, “Hey, did you read my post about [whatever I think I’ve written well]?” and Adrian responds, “No. Do you want me to?” I say, “My post about [something that inexplicably comes up in many search engines] has got more hits than usual. Did you like it?” and Adrian responds, “I’m sure I would like it.”

My friend Veronica has a 14-year-old son who is not yet verbal, and occasionally violent. Veronica posts on Facebook daily about her family’s ASD struggles. Last week Veronica asked me why Adrian had “unfriended” her. I called Adrian and inquired. “It’s too much,” he said. “Facebook is my happy place. I want everyone’s life on Facebook to be perfect. I can’t stand reading about autism all the time.”

I’ve realized that probably also explains why Adrian doesn’t read Finding My Kid. By necessity, Adrian lives autism recovery. Martin’s challenges are Adrian’s daily reality. My thoughts on recovery are Adrian’s nighttime pillow talk. (Sad, right?) I am communicative enough at home that Adrian doesn’t need to peruse blog musings to know my thoughts. Also, I run Martin’s autism recovery show, so Adrian doesn’t need to read widely to educate himself on therapies or diets. The reasons that people might follow my blog—wondering how to make recovery work, day-to-day, or searching for treatments, or seeking inspiration, for example—really don’t apply to Adrian. He gets enough autism. Why, when he’s away from Martin, would he want to interject more autism into his day?

Back to Facebook and Veronica: I must teach Adrian how to “unfollow” instead of unfriending, so he doesn’t hurt any feelings. I would write those instructions here, but I’m sure he won’t be reading this.

Civility

I know that I should stay off social media, other than maybe the autism-recovery groups I enjoy.

I definitely know that I should refrain from taking the bait when people post uninformed opinions on topics about which I have, well, more informed opinions.

If you read this blog, you probably have thoughts about vaccines. I do. I’ve posted about the link that I think exists between vaccines and the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, symptoms like “autism.” It’s such a controversial topic. I try to read as much about vaccines, on both sides of the issue, as my schedule allows.

Which makes me ripe for a bad Facebook experience. I made the mistake of responding to a post by a guy I knew well in college and now know only through Facebook.

This Facebooker, the guy I know, posted an opinion piece deriding “anti-vaxx” celebrities. (“Anti-vaxx” was used in the posted piece. It’s not my term. I don’t think raising efficacy or complications concerns, or questioning ingredients, is necessarily “anti-” vaccinations). Beneath the link to the opinion piece, the Facebooker said something like, “It is a sad commentary on our society when people are willing to accept celebrity ‘opinion’ over scientific fact.” He then went on to compare “anti-vaxxers” to people who deny evolution or global climate change.

Within the comment thread under his post, the Facebooker asserted, without citation, that “any link between vaccines and autism has been scientifically disproven.”

Best course for me to take in such a situation: turn off Facebook and walk away.

Course I did take, this one time: I commented. I wrote:

“Can you point me to the study that you are referencing? I’m not advocating one way or the other. I am aware of studies suggesting the absence of a link, and of studies noting that vaccinations can cause neuro-disruptions. But I’m not aware of any study that compares autism rates in vaccinated versus unvaccinated populations.”

Then, lest anyone think I have a connection to autism (we’re not public about Martin’s diagnosis), I added:

“I am concerned about this topic because at age 12 I was very sick with measles, despite having been twice vaccinated against it.”

What did I want to achieve by commenting? I don’t know. I was frustrated. The Facebooker’s comment made no sense, empirically or otherwise. We cannot “scientifically disprove” a link between any two occurrences; the most we can do is, while attempting to control for other variables, demonstrate that the occurrences arise no more often in conjunction than they do independently. In the case of autism and vaccines, I know, that rigorous work has not been done. This Facebooker was carelessly spouting an untruth.

In seconds, without thought or ceremony, he responded: “There. Is. No. Fucking. LINK. NONE. STOP.”

And I, shocked, wrote: “Um, okay. That sounds scientific.”

Most of this is likely not verbatim. I recall, exactly, his comment, “There. Is. No. Fucking. LINK. NONE. STOP”—periods, explicative, and all. As for the rest, I am recreating the conversation. Immediately after I wrote, “Um, okay. That sounds scientific,” the Facebooker deleted the link and the comment thread, and replaced it with this status update:

“You’re not going to spoil my happy today. Period.”

Under that “spoil my happy” status came this comment thread:

Random commentator: “Oh, see now… someone’s going to try!”

Facebooker I know: “Already has. Why do you think I posted it? What it comes down to is this. To the world: As much as you are obviously in love with your own opinions, I DON’T CARE!!!!!! You may not care about my opinions either. That’s fine. No skin off my nose. BUT I DON’T CARE!!!!!!!!!”

Random commentator: “Ah, see, I almost had a sarcastic comment for your last post.”

Facebooker I know: “I swear to God, you could post that 1+1=2 and there’s going to be someone who argues with you. Not having it.”

Wow, right? This Facebooker, as I said, is a guy I knew in college. I’ve seen him once since college, when he was in New York a year or two ago, and we had a nice lunch to catch up. No prior animosity. Nothing. That explosive reaction resulted, as far as I know, 100% from my question about “scientific disproof” of a connection between vaccines and autism.

I commented no more. Instead, I took my boldest Facebook action ever. I stopped “following” the guy. I didn’t go so far as to unfriend him. Unfriending just isn’t in my nature. But now that I’ve stopped following him, his posts no longer appear in my news feed.

It’s justified. Around when Demi Moore was separating from Ashton Kutcher, this Facebooker posted a picture purporting to show cellulite on Demi’s legs and chastising her for not spending enough time on a treadmill. As if women don’t have enough trouble with body image! Demi Moore weighs, like, 70 pounds. Then, during the 2012 NFL referee lockout, when the league used less-experienced substitutes, this Facebooker complained about a game by posting something like, “These replacement refs are really ‘special,’ and I don’t mean that in a good way.” You see the problem there: He’s implying that the referees have special needs, which is “bad” and appropriate for ridicule. The way I see it, the vaccine incident was strike three, and this Facebooker is out. Or at least un-followed.

There’s a real shame in this story. In the original “anti-vaxxers” link and comments—the thread that the Facebooker deleted because he was “not having” any “argument”—there was a comment from a third-party who self-identified as a person with autism. She wrote something like, “Even if there were a link between vaccines and autism, people who abstain are suggesting that they would rather lose a child to preventable disease than have a child like me.” I would have appreciated the opportunity to follow up and engage that person further.

No such luck. Some topics, it seems, are just no longer available for discussion.

Opinion Piece: Crowdsourcing Your Child’s Medical Care Is Not a Good Plan

Before you read the “opinion” section of this post, please peruse these five statements:

1. The internet can be an excellent source of information, advice, and comfort. Most days, I spend several hours collecting ideas and cyber-talking with other parents across the web.

2. I am very, very fortunate that I have money available (including insurance reimbursement) to pay MD’s, ND’s, homeopathic practitioners, and therapists. I recognize, honor, and pray for families who want to treat their children biomedically and/or homeopathically but lack sufficient funding to do so; when we have recovered Martin, I will find some way to provide material assistance to those families.

3. I am not in the business of judging other parents’ choices. I do have an opinion about how to treat ASD in children, and I act upon that opinion by, in consultation and agreement with my husband, treating our son as I see fit. I expect other parents to do the same. Unless you are neglecting your child, or actively attempting to harm him, I respect your choices.

4. Recovery from ASD, asthma, allergies, ADD, and ADHD (et cetera!) remains an emerging science. Laboratory studies have not kept up with what’s going on in the field. Because of that, the trial-and-error and “experimentation” factors may be even more significant in these areas than elsewhere in medicine.

 5. I am not aiming to inject acrimony or discord into the on-line ASD recovery community. This post, like every post on FindingMyKid, is selfish. I’m discussing my son’s progress and expositing my thoughts, in hopes of (1) documenting the recovery process, and (2) fomenting ideas in readers. I think that’s what blogging is about, documenting and fomenting. I hope I don’t lose readers over this post.

End of disclaimers. Beginning of opinion section—

I belong to several Facebook groups dedicating to recovering children. Many parents (or grandparents and other caregivers) write posts among these lines:

•      “My son has this itchy rash over a quarter of his body.” [Insert picture here, usually something that I don’t want to see in my Facebook feed because I have an absurdly low gross-out tolerance. Seriously, if I think of something icky, I can’t eat for hours.] “What could this be? How should I treat it?”

•      “I just received the results of my daughter’s” [insert name of test here, such as 23andMe genetics, Great Plains Labs OAT, or Philippe Auguste toxicity] “results.” [Insert copy of lab results, (not always) with child’s name redacted.] “Can anyone help me interpret these and figure out what supplements to order?”

•      “This week we started” [insert names of supplements, oils, or medications] “, and suddenly my son is melting down every ten minutes, stimming like crazy, and pooping all over the house, even though he’s toilet-trained. What could it be?”

I think these types of posts are a bad idea. Not because the parents/caregivers are reaching out for others’ experiences, but because I suspect many of them are substituting internet wisdom for actual medical advice. Three weeks ago I saw a video post of a child in the throes of an obvious grand mal seizure. The accompanying paragraph stated that the seizures were new, continued that the child had begun experiencing multiple seizures every day, and sought advice on how to handle them. My horrified reaction was, “Are you kidding me? Get off Facebook and get that child to a doctor.” (I did not post my horrified reaction. Should I have?)

It is true that the “medical establishment,” in general, lags behind parental experience when it comes to treating autism. Indeed, if I may speak for the medical establishment, its position still appears to be that there is no treatment for autism. Martin’s former pediatrician, from before we moved, never understood what we were doing with Martin’s autism doctor. When I asked the pediatrician what she knew about biomedical intervention for autism, she replied, “Nothing. Just what I’ve heard secondhand, which is that it doesn’t work.” (Still, she never stood in the way of our biomedical journey. I respect that. Also, one of her practice partners was nothing but interested in what we are doing to recover Martin.)

Facebook parents are great. In some areas, they may know more than doctors. But they are not doctors. And some of them are also misinformed, or downright crazy. (Sorry, readers. Deep down, don’t you know it’s true?) I dedicate a lot of my time to reading books and scientific articles about autism, attending medical conferences, and researching on-line. None of this takes the place of spending four years in medical school, passing medical boards, and completing a residency. None of it gives me a comprehensive perspective on health, or the ability to make competent medical decisions for my child without the assistance of a doctor. Heck, to be honest, I don’t even understand some of what I study about autism. I’m more of a humanities type of gal, one who took “Chemistry for Non-Science Majors” to fulfill her college core requirement.

Which brings me to my point: If you can in any away avoid it, crowdsourcing your child’s medical care is not the best choice. The medical establishment does not represent all doctors. There are credible professionals who both (1) understand immune disorders like autism and how to overcome them, and (2) hold medical degrees. Use Facebook and your other contacts to find one of these professionals. Do your research, read a lot, and bore yourself with medical science with the aim of making sure that you find a professional you can trust. If you need to, try fundraising to cover the costs of the consultation. That can work—I know parents who’ve managed it. Seek a Generation Rescue grant. Go into debt. (It happens. We live in the real world.) Whatever you have to do, try to bring your child to a medical professional at least occasionally. Please.

The benefit of living in 2014 is that, at least in some small measure, and Martin’s former pediatrician notwithstanding, more doctors are starting to get a clue. Parents who recovered their children ten years ago, or even just five years ago, had far fewer choices than we have today. Let’s take advantage of that. We can rely on fellow parents for empathy, guidance, and encouragement. We probably should not count on them to be scientists.

My Rainbow

Martin and I were riding the subway Saturday morning. We had with us a rainbow that he had made in school out of construction paper and Froot Loops. (Ugh.) The following conversation ensued:

Me: “Martin, do you remember where you got this rainbow?”

Martin: “I made it in school.”

Me: “You know, Martin, rainbows make people happy—which kind of means that you’re my rainbow, because you make me so very happy.”

Martin: “I’m your rainbow.”

Me: “I think you are.”

Martin: “My name is Rainbow.”

Me: “Your name is Rainbow? Really?”

Martin: “No.” [Laughs.] “My name is Martin. I’m being a rainbow.”

Martin said those things, in that order. My kid said those things.

In professional ice hockey there exists an unofficial (and unsanctioned and probably unadvisable; check out The Last Gladiators) player role, known as an enforcer. An enforcer’s job is to keep the opposing team from playing too rough. For example, if an enforcer sees an opponent intentionally late-check a star player, the enforcer might respond by grabbing that opponent by the jersey and punching him several times, as a warning to leave the star player alone.

(Don’t be put off. If you’re not already an ice hockey fan, do please start watching. The combination of grace, strategy, and grit that carries a hockey team to victory resembles the traits needed to recover a child from autism. Honestly.)

Have you heard of the crazy Fred Phelps family from Topeka, Kansas? These are the people who—despite lacking affiliation with any Baptist denomination, and as far as I can tell, despite following none of Jesus’ major teachings—call themselves the “Westboro Baptist Church” and protest at high-profile or military funerals because, they claim, God opposes homosexuality. (I realize that sentence lacks substantive logical foundation. That’s intentional.)

Apparently these Phelps people threatened to show up at the funerals for victims of the recent Boston Marathon bombings. I saw something circulating on Facebook that I should have downloaded, because I can’t find it now. It was a picture of a Boston Bruins enforcer, during a game, on his knees, straddling an opposing player whose back was on the ice. The enforcer had his gloves off, which is dangerous because punches fall softer when the fist is padded by a hockey glove, and he was plainly beating the daylights out of the opposing player, whom he’d rendered defenseless. The caption under the picture said something along the lines of, “This is what we do to hockey teams we don’t like in Boston. Please, come protest a funeral.

When Martin was diagnosed with autism, at 27 months, he could label objects and people and colors, and he could speak in echolalia, but he had no functional language. At 36 months, he had begun developing functional language but could not grasp concepts like first and second person; he said “I” when he meant “you,” and “you” when he meant “I.” By 48 months, he could respond to questions but could not engage in dialogue, i.e., carry a conversation beyond one response.

On Saturday, Martin sustained that rainbow discussion. He maintained consistent eye contact throughout. He ended by drawing a distinction between being called Rainbow and being a rainbow.

Please, come tell me recovery from autism is not possible.