A few months ago I got an email from a new grandmother.
“What’s your opinion about vaccines causing autism?”
I replied in my usual way—I’m not a doctor. I don’t give medical advice. If you think your child/grandchild has a weak immune system, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns …
She emailed back.
“But can you tell me what vaccines your son got and when he got them? I want to tell my daughter what to avoid.”
That’s what she wrote, but here’s how I read it:
I don’t want my grandchild to be like your son. Tell me what to do so that doesn’t happen.
I get it. Our life is some people’s worst case scenario. And they want to avoid pain, suffering, or even mild discomfort if they can. They want to avoid the IEP meetings, the stares when you go out in public and your child screeches, and the financial strain extra medical and therapeutic needs require. They want to show up at a new church without calling ahead to see if they are welcome. They want to take family vacations like everyone else in their Facebook feed. Maybe they want to wear blue in April but not think much about families like mine the rest of the year.
But my opinion on vaccines isn’t going to keep you from having a life like mine and instead getting everything you want.
You can avoid vaccines and still get cancer. You can say no to tuna and still have a child with autism. You can always wear your seatbelt and still have a diving accident that leaves you paralyzed.
You can’t guarantee a life without disability. But that won’t keep people from trying.
“In Iceland,” Dr. Peter McParland said, “every single baby—100 percent of all those diagnosed with Down syndrome—are aborted.” But what are you giving up in exchange for that zero birth rate? The facts about Down syndrome show positive news:
The new research reports the findings of three surveys in which thousands of parents and hundreds of siblings and individuals with DS themselves, were questioned about what it is like to be affected in one way or another by DS. Ninety-nine percent of parents said they loved their child with DS and 97 percent were proud of them; only 4 percent regretted having their child. While 4 percent of siblings would “trade their sibling” with DS, 96 percent indicated that they had affection toward their sibling with DS, with 94 percent of older siblings expressing feelings of pride. Finally, although 4 percent of individuals with DS expressed sadness about their lives, 99 percent said they were happy with their lives and 97 percent liked who they are. (source)
Disability has been a part of my life since the day I was born. There was no avoiding it. I’m an autism parent who would certainly make life easier for my son if I could (and I try every day), but I wouldn’t trade him for any other child in the world. I’m a special-needs sibling who is proud of her big sister with Down syndrome.
So when you ask my opinion on vaccines, be ready to hear my standard answer, but know that your true fear isn’t vaccines. It’s a life like mine. And know that I thank God every day for my life, the life of my son, and the life of my sister. Instead of trying to avoid disabilities, thank God for the blessings you have today, and ask Him to prepare your heart for whatever challenges may come in your future.
“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13