He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

He got his eyes from his Father. But who did the Autism come from?

Like all parents of a child on the autism spectrum, I continually struggle with the question of why he has it.

I had just gotten over the fear that I caused James' autism by "not nurturing him enough" when I showed him off to a friend of a friend at a party, who said "I just heard on NPR that autism is caused by letting your child watch too much TV".  I was so horrified I didn't know how to respond, I was completely floored that someone could even consider that plausible, and then say it out loud - AND SAY IT TO ME!

I have a very strong belief about what happened.  It has always been based solely on instinct, but there was an article this week suggesting that others have the same theory.  And although I'm nervous that people close to me are going to be upset, I need to talk about it.

I believe that toxins I was exposed to while growing up were passed on to my son, and these factored enormously into his having autism.  My toxins.  Not Tony's.

Salem, MA, soccer fields built on a dump were recently closed because dangerous levels of lead and cadmium were found in the soil.
I grew up playing soccer almost every day. 
I was lucky enough to live in a town with beautifully manicured soccer fields, and I spent as much time as possible on them.  I never thought about how the fields managed to stay perfectly green and lush at all times (while located within the town dump).
Chem lawn visited my yard regularly.  When we wanted to play in the backyard, we simply waited until the white spots dried up, and then we moved the little danger sign out of the way.  I didn't think anything of it until my dog got tumors on his rear end and back legs.

We regularly ate tuna fish (still one of my all time favorites) and vegetables (still not a fan) out of cans.

We didn't know any better. I'm not to blame, nor are my parents or community, but I believe that these and other toxins (maybe pesticides on that plant I did some, um, research on while in college) factored in to James' autism.

The article suggests a possible link between toxins that mothers were previously exposed to and autism (link to full article below):
"Studies have strongly suggested a genetic component in the cause of autism, but it's becoming clear that genetics alone isn't the whole story; there could be interactions between susceptibility genes and environmental chemicals."
My family is participating in a genetic research study at Children's Hospital Boston, and our DNA will be tested and compared.  It will be interesting to see what the research shows, but my instinct is telling me that my DNA is going to share something with James that his father's doesn't.  A "susceptibility gene" perhaps. 

It's just a hunch, and I don't have a study group like that fabulous TV watching research, but I do have the benefit of 8 years of around-the-clock observation, mental notes and self-reflection, as well as the vivid picture of the Chem Lawn sign ingrained in my head.

And now there are some in the scientific community suggesting a similar cause.

Here are the links to both articles:



wagtailfarm said...

A friend who was a former Assist. Supt. of schools in Brrokline (for special needs) has long shared your theory & has mentioned the very high rated in agricultural communities in CA:

Tim said...

Researchers at The Jackson Lab are using mice to study autism - here is a link to some of their research -http://www.jax.org/search/Main.jsp?qt=autism&sg=0&x=0&y=0

krismac said...

Thank you so much for reading this, and for sharing those links, wagtailfarm and Tim. I look forward to learning more!