Autism And Vaccines

April is Autism Awareness Month. On this last day of April, I'd like to introduce you to Shannon... ---

I know that, as a guest blogger here, we've probably just met; you don’t know anything about me, and I don’ t know anything about you. But I can tell you one thing I do know about you:

You need to get your kids vaccinated.

If you’re thinking, “Well, of course I’m going to get my kids vaccinated; what kind of parent would risk exposing their kids to nasty diseases and possibly death?” then whew, and thank you for reading this far. Keep on reading if you’re interested in stockpiling information about why your decision is the right one not just for your own family but for everyone’s families.

If you’re thinking, “Vaccinating is a personal decision and it’s not your job to tell me what to do,” or even “Vaccines are toxic and Jenny McCarthy says they cause autism even though now she’s pretending she never said that,” then please know that you've been hoodwinked, and are … putting your kids and other kids as well as tiny babies too young to be vaccinated and kids with compromised immune systems at risk for nasty diseases and possibly death.

If you’re thinking, “Well, what makes you such an expert,” please know this: I’m a parent of an autistic teenager. I was on the front lines during the worst of the autism-vaccine misinformation media muckraking. I even bought into all that autism-vaccine rubbish for a while, even stopped vaccinating my kids for a while back in 2004, because those messages of fear and doubt scared the hell out of me, they sounded like reasonable science at the time, and there was no way in hell I was going to let anyone inject my babies with poisons.

But guess what? It’s not 2004 anymore. It’s ten years later. And during those ten years, autism and vaccines experts (legitimate experts, not self-appointed experts) have amassed a mountain-sized pile of No, in terms of No evidence linking vaccines to autism. Most experts cite these three main points:

  1. The study that claimed the MMR vaccine and autism were linked (and was revealed to be a hoax) and was retracted) involved 12 children. Since then, studies involving more than 14 million children have failed to find a link between vaccines and autism.
  2. Autism is something a child is born with. It is not an injury; it is not acquired.
  3. Autistic traits tend to emerge around the time children get their toddler vaccines. This may make parents think vaccines caused their child’s autism, but it’s a coincidence.

But what if you understand that autism is not something to be scared of, because people like my son are just as human as anyone else (even though they might need more support and understanding than some other people) -- you might still have lingering concerns about vaccines themselves. Because maybe celebrities or Healthy Living gurus insist vaccines are unnatural, and incompatible with living a whole, pure life; or you got chickenpox as a kid and it really wasn't that bad. Well, guess what?

  1. If we relied strictly on “natural,” we’d have hundreds of thousands of kids getting sick, and many of them dying, from vaccine-preventable disease every year. Yes, some people survived unscathed, but thousands and thousands didn't. I’ll take the vaccines and the science, thank you.
  2. Vaccine refusal is a privilege of the vaccinated. Only someone who had never lived through vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks could dismiss vaccines as “dangerous” rather than near-miraculous. In too many countries vaccine preventable-diseases are still rampant, and parents will not hold naming ceremonies until after their babies are vaccinated.
  3. Vaccine-preventable diseases are just a plane ride away. And what do you think is going to happen to an unvaccinated child if they are exposed to a disease they have no “natural” protection against? As is happening more often, now that anti-vaccine “concerns” have led to lower vaccination rates?

If I sound slightly grumpy or anything less than compassionate, please know that’s not my intention. I know it’s really hard to watch a kid, especially a baby, get an injection. I also understand that it can be hard to put doubts about vaccines to rest, once they've been raised. But I have to speak out. I’m OK with bruising some feelings, if it means fewer babies will get sick and die.


Shannon Des Roches ShannonRosa is the senior editor and co-founder of Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, . She has been blogging about parenting, autism, iPads, and vaccines since 20013 at Her writings and interviews have been featured in Family Circle, The New York Times, CNN, BabyCenter, Parents Magazine, and Redbook. She lives near San Francisco with her handsome husband and their three cheeky children.

If you want to know about this subject, please join Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, Ana Beatriz Cholo, Shannon Des Roches Rosa and today at 2 p.m. EST for our #WellnessWed chat on Twitter.

The Year of Three

My memory is not as good as it used to be. I actually wonder if I ever had a good memory but I recall being sassy and reciting conversations word for word to people who dared question me. Sounds like magic now. I started keeping a journal for the frog princess when I found out I was pregnant. I’m glad I did because I wouldn't know certain things if I hadn't written them down. Like the exact date that I felt her move. Or the time her dad and I talked about her name and he suggested the magical one she now carries.

The frog princess is 3 (going on 32). I’m thankful for this blog because now my milestones are somewhere in these posts. Potty training, weaning, her first day of school. I’m also thankful for those emails I receive from BabyCenter to help me look back and assess the milestone situation. Emails with titles like:

  • Your 3-Year-Old: Handling Bedwetting
  • Your 3-Year-Old: Your Little Chatterbox
  • Your 3-Year-Old: Manners Matter

And my personal favorite that I obviously have not read and would've saved myself some stress if I had: Your 3-Year-Old: Birds and Bees.

This blog has become a milestone keeper for me. Social media in general, actually. There, you will find pictures of the first day of school, Halloween, her birthday, Christmas.

And of course, pictures of you and your books.

Swimming in Books

Photos are not relegated to an acid-free photo album or envelopes for when we have time to file. I am afraid we will miss these things later on. I remember how mami put together photo albums for me full of pictures of me as a baby (and a 3-year old just like my girl).

But I worry. Worry that I won’t have captured enough. This year has been magical. THREE! My baby girl has been three for months and I still marvel at it. She looks like a kid now, having shot up a few inches recently and losing some of that baby fat. I love that when I’m changing her, she will stand on the bed in front of me wearing her undies and she’ll then wrap those lanky arms and legs around me.

The year of three is when you started hugging me like a big kid.

The year of three has brought back febrile seizures which we thought were gone. I’m waiting for the milestone when I don’t have to write about those anymore.

A Note to the Frog Princess

The year of three is my favorite so far. As with so many milestones, it’s bittersweet. Because I’ve lost my record keeper. The treasurer of my stories who could sit next to me while I told a tale of your latest shenanigans and make connections to my own milestone at that age.

But even without her here, I remember hazily. At three, I was still living in Dominican Republic. I was sassy, very small and extremely close to my mami. It was just the two of us then, as papi lived in the US. I remember school uniforms and throwing a tantrum one day when I did not want to go to school. I also remember all the trouble I got myself into that day. Which reminds me of the tantrums you threw recently while I dropped you off at school. Like my mami, I didn't budge and left you there even though my instincts wanted to scoop you up and hold you.

The year of three.

We sing loudly and you have not yet figured out I am not a good singer so you happily ask me to join in. Except when you have specific parts you want to sing. You've been able to sit through DVD’s of some of my favorite Disney movies (over and over and over and over and over). You like to ask me if we can go buy yogurt at the store and get into gargantuan arguments with me when I tell you that you must get a job so you can pay for your snacks. Here are some of the excuses you’ve given me as to why you cannot:

  1. I’m just a little girl (though most days you argue that you’re a big girl)
  2. I can’t drive the car! (and when I ask you to ride your bike to work…)
  3. I don’t want people to see me on my bicycle (though I have no idea why)

I love those arguments because you are adamant about your stance. Complete with one hand on your hip, the other hand waving in the air and expressive face. I wonder where you get that from.

When I told you about Shot@Life and how some parents were not able to help their children your face formed extreme concern and you asked me “mami, can we help them?”. I’m sure you have no clue why I randomly hug you tight when you say things like that. I’m already proud of the person you are.

We dance a lot at three. We conga to bath time and cha-cha to take naps. Dancing is one of your “fahvite” things. Watching you dance is one of mine.

Four is around the corner. More emails with milestones. More singing, more laughter. More challenges ahead. I promise to do better at documenting your journey if you promise to continue to make this journey as magical as three has been.

Comments matter this month and I would love nothing more than to hear from you about what your “fahvite” part of three is.

Blogust_300x50-b This post is inspired by Shot@Life, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that educates, connects and empowers the championing of vaccines as one of the most cost effective ways to save the lives of children in the world’s hardest to reach places.

During Shot@Life’s Blogust, 31 bloggers, one each day in August, are writing about moments that matter. For every comment on this post and the 30 other posts, Walgreens will donate a vaccine (up to 50,000 vaccines). A child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease. We can change this reality and help save kids’ lives!

Sign up here for a daily email so you can quickly and easily comment and share every day during Blogust! Stay connected with Shot@Life at, join the campaign on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. And don’t forget to check out Dresden Shumaker over at Creating Motherhood on August 4th as we continue the Blogust journey.

Year of Three

Fever, Fears and Faith

When I was around the frog princess's age, I had what mami thought was an allergic reaction.  This past year, mami changed her diagnosis to roseola after seeing it in my baby girl.  I had to go into the ER with a fever of 105 degrees. I seized at one point in time. If I'd ask mami about that day on her death bed, she would be able to recall moment by moment, exactly as it happened.  Now I know why...Friday:- 18-month well visit - Baby girl didn't get shots at 12 months because she'd been in the hospital that same week with roseola - Given 2 shots (one was prevnar (for pneumonia) and the other is...<insert complete mami brain moment here>) - Baby girl cries a lot (one shot in each thigh) - I drop her off at #1 caregiver's and give her Tylenol before leaving the house - Frog princess is a little warm but generally plays and goes about her business all day - At work, I'm concerned.  I leave a half hour early to pick her up

- #1 caregiver tells me that she did good

- I feel good - Routine is normal in the evening though I feel a little off about the situation

Saturday: - I pick her up out of the crib and notice that one leg is hot and parts of her body (weird) - I take her temp: 99.5 - I administer Tylenol and watch her disposition - Upon seeing that she was acting normal, I decide to head to sorority meeting - At sorority meeting, the frog princess is a little clingy (but not really) - Frog princess walks around while the meeting is taking place and then proceeds to call for someone named "mom" when she doesn't see said person. I ask her: who is mom and how old are you? - Frog princess changes from "mom" to "ma" which is what I called my mami. Excuse me? How old are you?! - I notice that she is not enthralled with her crackers or her banban (she is obsessed with bananas) - I think nothing of it because she had breakfast just fine - I have to step out several times because she had a lot to say during the meeting.  She also wanted to march and was getting mad that no one was "following" her - By lunchtime, though, she didn't want to try anything on my plate which is not like her - I grab her and my things and head to the car. I notice her leg is hot again - As soon as I get home, I take her temperature. Enter 103.2 degrees here - I give her Tylenol - I run her a warm bath (not cold because I know that's not good for kids) - I sit next to the tub as she plays with her Yo Gabba Gabba tub toys - I call my sorority sister to catch up because I didn't get a chance to earlier - I run the washcloth over my baby while she plays - She splashes happily and I'm glad she starts to feel cooler while she's in there - My sweet princess suddenly and without warning falls back in the tub and I hear gurgling sounds - Insert crazy ass freakout moment here - Headphones fly out of my head as I yell Oh my God she's having a seizure - What I see: eyes rolled back, hands up by her chest with fists up, something going on with her mouth, jerking - What I feel: you have GOT TO BE F***ING KIDDING ME?! - I never have enough water in the tub for her to be submerged in and for that I am now grateful - I don't even remember her hitting the tub because I caught her while she was on her way back - I pull her out all the while screaming something though I have no clue what that was - I try to dial 9-11 on the phone but somehow my phone decides it wants to act an ass at this precise moment (later on The Man tells me that if any water fell on the screen the phone logs it as pressure and doesn't respond) - I scoop my baby, still seizing, into my arms and run the hell out of the front door - I yell for help and think to run next door - I actually rang the damn doorbell! While waiting for the door to be open, I believe that I yelled some more, I can't remember. What I do know is that I looked down and her lips were turning blue - The door opens and my FANTASTIC neighbors immediately jump into action by calling 9-11 - What I remember: he didn't try to take her from me or get me to release my daughter. It was like he knew just what I needed while his wife was on the phone - I fell to my knees and prayed and remember apologizing to my neighbor for disturbing them (really?!) - Her seizure stops and I put her on the floor ready to give her CPR but after the seizure stopped, she started breathing again though she's unconscious - What I remember: their sweet son bringing me a towel for my baby girl and him being so gentle with making sure the towel was placed just right under her - My frog princess lies limp on the ground and I think, how am I going to tell The Man? He was working - I let my neighbor sit with her while I ran to the house to throw my jeans back on (I was in shorts). My neighbor had tried to call The Man and couldn't get him. When I get in the house and pick up my phone, I instinctively dial him. He answers. Enter insane mami breakdown here - Baby girl wakes up when she starts being prodded by strangers - I run back home to get her jammies, Clifford and her blanket - Meanwhile someone grabs her carseat from my truck because apparently she can't ride in an ambulance without one (did you know that?) - In the ambulance, she cries because she wants me to hold her. For the first time EVER, I want her to cry because it means she's okay - Josh, the EMT, and I make jokes about how he's the bad man because she can't stand for him to mess with.  I cry as I call my sister, my father, my brother and my sorority sister who I was on the phone with (by the way, she met me at the hospital for which I have insufficient words of gratitude) - Blood pressure is good. Oxygen is good.  Blood sugar is good - Meanwhile, the neighbors have told The Man what hospital we're going to.  He makes it there in 10 minutes (it should've taken him at least a half hour if not longer. If things felt surreal for me, I cannot imagine how he felt being so far from us) - At the hospital we are told that seizures are fairly common especially because she's at risk since there's a "family history" of it - Baby girl is tired from the crying and probably from the seizure.  She falls asleep in my arms as she did when she gained the nickname of frog princess.  The Man and I share tears in the quiet of the cool ER rooms (you should check out Florida Hospital, they have a kid's ER that's fantastic!) - Dr. Bowen, the calmest, coolest soul of a doctor I have ever run into treats us again. Having spent way too much time in ER's, with doctors, and in offices, I can tell you that having someone this awesome is a true blessing! - Their advocates come in and give her a teddy bear, and she wants nothing to do with them but they smile and know exactly what she (and you) are going through - Dad comes by.  I choke up because at one point in time, as I'm telling The Man that dad is on the way I slip and say mom and dad - A few hours later we are discharged and I am so grateful to God for the many blessings He's given me

- Diagnosis: Febrile seizures

The vaccines caused the fever, the fever caused the seizure. My baby still has a low grade fever.  Oh and by the way, she's got 4 teeth coming in as well.  I'm sitting here typing this with a load of work to take care of and at the same time, eternally grateful for the kind words my boss spoke to me tonight.  I should be asleep as I haven't slept well in 2 days.  I am continually checking up on her.  She had a low grade fever at bed time and though I administered a fever reducer, I worry.  Funny thing is, my first instinct is to bring her into bed with me. But, I have to be the only mami whose kid DOES NOT want to sleep in her bed! But, that's my girl and I respect her for that.

I pray that I never see another seizure.  I pray that, like me, she never has another convulsion in her life.  In the meantime, I have a certain faith that she's going to be just fine.