It’s been two years this week since we sat in the developmental ped’s office, getting an autism diagnosis.

And the thing that surprises me most since then is how.. meandering my research and views have been. When I hit the bookstore that first night, the majority of salient titles were about curing autism. And since most of that was through supplements and nutrition, it made perfect sense within my own burgeoning crunchy philosophy. We spent hundreds of dollars on supplements, created spreadsheets, overhauled the pantry and jumped in.

And Jack trucked along with the help of his therapists and prayer. He learned to say no. He learned to say two-word sentences. He learned to not screech if we were at the store and someone tried to talk to him. He allowed us to leave him in the preschool room at church services. He started going into other people’s houses. He would memorize and babble in perfect intonation and cadence entire books and movies. He started letting us kiss him on the cheek as opposed to the angled-head he offered previously.

So it was a huge shock when I discovered that there were many people who thought that curing autism was abhorrent. To that philosophy ‘curing’ something that was never wrong but just different is anathema to a person’s.. well.. personhood. And I chewed on that for a while because at this point Jack was making huge developmental leaps and life just wasn’t as hard as it used to be. I began to consider my own moderated view that maybe some people really were genetically predisposed to autism (us), and others were straight-up bodily toxic (not us). I then decided the whole diagnostic process would eventually need to be redesigned to delineate between the two because the worlds were vastly different – and left it neatly at that.

And Jack continued to grow. He learned how to say multiple-word sentences. He began to use spontaneous language. He tried to keep his hand away from his face when he was talking. He finally understood the abstract and incredibly difficult meaning of ‘why’. He started going to school and counting and learning directions. He began to attempt eye contact when he said “hello, anyone!”. He started hugging us and giving us real kisses. He started saying “I missed you so much, Daddy!”. He started going over and asking Lorelei if she was OK when she fell. He drew a picture with a real face.

He wrote his name.

And without realizing it, I began to feel distinct pride when Jack exhibited signs of truly individual thinking. The way he shows us how his mind works is so cool; it blows my mind. With time I found myself silently (and arrogantly, admittedly) diagnosing people I know or don’t know with various forms of autism – usually Asperger’s. It’s actually a badge of honor, truthfully, because usually it will occur to me if something sparks that makes me wonder if you just think differently. And there are other sometimes less-positive aspects of autism, absolutely. I know that I am blessed that Jack is as high-functioning as he is; I wonder sometimes about the fairness of that. But it is what it is, and from what I know, I believe wholeheartedly there are a world of undiagnosed auties out there.

So this weekend while doing some (cursory, actually) vaccine reading, I saw that a scientist (a Gandalf to Offit’s Saruman in the vax world) I respect deeply mentioned offhand that he too thinks autism is truly immunological or neurological and is no more genetic than any other human factor. And that shocked me. Truly. Only because I had long ago decided there was no way it could be either/or – it just seemed so absolute in the particularly cruel autism realm of unpredictability. But this guy is w-a-y up on the scientific food chain (but still holds my views on vaccines and how I think the body works regarding Western medicine) so for him to say that immediately grants a degree of validity in my mind.

And the reason this is so important (and is discussed or mentioned often by me) is because how you view autism directly affects how you parent and make decisions. If I eventually decided that it must truly be a neurological pathology, I would be apt to try and cure it, like you would anything you deemed wrong or unnatural in your body. But if I just think Jack is the hip-phrase ‘neurodiverse’, I would foster his learning potential as best I can. Of course I can marry the two, but the point behind it is the emotional connotation. One is seen as a celebration of ingenuity or individuality; the other a defective wiring or illness. How you view this is tantamount to the kind of lens you have when you look at your child – I don’t care what you say.

So I guess, two years later, I am no more closer to understanding the causation of autism. And truthfully I think I’m alright with that. Because if there’s a cause, there’s a cure, and I’m not sure that everything being included?… I’d want one anymore.

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