One Question NOT to Pop!

23 Nov

At a gathering of my in-laws a couple Thanksgivings ago, I was hit with my least favorite question: “What do you think causes autism?”

Then just last week, during a casual conversation while getting a jumpstart on my Christmas shopping, I mentioned to a clerk at a bookstore that my 14-year-old daughter has autism.  I added that Paige is doing great, particularly following a few key changes to her medications plus a new school.

As I watched the little pucker form between the woman’s eyes, I knew precisely what was coming.

“So,” she said.  “What do you think causes autism?”

In the decade since our daughter has been diagnosed with autism, I have heard more theories about the disorder’s origins than I care to count.  Everything from coal production and the fillings in my teeth to what I call The Big Brain Theory (some say the brains of children on the autism spectrum simply grew too fast).

Then there’s the old vaccine debate.  (You practically have to be family before I’ll confide how we handled the childhood vaccines for our 5-year-old son.)  Go on any open Internet forum centered around autism and vaccinations, and you’ll get a taste of “cyber-bullying.”  Parents on both side of the debate post the cruelest comments you have ever read!

So here’s my tip for a merrier holiday season: Don’t ask!  The mom does not know what causes autism.  No one knows.

Chances are, too, that most any mother would rather tell you about her child’s latest developmental milestone than engage in what amounts to scientific speculation.

I most certainly would!


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