This comment was posted on Daily Kos by the (Obviously admirable) parent of an autistic child. I thought it appropriate and well written enough to reproduce in its entirety below. — DS
“I have a teeny insight into that large faction of antivaxxers. (My biology degree, ironically, “immunized” me from believing their arguments, however.)
When someone sits you down and tells you that your child has this “terrible affliction,” you usually know almost nothing about it beyond a few Hollywood stereotypes. All you know is that your life, your entire world, has been flipped upside down. You can’t breathe. This must be a mistake, you think. I can’t do this. I don’t understand how this happened.
It is at that moment that you are faced with one of two paths: You can look for reasons to take the “blame” (off of you) and focus your energy on preventing this terrible event ever happening to anyone else. You might even immerse yourself in ways to “cure” autism, to save your child.
Or you can wonder briefly what caused it, and focus instead on how to maximize your child’s potential. You can investigate the condition itself and very quickly you discover that autism is not a death sentence and it’s not even a life sentence to misery. Most people with autism, you discover, are great people, living lives that are as rich and varied as everyone else. Once you understand the condition, you realize that lots of people you already know probably have autism and are functioning well in society. You can breathe again, knowing that your child’s path in life, while it will be more difficult than neurotypical kids,’ can (and usually does) lead to a happy ending.
My point is that a great many of the anti-vaxxers fall into the first group. It is so much easier to get stuck in a blame game and focus on preventing and “curing” autism. It is a lot harder to educate the people around you to accept your different child for who he is. It is a lot harder to advocate to the education system (and society, in general) to accomodate these kids’ differences.
And it is a lot harder to look back reflectively and understand that there might not be a reason that your child is autistic. It might just be the way the dice fell. Pure random chance. My training as a biologist was helpful to understand that life is full of so many contingent events. It also helps me understand that what we difine as “normal human” should be a much broader definition. Somewhere in our evolutionary past, the human characteristics that we currently lump under the label “autism” were useful to our survival as a species. If autism (and ADHD, by the way) was so terrible for our species, it would have been selected against and the genes or percursors that make a child susceptible to it would have died out.
As Darksyde points out above, “follow the money.” There are a lot of people building careers and raking in the $$ by convincing terrified parents that their child’s autism wasn’t their fault and that it should be cured. They have glommed onto vaccines because they are an easy and ubiquitous target.