Friday, July 25, 2014

I still get the recommended immunizations for my son with autism.

I got a letter this summer from Tate’s school telling me he needed to have a Tdap (Tetanus) shot before school resumed in the Fall. Last week I took Tate to get the shot. Before you gasp in horror because a mother of a kid with autism is still getting their child immunized, let me assure you that I have carefully considered the risks involved. I think most mothers who read all the fine print on the paperwork involved in getting their children’s immunizations, want to grab up their children and run out of the office without the shots, including the mothers that do not have children with autism. However, if we all did that, even if a small percentage of us did that, then the diseases that had been eradicated by childhood immunizations would become common amongst us again. I have been hearing that some of those diseases are actually on the rise because moms are refusing to immunize their children. 

I did not tell Tate about the needed shot until we were ready to get into the van. You see, had I told Tate about the shot the hour before, the day before, the week before, the month before, he would have become sick with anxiety and our whole family would have suffered the whole time. We were going to see the latest Disney movie that was just released that day. Yes, we have to go the day of the release to avoid a huge amount of stress as well. So, being the calculating and conniving mother than I am, I scheduled the doctor appointment for ninety minutes before the movie time. I am no idiot though. I made sure there were other movie times available if our doctor appointment did not go as scheduled or planned. I told Tate that we would be visiting the doctor’s office before the movie so he could get a needed physical and a shot. He was very nervous but did not meltdown. I think the anticipation of the movie was definitely in my favor.

The pediatrician that Tate has seen for years has recently retired. We went “potluck” at the practice and met a new doctor. I had no idea when we made the appointment, but he is the son-in-law of our beloved pediatrician who just retired! This guy is a keeper for sure. He was great with Tate. He spent a long time talking to Tate on his level and listening to Tate’s long discourse on the movie we were about to attend. Tate talked so much to that doctor that I actually said to the man, “He just said more to you than I will hear in a whole day sometimes.” Tate does that when he is nervous or excited sometimes. He becomes a motor mouth. If he would talk about something other than a movie when he had these language events, I would…. Well, I don’t know what I would do. I would definitely be happy. I watched and listened to every word Tate said to the doctor. I think he talked at least five minutes, probably longer, and the doctor patiently listened, looking at Tate. Tate looked at the floor. He looked at the wall. He looked out the window. He never once looked at the doctor. When the doctor left the room I told Tate how proud I was of him for all the language he used. Then I gently reminded him to look at people when he talks to them. We go over this often. I know it is so hard for him and every other person with autism to make the eye contact but I still keep hammering away at it.

The doctor gave Tate a physical and was very patient and gentle as Tate squirmed and flinched. (Tate hates for his skin to be touched, especially his belly. See post: "Don't Touch My Skin") The doctor suggested that we also get immunizations for Meningitis and Hepatitis A. He explained what each shot would protect against. He seemed just a bit defensive to me when he recommended the additional immunizations. I told him that I was unlike a lot of autism moms and I did not believe that immunizations had anything to do with Tate’s autism diagnosis. I had seen the “differences” in Tate at birth that I would later learn was autism. The doctor seemed somewhat relieved and we talked about some of the early signs of autism I saw in Tate. I agreed to get all three shots while we were there. I do not believe that immunizations caused Tate's autism, but I do believe immunizations will keep him from becoming ill with terrible diseases if he is exposed to them. 

The doctor warned me that one of the shots was somewhat painful, compared to the others. The nurse who gave the shots was fast and efficient. The first shot barely caused Tate to flinch. The second must have hurt a little more as he jerked a bit. The third must have hurt very much as he hollered out. He did amazingly well. When he is really scared (and this usually happens at doctor offices or dentists) he says, “I love you, Mom” over and over and we have a sort of routine. I put my forehead on his or my cheek to his cheek and he leans into me as I try to keep his eyes off the scary object(s) in the room. I’m sure we make quite a sight, my 6’2” man-child and I, as we awkwardly share our affection for each other. As awful as it is to say: while my heart melts because of his distress, I always relish the short amount of time he needs me to comfort him. I love him so very much and he seldom has needed me to connect with him like this in years. When he was a toddler and even a preschooler he still looked to me for comfort but in the years since he has turned to his self-stimulatory behaviors to calm himself. Pacing on his toes, twiddling his fingers, stiffening his arms, do for him what I cannot usually do.

I can never visit the pediatricians’ office without remembering the day I took two-year-old Tate in and sat him down on the rug in the little patient room. I looked the pediatrician in the eye, said, “There is something wrong with my baby” and burst into tears. That doctor handed me a tissue, watched Tate play for a while, and asked me what I thought was wrong. I said, “I think he has autism.” He replied, “I think you are right.” Before I left that office I had the names of several people I needed to call to begin the early intervention that would help us so much, the early intervention that would help me wage a war against the aloofness that had taken my little boy’s personality hostage. I remember almost every detail of that day. I love him just as much at 6’2” as I did that day so many years ago.


...And Now

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  1. Great post. There is so much love in this post, I am a little choked up. I think planning the shot around the movie was complete genius - I will be using the same trick!

    Looking forward to exploring more of your blog. :-)