It's been painful to read the long and varied list of what people believe causes autism. In the beginning, I would investigate every possible lead like it mattered. Soon, I would learn to pick and choose ideas from the mass of information that seemed plausible, or even remotely possible. More recently, I have decided that it doesn't matter at all. It hurts more than it helps and knowing what may or may not cause autism won't change a thing about our perfect girl. There are some who would prey on our fear in order to profit from touting false cures. Some may truly believe what they are selling and some are the worst kind of predator. And some cause harm by jumping on one of these bandwagons to spread ideas that hurt our cause. I would like to address some of the more harmful propaganda surrounding causes of autism. When people posit or perpetuate some of the following ideas, it hurts our community irreparably.
Let's just get this one out of the way. It's probably the most popular of the circulating myths surrounding autism. It's also, by far, the most dangerous. It's been promoting a culture of fear surrounding vaccines. These crucial vaccines have protected us from deadly diseases for years. It is the most frustrating and publicly dangerous movements of recent years. Vaccines do not cause autism. Full Stop.
2. Maternal Anything
There is never a day that my inbox does not receive an email detailing the latest cause of autism. The vast majority of the time, these 'causes' are directly related to something the mother did during pregnancy. I kid you not when I say we have been accused of everything from watching too much TV during pregnancy to eating too many carbs. Sometimes, I imagine there is a tiny troll in a little room somewhere whose job it is to fill the Internet with accusations against mothers with children with autism and you know, I bet that is not too far from the truth.
3. Lack of Discipline
We are not parenting wrong. We are not parenting weakly. We are good and strong and fair. Our children are sensory seekers and sensory defenders and unless you live in our world, you may not make suggestions or accusations about our parenting. This whole parenting thing is hard enough. Autism or not, parents need allies and not judgment. We adore our children as much as anyone. Oh, how badly we wish you could walk a day in our shoes.
4. Food and Drink
I've been so suspicious of so many things. I've been afraid of the drinking water, for goodness' sake. I've since learned it's just fine, but it just goes to show you how parents of children with autism can be preyed on by people touting causes and cures with zero evidence behind them. One day milk is the culprit and the next, green beans are the cure. It may sound bizarre, but an exhausted parent, who feels, daily, like they are failing their child, may glom onto any bit of information that seems like it could help.
5. God's Wrath
Thankfully, this group tends to be small. However, what they lack in size they more than make up for in ferocity. This particularly unpleasant group will often seek out parents to inform them they have sinned something fierce, and autism is their punishment from God. For some reason, they love to target a vulnerably population. With little credibility behind anything they do, their accusations seem silly, but added to the list, can sometimes overwhelm even the most practical person.
This list could go on so long we could run out of space on the Internet. There is no end to suggested causes and cures for autism. While we appreciate the hard work some are putting into the evidence-based research behind autism's cause and treatment options, we are fatigued by all the Internet noise; the noise with no documented research or evidence to back it up. It is both ugly and alarming that parents are subjected to such drivel.