What I love most about family medicine is the conversations I get to have with my patients. Now that I have children, a lot of those conversations revolve around the kids. When I tell other moms that my daughter is 3, I get a very sympathetic, knowing smile accompanied by, “Good luck”. Whoever coined the term “terrible 2’s” obviously didn’t have a 3 year old. But that’s a subject for another post, another blog actually.
This past week I had a very interesting conversation with a father of two Autistic-spectrum boys. Yes, two. What are the chances of that? If there was ever a case for a genetic cause, this would be the family, right? He introduced me to a book, it’s called “First Idea”. It was published in 2004 and is written by a child psychiatrist named Stanley Greenspan. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list for 2012. My patient firmly believes that his children were born with Autism, it wasn’t something they developed because of mercury in a vaccine, or a particular vaccine his children received. Rather than believe that his children “changed” overnight, he believes they came out of the womb different. He described both of their first years; as infants, they never wanted to be held, wouldn’t want to be looked directly in the eye, in fact anything that was super-stimulating (i.e. loud singing toys, brightly coloured books) was very irritating to his sons. His amateur take on Autism is this: his children’s brains are wired differently. Their brains are super sensitive to excessive stimuli. So rather than constantly berate such a brain with ongoing stimuli, he’s learned through various child psychiatrists that scaling back is best for his kids. One-on-one therapeutic play in particular has been a god-send for his children. They are doing remarkably well and he believes they’ll lead productive lives. A far cry from the image of a child wearing a helmet and banging his head against a desk.
Another conversation I had with a patient this week revolved around vaccines. She’s a mother to two school-age children. She reminded me that she needed her Tetanus booster as it’s been more than 10 years. Then she told me about a child at her boy’s school who was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis due to Haemophilus influzena type B. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-hib.pdf This child has permanent hearing loss. This child wasn’t vaccinated as an infant. It boggles the mind. As a parent, I understand the drive to protect your children which is why I can’t imagine what it must feel like to knowingly decline a vaccine that has proven to reduce morbidity and mortality, then have your child exposed to an illness that was vaccine-preventable. How does a parent live with themselves?