Whose fault is autism?
It was a very long time ago that the "refrigerator mother" theory of autism was tossed out the window. Now, no reasonable person would suggest that mom's bad attitude is a direct cause of autism.
So why do so many parents have feelings of guilt about autism? There are two likely reasons.
First, some parents may feel that their genetic legacy is the problem. They've seen autistic symptoms in their own family, and now note their child is an awful lot like Uncle Bill or Aunt Sally... Of course, this is perfectly possible - but of course no parent can control the genes they pass along. One could decide not to have children at all, given genetic flaws in one's heritage, but that would certainly limit the number of children in the world. After all, none of us comes from a long line of genetically perfect people!
The second reason so many seem to feel guilty about their child's autism relates to the belief that something mom or dad did directly caused autism in an otherwise healthy child. This concern is much more serious, because it suggests that mom, dad, or both could have prevented the autism if only they'd taken or avoided a specific action. And the media around autism certainly supports this idea. Could the autism have been prevented if only mom had avoided the tuna or the flu shot during pregnancy? Could dad have "just said no" to autism by taking a job in a town that was less polluted? Was it all about the vaccines that mom and dad "allowed" their pediatrician to inject? Blogs, videos, TV interviews and radio all offer up stories of parents beating themselves up over just this sort of possibility.
What makes all this even tougher is the fact that very few families really know why their child is autistic. Unless your child has a specific (rare) genetic disorder or there has been a known exposure to unusual substances (valproic acid in utero, and a few others), you will likely never know.
Do you feel guilty about your child's autism?
Share your thoughts!