My son Norrin was diagnosed with autism back in 2008. Since that time, I’ve seen an abundance of studies regarding the condition — every other week a new viral Facebook article claiming to have discovered what may cause or “cure” autism. It’s hard to keep up (and honestly, I don’t really want to.)
Instead of the standard eye roll, the latest correlation actually procured a laugh from me. By now, I’ve learned to take these studies with a grain of salt.
“According to a 10-year study conducted in Denmark, ‘Boys who are circumcised before the age of five are more likely to develop autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),’” the article read.
Interesting. Norrin has autism and ADHD. He is also uncircumcised, (Sorry, Norrin, Mom is giving TMI.)
But that moment of laughter is hollow and in vain. It’s not funny to think about the parents who won’t be able to take this study with a grain of salt, who will take it seriously. It’s not funny to think about some pregnant woman now doubting if it’s “safe” to circumcise her son.
During the weeks following Norrin’s autism diagnosis, there was a study that said the BPA in baby bottles might cause the condition. My best friend (we are no longer friends, but that’s for another post) had just given birth to a little boy. Without much thought, she returned one of the gifts I had given her (baby bottles without the BPA free label) because she was scared that her son might develop autism.
While I know she didn’t mean any harm, it felt like I was being accused of causing my son’s autism. The diagnosis was still so new, and I felt this incredible sense of guilt. During those first few months after the diagnosis, I replayed every single thing I did during my pregnancy and the months after birth wondering what had gone wrong. I know better now. I know that autism wasn’t caused by food, bottles or vaccines. But the guilt hasn’t worn away.
And those shameful feelings resurface with every new study.
Too often, we read the headlines on our news streams in lieu of scrolling through the entire article. But by doing this, we’re missing important points. For example, the circumcision article explains that “…[c]orrelation does not equal causation. [There has been a] long history of attempts to link Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to unrelated practices… which proved to be fraudulent.”
I would hate for a parent to feel guilty over their son’s autism/ADHD diagnosis just because they chose to circumcise. Trust me, after hearing the words “your child has autism” for the first time, a parent needs as much support as possible – not others trying to rationalize the diagnosis away with an arbitrary factor or taboo product.
I don’t care what caused Norrin’s autism. I’m beyond that. I’m not interested in a cure. And, for the record, I really don’t believe that there’s any link between autism and circumcision.
These studies don’t actually shed light on autism – they just create fear and uncertainty among moms-to-be and new parents.
Instead of playing into the atmosphere of fear these studies seem to create, we should focus more on educational services and recreational programs for kids with autism. I wish at least some of the time and money spent on all these cause/cure studies could be directed towards the kids and families already living with autism – because they need help now.