These are my cute nephews - Noah and Elijah. These photos were taken about 5 years ago on a vacation my family took to Florida. Right now my sister, Josh and the boys are on the Oregon coast for the month renting a beach house. So I'm guessing the boys are doing something similar to this right now - maybe with a little more clothes on since I hear it's in the 60s and 70s -- SO jealous!!!

Noah and Elijah both have autism. They, along with one in 91 children in America are victims of this baffling disorder. For the past couple months I've been sharing weekly on the topic of autism. Many of you have expressed that you have enjoyed this addition to my blog. Others feel that I am sharing information they don't agree with. And that's ok. I know there is a lot to debate regarding the topic of autism. There are still SO MANY unknowns. But I think it's a good idea for us to talk nonetheless.

Probably THE most controversial topic surrounding autism today is the vaccine debate. There are super-strong opinions on both sides and I'm going to try my best to share both sides of the debate even though I have my feet planted on one side. Feel free to enter the discussion and share your feelings in the comments. I know that some people will disagree with what I believe and that's ok. I still think it's profitable to have open discussion.

Supporters of the current vaccine schedule often consider the safety and health of larger groups. They want to prevent the spread of potentially harmful or deadly diseases and maybe even eliminate them, as was done with small pox. Vaccines are easy to give, fairly inexpensive, and provide protection from widespread infection. Several other diseases, such as polio, are almost completely eliminated. Others, such as measles, continue to have small outbreaks even in the US as a result of parents not immunizing their children at young ages. The medical community largely occupies this camp. They hold that there is no proof that vaccines cause or are linked in any way to autism.

Those who question vaccine safety and the schedule prescribed by the medical community, such as many in the autism community, are often thought of as being overly cautious. And while many parents are being cautious, it is not because they oppose the idea of immunization. It is because they know vaccines contain many ingredients, such as mercury and aluminum (used as preservatives), that are harmful and toxic. They also question whether the heavy schedule of vaccines may be too much for small developing bodies to process.

Although almost everything you read on this subject in the mainstream media states that all the studies have shown there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism, that is simply not true. There is good science pointing to a connection. More importantly, there are thousands of parents of autistic children who can tell you they had a normal child until he or she received several vaccines in one day or until their child was vaccinated despite being ill. Although more research needs to be done, these accounts by intelligent, observant parents cannot be discounted; to me, these reports are of equal or greater value than ANY scientific study. And certainly, the studies that have been done on the safety of vaccines are not extensive. Only one vaccine - the MMR - has been studied along with the presence of mercury in vaccines. No studies have been conducted on the effect of multiple vaccinations being given at once.

Within the past 10 years, mercury has been removed from most vaccines for children under two. But several still contain mercury. And many of them contain high doses of aluminum.

More and more vaccines are being given to small children. The number of vaccines in the schedule has nearly tripled in 20 years. Many think a safer vaccine schedule should be offered that spreads out vaccines more and gives them to children at older ages, when their immune systems are more developed. Also members of this camp believe that not all children are born with equally strong immune systems. Screening should be done to determine which children have weaker immune systems before their bodies are exposed to high levels of vaccines. There is still a lot more research to be done to answer all these questions and ensure that vaccines protect the larger population but also do not cause undue harm to each of our fragile little ones.

As you can probably tell, I'm fully and completely in the second camp. I believe that the evidence shows that there is a link between vaccines and autism. I don't think every case of autism is caused by vaccines. The full answer is much more complex. But as was stated in the research I shared in this earlier post on the causes of autism, around 30% of children with autism have had an adverse reaction to vaccines. More needs to be done to flesh out this link. In the meantime, it remains on the shoulders of parents to protect their children -- to not just blindly accept the schedule recommended by doctors, but to do their own research to find out what is best for their child.

Next week I will share recommendations for how to approach decisions regarding vaccines. In the meantime, if you are pregnant or have a small child and would like to find out more about what you can do to prevent autism now -- click here!

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