Monday, May 16, 2011

Confessions of a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, part 1

Before becoming a stay at home mom, I was a pediatric occupational therapist in schools and a sensory integration clinic.  My interest in occupational therapy began when I was a teacher's assistant, and a 1:1 for a second grade boy with autism.  I loved that kid, and I read as much as I could to begin to understand autism and the world he lived in.  Eventually I returned to school to recieve a second bachelors degree and a masters degree in order to practice occupational therapy.  The child that started me on this journey was autistic, and my goal was to work with the autistic population.

After several years as a therapist, I obtained a school based position with intensive needs children and a part time gig at a sensory integration clinic.  The majority of my caseload were children with autism, ranging in age from three to thirteen. 

Nights when I can't sleep I think about the children that I used to treat, and their parents.  Somedays when my husband and I are talking about vaccinations... I feel like I am connecting the dots.  Both experiences make me want to cry.

Some of the children I treated had sensory issues; things that I could define and describe but that I couldn't quite put my finger on.  I couldn't understand what was going on neurologically to create these symptoms.  One continuing education course that I attended described these children as having 'software issues' (vs. 'hardware).  Meaning that with 'hardware' kids, a doctor could pinpoint the physiological mechanism that was creating the difficulties.  In comparison, the 'software' kids could have every scan, test, doctor in the world and they couldn't find out physically what caused the problems.

I saw many 'software' kids challenged by proprioception, muscle tone, grading of movement, directionality, spatial awareness, organizational skills, visual motor, visual perceptual skills.... and on and on.  When I remember these children now, I connect the dot to a subtle vaccine injury.  They get overlooked, they are not as obvious as other vaccine injured children, but they are still there... struggling.

On the other end of my continuum, I hear the voices of the moms (one in particular, clearer than the others), in CSE meetings, pain in her voice begging us to help her non-verbal, autistic, six year old, daughter speak again... because her daughter used to talk.  She used to talk.

I hadn't given much thought to vaccines, yet, but I would ask the other professionals, who had been involved with this population of children longer, "what do you think?  Could it be vaccines?'.  Always they said with certainty, "No".  I wanted to believe them.  The idea that vaccinations, the only prevention and wellness that our doctors even address, were dangerous was unthinkable.  I heard on more than one occassion that 'there is always one parent that is a little "off" and you can see where the disability comes from'.  Oh really?  Well, hmmm, that is so easy for you to say isn't it.  It isn't your heart that is breaking everyday for your child., and if it was perhaps you would be a 'little off' somedays too.

One of my favorite kids, started having gut pain... for months he laid on a mat in the classroom, holding his stomach, in pain.  I had never heard that the measles virus could reside in the intestines and flare up, and no one ever suggested it.  We all worked with a population of primarily autistic children.  All of the workshops and information we shared never talked about the physiological ailments of these kids...none, ever.

A close friend of mine has returned to work after having a child at the same time I did; we don't discuss vaccines very much, she vaccinates her son and we do not.  Her father is a pediatrician and assures her that they are safe.  I have asked her what she thinks is the cause of autism.  She doesn't think vaccines have anything to do with autism, because several parents have said they 'knew something was wrong from very early' in their child's life.  Well, given that our babies are injected with Hep B within hours, may explain away that argument.

Like I said, I lay in bed at night hearing the parents, seeing the kids... and connecting the dots between them and vaccines.

My husband and I pray that by helping people to question vaccines, we may be able to save some souls.

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