The MMR debate: ‘To look for blame is to look back’

Jan 31 • Featured • 1025 Views • 23 Comments on The MMR debate: ‘To look for blame is to look back’

The MMR debate continued to dominate headlines this week. I've shared my thoughts before here, but I don't have direct personal experience of autism. So I've asked the wonderful Kathryn Brown, aka Crystal Jigsaw and mum to 10-year-old Amy (right), to write today's guest post:


'When we take our babies to the clinic to have their MMR jabs, there are so many questions we need to be answered, so many doubts about whether we are doing the right thing, especially when the time comes that we have to hold our little ones legs in order to watch someone inflict pain on their tiny limbs.  But since the MMR was offered, there has been a continuous stigma that this inoculation led to children developing autism, a lifelong and incurable condition which affects approximately half a million people in the UK. Many parents declined the MMR jab for their child, believing that they were indeed risking their child developing autism.  This has since been proved inconclusive however, even though the doubt has been planted.

As a parent of a child who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, having already received the inoculation, I wondered if I had done the right thing.   But the link between MMR and autism does not exist. 

When a diagnosis is reached about your child’s condition, it is normal for a parent to want to find blame; to look around and search for the reason why.  I went through this stage, becoming desperate to understand the confusion which, if I had allowed, would have turned into anger, to later become a search for the scapegoat.  I spoke to doctors, health visitors, specialists, autism support groups, all of which reassured me that the MMR vaccine was simply that; a scapegoat.

If new parents hear from a medical professional that there is a chance their child will develop autism should they have the MMR, it is instinctive that they will feel apprehensive, wanting to question these claims.  Children have lived with autism for many years even without diagnosis and long before the MMR vaccine was introduced in the 1970’s.  Experts in the field of autism, still today, cannot confirm a valid reason why a child may be on the autism spectrum; be it hereditary or perhaps because of a brain injury in early childhood, it is, as yet, unknown.  As parents, we deserve the right to choose what is best for our children; we also deserve an explanation when suspicions arise, in view of lack of information given, to enable the safety and security we need to feel for our child. 

Autism needs a committed advocate to enable the child to move on.  To look for blame is to look back.  Our children are in front of us, they await our assistance, rely on our continuity to support their needs.  I stopped being desperate when I realised my daughter’s condition would never go away.  She is healthy, active, and my future.'

For more information, click here

written by Liz Jarvis


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23 Responses to The MMR debate: ‘To look for blame is to look back’

  1. Trish @ Mum's Gone to says:

    A very sensible, yet heartfelt comment on this whole issue which affects every parent as they have to make the decision about vaccinations. Even though autism affects my cousin’s child and others friends, my own decision to get the MMR jab for my son was not only based on personal feelings, but also a wider responsibility to ensure "herd immunity": I didn’t want other children to suffer from measles if the level of vaccinations decreased. But I can understand how parents worry. Kathryn, your approach to bringing up Amy sounds excellent. Best of luck xx

  2. Vonnie says:

    YES! Thank GOD someone is speaking sense, openly. I have to wonder at the parents who’d rather have a child dead from measles than alive with autism, we in this generation are so blessed that we’ve never truly witnessed the permanent injury or death that measles, mumps and rubella can inflict.

  3. Karin @ Cafe Bebe says:

    Kathryn (and Liz)- excellent post. And so refreshing to hear a parent, living with autism, to NOT blame the MMR vaccine. I worked as a teaching assistant in my life "before" and so many special needs student’s parents were banging the drum of "The Vaccine Stole My Child" and blaming everyone and everything. It made our lives, trying to help their children, miserable. I questioned having the vaccine but only for a very short time as I know I don’t want my daughter contracting any of the diseases it prevents. It’s a shame there’s such a stigma attached to the vaccine now as a lot of parents are opting out and that’s causing a problem as well. Again, thank you for such wonderful insight. 🙂 Karin

  4. TheMadHouse says:

    It must be so hard to spend time knowing your child has a condition any condition at all. Hats off to you, you speak so eloquently and bravely about your daughter. I love the fact that you are looking forward and enjoying each day with her. Good luck and well done. A moving and inspirational piece of writing

  5. MuddyNoSugar says:

    I agree with you, we live in a modern world in a country were we get prescribed medicine and health care at a reasonable cost. Our infant mortality rate is low, we are incredibly fortunate to be living in this time, in this place and to have these medicines available to us. It is natural to assign blame when your child gets ill. But sometimes that’s just the way it is – terribly sad. Without these inoculations how many of our children would have died?

  6. Crystal Jigsaw says:

    Thank you, Liz, for publishing this today; autism awareness has always been paramount to me since Amy’s diagnosis, blame however, has not. Thanks for the lovely comments, Kathryn (CJ) xx

  7. Ellen A says:

    Well done CJ. I totally agree, the whole MMR thing has done nothing to help the case of our autistic spectrum children. For a start the notion, highlighted by Vonnie, that autism was worse than the possiblity of death from measles. How are autistic people supposed to feel when the implication is that death is better than living like them. And, as you say, blame is pointless. Let’s put our energies into making life better for our kids.

  8. Ellen A says:

    But the health care professionals need to excude confidence about the whole thing. When my Boy One – by then suspected of having Asperger’s – went to the GP to have some vaccination or other (maybe MMR booster). The nurse asked whether, in view of his difficulties, he should have the injection. How does that work then?

  9. Crystal Jigsaw says:

    Ellen A – In view of his difficulties? Sounds like she’s the one with the difficulties. These children don’t have difficulties, they have specific issues which require people like her to be understanding and not ignorant. I would have walked out. There are two doctors (out of 4) and the (only) HV at my surgery who have admitted to me they know very little about autism apart from what I have told them and other parents too. I told one of the doctors to read up on it.

  10. Jen says:

    The signs of autism are usually more noticeable at about the age you give your child the MMR. So it is easy to see why parents apportion blame. But as you rightly say autism has been around much longer than any vaccine. And we need to focus on how to help our children navigate their way through life with acceptance and love. Even though there is no proven link because of the media outcry I think it will take a long time to move on from the damage it has caused and in the mean time children continue to die from measles.

  11. New Mummy says:

    Great post, I have done a lot of research on this and BG is having her hers next month.

  12. Crystal Jigsaw says:

    Jen – You’re right, it will unfortunately take a long time to move on. But we have to; if those in the medical profession did as much research as New Mummy, perhaps our children wouldn’t be facing unnecessary risks.

  13. Mummy Zen says:

    I think it’s great to have your insight CJ. My son’s due to have his MMR on Tuesday and you can’t help but feel a bit nervous with all you hear in the media. You are right of course that blame doesn’t help anyone. Looking forward and having your kind of positive attitude is a admirable outlook for us all to aspire to.

  14. Jane Alexander says:

    I think it’s a really thorny issue and I am still not totally satisfied with the research on this, to be honest. Yes, herd protection from measles, mumps, rubella is important but I am still uneasy. I still think parents should be given the option of single vaccinations, should they choose.

  15. Dulwich Divorcee says:

    I agonised over the MMR – the anti-social aspect of not having the jabs, the possible side effects – and in the end went ahead but a little later than the government recommended. Very thorny subject indeed

  16. Crystal Jigsaw says:

    Jane/DD – I wonder if I hadn’t let Amy have the vaccination would she still be the child she is today. That’s not something I want to think about for long; she’s my whole life and the fact that she has autism doesn’t change a thing. It doesn’t bear thinking about if she would have been different.

  17. mummy bear says:

    Great post. Little mIss p is due her jab in two weeks time. I am dreading putting her through it and hate the thought of putting all these things through her pure body but we live in a world where danger exists and medical advancement is continually growing. All we can do is trust our instincts.

  18. Rachel says:

    Well put CJ- I also blog about my autistic daughter and I have to agree with you that I don’t think the vaccine’s caused her autism. When I look back, I knew something was wrong from birth and she was born with autism. Furthermore, her twin sister developed life-threatening meningococcal septicaemia at 9 -months old caused by measles. Vaccines can save lives and I really don’t think it caused my daughter’s autism. Also, as a parent of an autistic child, it isn’t the end of the world , our kids aren’t write-offs, they can still lead full and happy lives and are greatly valued and loved by us. Rant over!! Rachelx

  19. Tabs says:

    Awsome post! In response to those concerned about having all three viiruses in the vaccine rather than seperate vaccines- it can definately be concerning, the thought of ‘I’m purposefully getting them injected with 3 viruses at once…’ However, unless your child lives in a bubble they are coming into multiple viruses (and bacteria) every day by kissing you and others, by holding hands, by playing in the dirt, by sharing toys, sharing baths, and a whole load of things the majority of children do as part of a normal childhood… you could sterilze and wash everything as much as you want, I guarantee you they will still come into multiple viruses every day in their lives. The reason that single dose vac’s are no longer given is there is no evidence to suggest that they at all safer- it’s still the same components of the vac, it’s still the same viruses. There is no such thing as vaccine-overload as this theory is based on the fact that we are introducing too many viruses at the same time- but the body is able to cope with this as well as coping with the everyday bugs they come in contact with. The MMR contains live but attenuated (dampened) viruses. If however they come into contact with the real deal they won’t do as well. Also- Whilst it does contain three viruses, they each cause the body to produce antibodies at seperate times which is not something many people know unfortunately, so it is like having three seperate injections… without actually having to HAVE 3 seperate injections lol. The Measles component starts to take effect around 7-10 days after the injection (again disproving that the instant-on-the-day regression into autism notion), and the mumps and rubella component starts taking effect later.

  20. Snowhite says:

    A great blog and some great comments too. I have a son with various special needs, his main diagnosis (Tuberous Sclerosis Complex) is linked to Autistic Spectrum Disorders, i have always firmly believed there is some genetics/brain involvement in the cause. We’re on the waiting list for an assessment, but as a mother i know its there, the signs have been there since he was a baby fascinated with spinning and lights. Giving little eye contact unless it was on his terms, a few examples. Whoever stated that they rather their child was dead from measles then live with Autism, is ignorant. "If you have only met 1 child with Autism, you have ONLY met 1 child with Autism" The spectrum is vast and affects each child differently. I embrace my son every part of him, and wouldn’t change him for the world. Its the world view of disabilities that needs changing not our children.

  21. ladybird world mother says:

    This was massively useful… have gone through such hell of guilt having GIVEN MMR to two out of my four children, and NOT to the other two, and then worrying that they were not protected… blah blah blah. There is so much conflicting advice out there. Horrible when you are in the firing line. Now all of my children have been vaccinated or in the process of it. I feel more peaceful about it. Thanks again!

  22. Crystal Jigsaw says:

    Snowhite – "Its the world view of disabilities that needs changing not our children." This is a great sentence and one I wish the world would adopt. CJ xx

  23. Slummy Single Mummy says:

    Always heartwarming Kathryn to hear you talk about Amy, and forward is the only way to look. You can always wonder about the decisions you make as a parent and all the ‘what ifs’ but you are so right – your child today is the outcome of all those decisions and you love them because of the person they are. Jo x


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