Tag Archives: Autism

The MMR Vaccine’s Rumoured Link To Autism

Upon carrying out work experience this summer at a local General Practice, something in particular which really interested me was how many people passed on the opportunity of giving their children the MMR vaccine, available on the NHS. The parents would say that it has a risk of causing autism and they would rather pay for the separate vaccinations to avoid this chance. Bearing in minds he separate vaccines are no longer available in the UK they tend to have to be specially imported from abroad in such cases. A nurse who I was shadowing was outraged by this and went on to explain to me how it all began…

 In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield caused a huge uproar upon suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.  The MMR vaccine was developed in the late 1960s, it is a shot used for immunisation of measles, mumps and rubella. The injection is first given to children of around 1yr old and then at 4/5yrs old.  This vaccination works by containing the three live viruses and then injecting them into the body. This then allows for special cells called memory cells to recognise these viruses so that if the body is to ever come across them, a rapid response is carried out fighting off the virus preventing it from doing any harm.  Originally the 3 vaccinations were all given separately. However giving them all together as one vaccination had many benefits such as fewer injections for the child.

Wakefield was reportedly paid just under half a million pounds by the Legal Services Commission to build a case against the MMR vaccine.

Researchers have since been unable to confirm any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This one man has caused such a controversy in the UK from his false allegation.  The coverage of the alleged links with autism and the MMR vaccine has never fully been recovered even up until this day there are people who believe that their children should not be vaccinated. Although there are overwhelming amounts of scientific evidence that there are no links – people fail to dismiss the rumour.  We all know that for science to be proven, it must go through the long process of the experiment being carried out and repeated and then the same results being able to be found by other scientists too. This was not the case for Wakefield whatsoever. Unfortunately, as a result this has led to an increase in measles and the sad thing is that a disease, which could be avoided, is still a risk for many.

Just to show how this suggestion still affects people, I came across something whilst reading the book ‘In Stitches’ by Dr. Nick Edwards. He has a chapter on ‘A weird rash’ in which he talks of patients who have not had the MMR injection and therefore going into A&E when it is preventable. He says ‘The MMR vaccination is not this evil autism-inducing injection that the media sometimes make us think. There is no evidence that it causes autism. However, there is evidence that if your child doesn’t have the injection, they are at higher risk of getting these illnesses. Today I saw a child I shouldn’t have. Have a proper think before you refuse your health visitor’s advice.’

PS. I would recommend reading this book, highly entertaining and informative for those future medics. 

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Yawning – The Contagiousness

How many times did you yawn during that?

I became fascinated by the concept of yawning being infectious when we did an exercise in class recently where we were forced to yawn. I thought it would be quite tricky making myself yawn but, surprisingly, once I saw my partner yawn, it came quite naturally.

Just in case you didn’t know, a yawn is a reflex reaction where a long, deep breath is taken in with your mouth wide open (which often easily transforms into pandiculation – yawning and stretching at the same time). Yawning is usually linked with fatigue or boredom. This is because a stimulus for yawning is low oxygen levels in the blood, which is then replenished by the deep breath. Though most species yawn, only humans, chimps and dogs are known to “catch” a yawn.

There are many believable theories as to what causes a yawn to be “contagious” but no scientist is certain yet. One (unlikely) hypothesis is that as you see another person yawn, the brain mentally panics into thinking they might take up all your oxygen so makes you yawn in competition against them.

A more plausible idea is that this feature is due to mirror neurones (in the frontal cortex) which trigger the same areas in the brain as the other person who yawned previously. This imitation of yawning is also seen as a survival impulse, a means for protection: the take in of oxygen by a group makes everyone more attentive (hence it occurring when we’re exhausted or uninterested) in case of predation.

It might seem like a trivial matter I’m informing you about but the key importance about contagious yawning is the people who don’t tend to do it. You see, this contagion is also perceived as a symbol of empathy and autistic children are not likely to follow this trend. This reveals how a person with autism does not have that emotional connection and this seemingly insignificant attribute could very possibly assist doctors in identifying and comprehending development disorders.

Even as I’ve typed this, I have been continuously yawning – this being because of the psychological effect of writing about it or due to my constant lack of sleep, I can’t figure out.

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Nobody Nowhere By Donna Williams – The Remarkable Autobiography of an Autistic Girl

“Labelled deaf, abnormal, nut, retard, spastic, mental, moron, ‘blonk’, crazy, weird, wild and insane, Donna Williams lived in a world of her own. She existed in a state of dreamlike recession, viewing her incomprehensible surroundings from the security of a ‘world under glass’. Few people understood her, least of all Donna herself, and she yearned to become ‘normal’. At the age of twenty-five, Donna discovered a word, a new label, which brought with it a handful of answers, a chance for forgiveness and hope for a sense of belonging:that word was autism.”

This isn’t my typical choice of book, I usually go for light hearted books about love and life, I’m the stereotypical girl in that respect. However, I stumbled across this book when gathering information for my EPQ. The focus of my essay is autism and the causes as well as the lives led by autistic people.

I didn’t think I would enjoy the book, I thought it would be a challenge to get through and would solely be for work purposes, I even had designated times I would read it-not too early in the day in case I drifted off to sleep, and not too late in case…again..I drifted off to sleep.

However, when I started the book I quickly became hooked. As you may have gathered, I’m fascinated by autism, but I can safely say anyone would find this book interesting.

It is an autobiography written by an autistic women, looking back over her life. This is a rare case of written documentation of a first hand account of the perspective of a sufferer of autism on their life. Many autistic patients have an incredible memory, and so her account travels back to the age of infancy.

It is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, and has become one of my favourites. It is not a light-hearted book in any sense, her story is sad and at times disturbing, however the outcome leaves you hopeful and opens your mind.

I read this book a couple of months ago and even now at times I still just sit back and think about it. There is no doubt I will read it multiple times, it is just one of those books that has a long lasting impact on a person.

Here is an extract from introduction, before the book even begins:

“This is a story of two battles, a battle to keep out ‘the world’ and a battle to join it. It tells of the battles within ‘my own world’ and the battle lines, tactics used, and casualties of my private wars against others.
This is my attempt at a truce, the conditions of which are on my terms. I have, throughout my private war, been a she, a you, a Donna, a me and finally an I. All of us will tell it like it was and like it is. If you sense distance, you’re not mistaken; it’s real. Welcome to my world.”

It is the first addition of a series of four books: Nobody Nowhere, Somebody Somewhere, Like Colour to the Blind and Everyday Heaven.

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