My thoughts on the older dad link to autism…and how I got quoted in the NY Times
August 25, 2012
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Now Reading: My thoughts on the older dad link to autism…and how I got quoted in the NY Times
August 25, 2012
So earlier this week the news was abuzz with the latest link to autism, older dads. Here’s the NY Times link to the main story.
And I have joked in the past at how crazy it is all the different things that are linked to autism. I even wrote a humorous blog post about it a few months back that you can read HERE.
So people always assume that I am anti-research and/or against all these studies. I guess by my writings and my reaction to when these stories come out I guess I thought so too.
But yesterday a writer named KJ Dell’Atonia from the NY Times emailed me. She was writing an article about the difference between autism mother’s reactions linking things like mom’s weight and antidepressant use to autism vs autism dad’s reactions to this older dad link. Her theory was that dads don’t get bothered as much and she wanted a quote from me for her article.
You can read her article now. It’s called “The Clock Ticks For Men As Well”. I got the last quote in the article. The final word you could say. Here’s what I was quoted as saying about the news linking father’s maternal age to autism…
“I’m not bothered by it,” declared another father of an autistic son, also by e-mail, who prefers to be known by his blog name, Autism Daddy. “I think feeling guilty is ridiculous.”
And I love that quote, but I thought you’d like my complete take on this issue because I was truly surprised by some of my answers.
So here’s what the NY Times writer asked me in her initial email. She wrote…
I’m working on a piece for Sunday Styles about the male reaction to the study about the causes of autism, and whether it’s engendering any of the same self-flagellation that mothers do so well over similar research.
I’m a fan of your blog and it’s useful advice (I especially like the faux-helpful things people say…), and although I have no idea how old you are or we’re when your son was born, I thought you might either have thoughts yourself, or a more general “guys I talk to around the schoolyard” sort of comment. Is there a reaction to this? Is there a sense of guilt or inevitability or an anecdotal response about it? I liken it to the way women might react of a link between autism or ADHD and antidepressant use was confirmed.
I’m curious to hear what you think.
So here’s my deal. I’m 42. I was 33 when my son was born. I don’t consider that old. So I don’t have any of the guilt that others might.
But I think feeling guilty is ridiculous. I honestly don’t feel that there’s anything I or my wife could have done differently BEFORE HE WAS BORN that would’ve prevented my son’s autism. There’s plenty of things after he was born that I can feel guilty about.
But this study about the older dads. It doesn’t really bother me because I understand the difference between a “link” to autism vs a “cause” of autism.
Being an older dad might be one of 10 links that might cause a kid to have autism.
Many people wrote on my page things like “my husband was 26 and my son has autism so that theory doesn’t work” or “my husband was much older for our 2nd kid and she is typical so I don’t believe the study” but that’s not how it works.
So no I’m not bothered by it. I’m glad there doing lots of research to find links and causes. What I am bothered by is them releasing the findings from these studies prematurely and/or the mainstream media picking up on them and simplifying them and scaring people. Every week there’s a new link. Mothers weight, father’s age, living near a highway, etc, etc, etc. If you read that every other week it just seems ludicrous.
Can I ask why you appreciate the research being done on causation and links? What do you hope might eventually come of it?
- I appreciate the research on causation & links mostly because it will work towards a cure for future generations. It might not help my son, but if they figure out what the links or causes are it may help future parents. And also sometimes the research finds similarities between autism and other neurological disorders (like Parkinson’s or cerebral palsy) which may lead to possible medicine advancements for autism.
Do you see a difference in the way you and others feel about this research and the way mothers react to similar links between, say, antidepressant use or obesity?
- Many people, especially moms, get offended or frustrated with research like this because it makes them feel guilty about something they may have done during pregnancy for example. Bu if you were on antidepressants or obese while pregnant and had an autistic kid that’s probably not the sole cause. No one is saying that. They are saying that your kid probably already had a predisposition to being autistic and obesity, antidepressants, or any number of other things or a combo of all those things came together to unfortunately make your kid autistic.
And can I use your actual name in quoting you, as in Joe Smith, who blogs as Autism Daddy? There will be a link in the online version of the piece
- I’d prefer to remain anonymous if possible, but if the only way I can get quoted is to give up my secret identity and to reveal myself then so be it… My name is F—- C——-.
Written byFrank Campagna
I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).