What causes autism? As a mother of two children on the autism spectrum, that is the million-dollar question in my world. It has been nearly five years since I heard those words, “your daughter has autism,” and while I don’t know what causes autism, I do know what didn’t cause it — me. My daughter was diagnosed on the day before her third birthday, and in the past five years I’ve seen study after study come out that points to something the mother did, or didn’t do, as a cause of autism. This has caused many mothers of children with autism, including myself, to feel guilty.
Here are just a few of the studies or news reports I’ve read in the last five years that have caused me and other mothers to question our role in our children’s condition:
I like to call this the mommy blame game. This "game" goes all the way back to the origins of autism here in the United States. In 1943, Leo Kanner published his first paper on children with autism. The medical establishment began to look for a cause for this new condition and the blame very quickly fell into the laps of mothers. These mothers were called refrigerator mothers
due to their perceived cold and distant relationship with the child. This is where the mommy blame game started, and the game continues today.
I’m not a scientist. I’m not a researcher. I’m just a mom of two children on the autism spectrum. I have dealt with mommy guilt and while one day in the future scientists may determine that it was, in fact, something I did to cause my children’s condition, there is no reason for me to continue feeling guilty today. Now that I have five years of “autism mom” duty under my belt, I want to encourage other moms who are just starting this journey to let these feelings of guilt go as well.