I spotted this article by Carrie Cariello, I Know What Causes Autism, and decided to take a look. I wasn't sure what I would find. An anti-vaxxer rant or perhaps a list of the various causes. I've seen everything from drawing parallels with a condition suffered by C-section foals to chemical exposure to plastic to, well, I don't want to go through them all. The strawberries were a new one though.
It's pretty clear with even some rudimental googling that we a) have no idea what causes autism and b) we are pretty desperate to blame something other than genetics. No one wants to think their kid was going to turn out this way no matter what they did.
Parents blame themselves and it would be so much easier if we could blame someone else. It wasn't my genes, Your Honour, it was that darn leafblower stirring up toxic grass particles. Personally, I got whiplash from the speed of switching from "Everything is fine, you're just overreacting" to "What did you do to damage your child?". I got lectures on how my child had autism because of a sin I committed in a previous life, because of my non-organic diet, because I didn't use Baby Einstein, because of vaccines, because I took too much parental leave, because I didn't take enough parental leave. Everyone had an opinion they were dying to share.
I've been through Cariello's emotional rollercoaster from believing my child is wonderful and should be accepted to believing we need to figure out this autism thing so no family ever has to suffer through it again. Even as I write this, I'm going back and forth between "searching for environmental causes is ridiculous" to "but if they could find something ..."
Like Cariello, I don't have enough medical training and hubris to say I know what causes autism. I know what I believe and I know what the scientific evidence suggests, but that will never be definitive enough to knock someone off their pet theory.
I second guess myself. I wonder what I should be doing differently. I wonder if I'm doing enough. I wonder if I'm doing too much. I want my boys to have all the opportunities in the world but I also don't want to spend their lives pushing them to do things they cannot do and yet I also don't want them to be limited by choices I made about their development.
In the end, I suppose that doesn't make me too different from any other parent. We're all struggling to try and figure things out, to understand which conflicting expert to follow. There's no prep-class for parenting (pet ownership and babysitting don't cut it).
Maybe it's just having the safety net removed. Society and medicine both agree that there is something wrong with my children, something I am being held responsible for fixing.