Genetics and a Trigger

When Liam was first diagnosed with autism, there was still a lot of “blame” for “getting autism” being placed on vaccinations. Even our former pastor claimed that his child was “normal” and then after getting his first year’s shots, started to have autism. As such, when Liam was first diagnosed, I felt guilt –  I would think, what had I done poorly as a mom to cause my son to be autistic?

Later, I read that an autism spectrum disorder was thought to be caused by a genetic predisposition, plus an environmental trigger. We now know about the genetics – I will talk about this a bit tomorrow. But what was the trigger? A trigger is something a bit traumatic that “activates” the autism, as I understood what I was reading. This is not a universally accepted cause. Moreover, I will never know what the trigger was, if this is what happened. Here, though, I will share some thoughts. I don’t know if thinking about this helps, or exacerbates the guilt. What I do know is that I can share these things and if they can inform someone else, that may prove helpful.

Possible Trigger #1: When I was just in my first trimester, we vacationed out in Colorado and Wyoming, where the elevations are higher. Of course, traveling to these places alone was not the trigger, but maybe it was the airplane ride, although again, probably not because there are already warnings about this that do not apply to where I was in my pregnancy. But I also traveled up Pike’s Peak. I reflect upon the warnings in amusement parks about heights and pregnancy and wonder if this was not the trigger.


Possible Trigger #2: This one is more likely. The first was me just thinking too much, honestly.

At 20 weeks, I went into preterm labor – light, but labor nevertheless. I had the flu and got dehydrated. I was also not slowing down… there’s that. We went to the hospital and they gave me an allergy medicine that also has the effect of stopping preterm labor, in some cases. It did. I was on bed-rest from Thanksgiving through his birth date in March. But certainly the medicine and the whole experience could have been the trigger. I wish I had taken the recommendation to drink more water and slow down. Again, this is second guessing myself. At the same time, I did slow down more with my second pregnancy – just to be sure.

Ultimately, I don’t know how reliable this research is, but it seems to fit our situation. At the same time, I hope that you see throughout my posts this year that, really, I would not change a thing about Liam. He is perfect the way he is. Odd, though, how I let how others’ feelings about autism get into my head, even now.

10 thoughts on “Genetics and a Trigger

  1. I have not read much research on Autism, and these two triggers sound like just what they are called…triggers. But, I am sure there are so many what-ifs still out there. You may never find the answers, but I hope you find peace in knowing that your son is perfect the way he is. I am anxious to read more of your thoughts so that I may know my understand my students a little bit better.

  2. One of my best friends has a son who has autism– he is non verbal, and has just been moved to a group home because at 21, his dad can’t physically manage him any more. They have spent years researching and wondering if they could have done something differently, but I think I agree with LeighAnne. You will probably never know the exact trigger, if there even is one. Chris and Liam are perfect the way they are. And you are the perfect parents for your kids. I wish you peace and lots of joy in 2017.

  3. I confess that I have not done research about the function of triggers in autism, but reading through your examples I couldn’t help but feel that you were just living your life and doing the things that you would ordinarily do…I guess it concerns me that thinking about triggers in this way could be so burdensome. Liam is blessed to have you for a mom and be surrounded by love, and you have learned to be a better human being, I suspect, because of Liam. Children, autistic or not, have the gift of being able to make us better people, don’t they?

    1. Absolutely. While it’s something I learned about, there’s no point in dwelling on things that one can’t control or things that turned out for the best anyway 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing such personal details so that we can better understand, Aileen. I agree with Tara in that the things you mentioned sound like ordinary living-your-life things. Whatever it was, Liam certainly found the right family.

  5. Yes, we always think in retrospect. Our son was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in his third month. This vision problem is heredity. My paternal grandmother, her brother and sister had this problem. It skipped two generations and my son got it. Life has gone on. He has completed his PhD in English Literature and is an Assistant Professor in a college. Thanks for sharing. All the best to you all.

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