Thursday, July 14, 2016

FYI - Exemptions

All too often parents hear the term "school shots" and assume that in order for their child to attend school, shots must be gotten.  While it is true that some shots are being mandated in several states, other students in other states still have access to exemptions.  But information about exemptions is often left out.  

Twice in the last week FB friends have shared vaccine information specific to their state - to include that parents have the right to opt out of those so-called "school shots".  I've written about them before, too, and wanted to share some of the information I've learned here today.  One of those articles is posted below.  

xo, Cat


Ronan started school this week.  He was severely affected by vaccines.  He’s non-verbal, completely dependent on others and has autism.  Because of other medical issues that stemmed from the vaccine injury, Ronan’s on a modified school day only able to attend school for a few hours a day and only a few days a week.  Before this school year started, I dropped off some paperwork to the school:  Ronan’s health care plan, his seizure plan and his vaccine exemption form.  Until I’m assured that vaccines truly are safe and effective, that vaccine exemption form will accompany him each year until he graduates. 
Back-to-school letters from school administration typically include a cheerful welcome.  An announcement or two about what to expect on the first day back, and a kind request to drop off school supplies including any remaining forms might be added in the letter, too. 
Ronan’s school recently sent out a back-to-school announcement.  Included was a memo about ‘back-to-school’ shots with a message that made it sound like he had to get them or he wouldn’t be allowed to attend school.  I appreciate the gentle reminder to wrap up our summer fun, but I do not care to be told incomplete and inaccurate information.  I especially don’t like it when that sort of information is demanded as the tone of the messages I received most certainly was a demand.

With the opportunity schools have with the large population they serve, instead of properly educating parents that vaccines are optional, I find that they’ve misinterpreted laws, altered wording and have been allowed to make absurd vaccine demands.  Making vaccine demands is both troubling and fascinating.  Troubling because some people would never think to question a school policy and fascinating because literature parents are given elsewhere about vaccines may state otherwise.
Why are dictator-like demands being handed down to parents?  For many, to say get-vaccines-or-your-child-can’t-come-to-school is untrue.  And honestly, it’s dangerous.  Fortunately, for those who cannot or do not want to get vaccines, due to contraindications to medical conditions or because of religious belief for example, opting out of vaccines is still possible in some states.  (Opting out is actually a terrible term to use because, for the majority in the US, vaccines on the CDC’s schedule are merely recommended.)
It’s a shame that parents feel the vaccine heat from schools.  Instead of focusing on administering first aid when it’s necessary, school nurses have been allowed to become school shot Nazis.  The very people who can educate parents don’t.  What do parents do?  Blindly trust?  Yes.  Let their guard down?  More often than not, yes.  They do both because they haven’t figured out or learned that need to keep their guard up.  I was that parent when I let fear and a school nurse persuade a decision I now know I didn’t have to make.  That decision is one I regret to this day. 
I recently witnessed a student being told she must get the shot or she will not be allowed into school.  Worse, the young girl was told her the shot would be good for her.  I wonder if the nurse based her opinion with information from a vaccine study from the CDC.  With the recent allegations coming from a CDC scientist who authored a study that includes apparent fraud, the school nurse is not only telling half-truths, she might very well be citing falsified information. 
If parents chose to vaccinate that’s a decision they should make on their own.  It should never be a made because someone bullied, persuaded or worse, demanded it of them.  Never.
I can only hope and pray that the student’s parents know to look up what is actually required and to then exercise their rights to know that they can say no, thank you when the school comes around looking for documentation. 
I know better how to advocate for my children because of past vaccine decisions I made.  I educated myself enough to know that even though a nurse said my children had to get shots to get into school, I discovered that no, my children could not be barred from school entry if they did not get the vaccines she said they needed.  Unfortunately, I learned that fact after I’d already begun to vaccinate my children though.  I wish I’d started learning sooner because what I also learned is that vaccines come with no warranty, no guarantee and should vaccine cause a reaction, no one would be sticking around after the fact to help me or my child.  That was a tough lesson to learn.
Not all back-to-school letters and supply lists need to include vaccines.  If your state offers exemptions, I wish that that information would be a part of any and every vaccine communication that comes from the schools.  I asked Ronan’s new school nurse to please consider adding exemption information to future vaccine messages.  It really don’t think it would be too hard to do.  It’s as simple as including a link or directing parents to search their state’s particular vaccine exemption information.  One line is all it takes: “…vaccine exemptions can be this form or follow these directions...”  Easy, right?  Sadly, I find didn’t find that information included in the latest back-to-school paperwork I got from the school. 
Maybe they will include the information next year.

If you have questions about your state's current vaccine exemptions and how to use them, ask your school admin for more information.  If they don't know or if they cannot provide accurate information, show them what the law states (to search vaccine exemptions state-by-state, follow this link to the National Vaccine Information Center’s website which lists updated vaccine-related information).  If you want to take it a step further, which is what I've done personally in the past, ask the school staff why they are only citing a portion of the law and not the law in its entirety.  I'd be curious of what kind of responses you get.  

Friday, July 8, 2016

Stop, Drop, and Pray

I'm sitting in my little girls' bedroom watching my youngest clean up all her little girl things.  Once I realized that the room hadn't been cleaned in awhile, she had to stop everything and straighten things up.  Clothes, stuffed animals, dress up clothes, and all manner of toys - there was stuff pretty much in every nook and cranny in the bedroom that needed to be put away.

While cleaning up, my little one put this cross right in front of me.  She said nothing as she did so but must have known that I was struggling on the inside these last few days.  The news this week has been full of troubling events which have had me feeling frustrated, sad, and worried.  From hearings in D.C. to violence on the streets, after reading the news, I've walked away from quite angry.  As hard as I try to shield my children from some of the news and how it affects me, I know that kids can pick up on their parents' emotions.  I hated that my child picked up on those emotions but was comforted as she offered a bit of hope while I was stuck in a moment of despair. 

I couldn't remember what the verse from Psalm 37 was about, so I looked it up.  Verse 4 is good.  Verses 5 and 6 are better.  But verse 7 is more appropriate for today.  I think the entire Psalm is worth reading, so here's a link for it:  Psalm 37.

For those who are sad and frustrated and worried about recent events, and who are trying to understand what on earth is going on in our world today, I'd encourage you to take a moment and read through this Psalm, to reflect on it, and to never stop believing.  As easy as it can be to lose faith, we must never stop believing. 

xo, Cat

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Or Else!

We got a reminder note from the kids' school a few weeks ago.  One of our children was "due" for a booster shot.  Documentation of that booster would be required prior to the start of the next school year.  We were not given the "...or else!" threat that's usually added to school shot notices, but the tone of the letter certainly implied it.  

I'd be lying if I said I didn't let the notice bother me much, but it did bother me.  A lot.  

After rereading the current law - to include the section about vaccine exemptions, I wrote an email to the school nurse.  Knowing what I know about school shots (that in many states they are in fact not a requirement for school entry), I knew just how to respond to the misinformation that the school had sent home with my child. 

Now, I could've gone all Encyclopedia Brown on her citing the law word-for-word.  Or I could've ripped her a new one for bullying my son into getting a vaccine he didn't need (the way the note was worded, he was so worried that he wouldn't be able to return to school in the fall without this booster). But in my email to the nurse, I was kind, cordial, and very respectful.  I did that not just because that's how people should be treated but because this woman, and the staff she works with, will be the first people my child must rely on in an emergency medical situation should there be one on campus.  We need a positive working relationship with the staff, not one full of animosity.

So in my email, I simply asked for clarification.  

Will the exemption that we have on file with the school still be valid for the 2016-17 school year?  If no, I shall provide an updated one promptly.  

Then, I prayed.  Oh, how I prayed.

I haven't had the best of luck with other school nurses, which was one reason why I wrote this piece a few years ago.  Thankfully, the nurse we've been working with recently has been more than helpful, more than knowledgeable, more than understanding, and more than accommodating.  She usually stays abreast of the law, to include recognizing that parents have choices. But she failed to add that in the recent letter that came home.  That's why in my email, besides an 'exercising of my parental rights' notice, it was also a gentle reminder to her:  Psst.  You forgot to mention one of the most important parts of the law - the exemptions!

I waited for her reply all the while praying that not mentioning exemptions was just an oversight. 

It was.  

In her reply the following day, the school nurse apologized for not including all of the information. She also assured me that the current document we had on file would suffice.  




I thanked her, and since I had her attention I added, can you please consider revising the notice that was sent home to include that exemptions are also acceptable as I'm sure other families would appreciate being aware of that information.  She replied that future notices would contain that information.  

We've yet to get any other vaccine-related notices this school year, but I'll be looking for a line that states that parents may certainly submit an exemption in lieu of a booster shot.  I know that other parents are not so fortunate, and my heart breaks for them as I think about the stress they've encountered while trying to advocate for their rights and for their children.  

It is a sad, sad day when threatening another human (forced vaccines) is the norm and when withholding a child's education based on a medical procedure (no shots...or else!) is an acceptable practice.  Shame on those who think that that's okay.  

Because it's not.  

xo, Cat    


Curious which exemptions exist in your state?  Check out this link for information.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Dotted Line

After chiming in on a thread with some other moms yesterday, I was reminded of this post.  In that post, I shared some tips for parents who've found themselves face-to-face with a pushy pediatrician. Having been in that situation myself, I'm all too familiar with breaking up with a doctor.  

Saying ¡Adios! to a doctor may not be something that parents ever thought they'd have to do, but I'm finding that more parents are doing just that.  Breaking up is never easy, but when a parent is belittled or when their child's health is on the line, it really isn't too hard to walk away.  
Sometimes, it's the doctor who dismisses the parent and not the other way around.  A mom on another thread mentioned that.  I was discouraged to read that but was encouraged by something I saw when I continued to read - the newly shared document that the VaxXed team has added to their website.  

Not the sign-your-rights-away-form that the AAP wishes parents who question vaccines to sign, the form that the VaxXed team suggests using is for the physician to sign.  

I saw it.  

I liked it.  

If we need it, I'll be using it.  

For those who would like their doctor's "stamp of approval" that all those safe and effective vaccines they want to administer are truly 100% safe and effective, go ahead and ask them to sign that form.  

Be prepared for some backlash if you pull it out of your diaper bag mid-exam, though, but always remember this.  It is you who are ultimately responsible for your child's health, not the doctor, not the vaccine manufacture and certainly not the government who oversees the vaccine program.  

Now, some people are okay with everything that their doctor and that the vaccine program has to offer. They don't need to worry about printing out that new form or this one either.  But for those folks who find themselves in disagreement with their provider or who want to be selective with the vaccines that they are being offered, well, they need other options.  The form found on the VaxXed webpage is a perfect place to start.  

I know some people may lose their spot in their doctor's practice should that form not go over well. After breaking up with the doc, I'd encourage those parents to do some digging.  Make some calls.  Ask your like-minded friends who they see.  Surely someone knows of someone who can help.  Then, choose wisely.  Chose someone who understands the choices you want to make.  Choose someone who respects your parental rights.  Chose a physician who has you and your child's best interest in mind.  They're out there.  And when you find them, if you've chosen wisely, I bet they'll be a perfect fit.        
xo, Cat 

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Family Member Speaks Up about VaxXed

Painfully aware of what's happened to Ronan, extended family members know that vaccines have done more harm than good.  Not every family member is in agreement - and have made that quite clear to us, but a few have quietly supported us through every hurdle, seizure and setback Ronan has experienced.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to fully express how much our their support means to me.  
When I found out that some of our extended family were going to be attending a Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe screening in their area, I cried.  Then I made sure to thank them.  By attending the screening, they jumped out of their comfort zone and bravely spoke up with us.  

One of my favorite photos of Ronan
who's getting a hug from
his favorite Aunt!
After seeing Vaxxed, my sister, who has been one of Ronan's biggest and most vocal cheerleaders over the years, felt called to share her thoughts about the film.  I know that she may get flack for sharing what she did on her FB wall, but she shares as an eye witness to what happened to Ronan.  I can think of no one better to offer such important information than someone who has seen firsthand the negative consequences of vaccines.  

After I read through her post, I asked my sister if I could share it here.  She said yes, and I'm so glad. 

My sister is my best friend.  She's an amazing aunt (and Godmother!) to Ronan and also a great writer.  She's put together some great points - ones that the autism-vaccine community has shared over and over again but ones the mainstream news so quickly glosses over.  

I hope you take time to read through her post (below).  I also hope that you share it.  It's so very well written and should be read by many. 

xo, Cat


From Ronan's aunt:

This weekend I was able to go see the movie Vaxxed, which was followed by a Q&A with the director and the producer. I was both deeply moved by the stories told and deeply disturbed by the information presented. I've been hesitating about whether to say anything about the movie since it involves such a hot button topic, but I've decided that I must. If you don't care to read any more, just keep scrolling past this. If you don't mind reading more, then buckle in. I've compiled a list of reasons why you should go see this movie while you can. 

1. You do understand that a person can have an adverse reaction to a vaccine.

2. You think the science is 100% sound and shouldn't be questioned.

3. You think anyone who questions vaccine safety is a quack.

4. You have ever referred to a vaccine questioning parent as "stupid" but figure maybe it's time to back that name calling up with some info.

5. You think that the manipulation of data has no business in science.

6. You are ok with the manipulation of data if it's for "the greater good."

7. You understand that most people who question vaccines actually know someone who was vaccine injured.

8. You believe that parental rights still mean something, especially with regard to medical procedures with known adverse reactions.

9. You check all the ingredients for every food your child with food allergies may ingest but you've never checked the ingredients of the over 30 shots that a child is supposed to receive by age 6. 

10. You are pregnant or have an infant right now and want more information about why anyone would question vaccine safety.

11. You are African-American and had never heard that the original data of the CDC MMR Autism Study was manipulated to hide the fact that your children are at greater risk of walking away with an autism diagnosis post-MMR shot.

12. You have contemplated using a vaccine exemption...if your state/diocese still allows it.

13. You think it's bullshit that pharmaceutical companies cannot be held liable for any adverse reactions that result from vaccines.

14. You have ever railed against big corporations controlling everything in government but have no problem with big corporations controlling everything in medicine.

And last but not least, you know someone - a best friend, a good friend, a fellow home school mom, a church friend, a former patient's mom, a neighbor, a fellow hockey mom, a high school classmate, a college classmate, me - whose beloved family member was severely vaccine injured. My nephew Ronan, whom I love beyond measure, was severely vaccine injured as a baby. He is still severely vaccine injured as a 13yo. He has seizures, is non-verbal, and requires constant care and supervision 24/7. Like my sister said after she watched the movie, none of this had to happen...but it did.

The movie isn't about the actual products (vaccines); rather, it is about what the CDC did with regard to the manipulation of data involving one particular vaccine. If the CDC was willing to manipulate the data regarding one vaccine, what else are they willing to manipulate?

Information is power. What are you doing to arm yourself?
The film they don't want you to see. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

We Go Forth Together

If anyone was keeping score on how this morning went, here are the stats:

Autism 1
Cat 0
Fiona for the win for turning my frown upside down!
It was a sucky, sucky morning, but this afternoon's mail totally brightening my day.  I'm so proud of my brave girl!  If she could take Ronan's vaccine injury away, she would in a heartbeat.  But she can't.  So Fiona speaks up and tells his story hoping that other children are spared what Ronan was not.  

Because of what happened to Ronan, she's learned more about health, autism, and advocating than I ever imagined she'd have to.  In learning all that she's learned, Fiona's a thousand steps ahead of her peers and many adults out there.  Right now, she has no intention of stopping. Like her tired, broken-hearted mama, Fiona's going to keep marching forward.  Ronan needs her to.  I need her to.  

With her positive attitude, Fiona will get through the obstacles and the naysayers and through the bad days that creep in.  The best part is that she and I get to march forward together.  

xo, Cat


Fiona's latest article can be found in the Holistic Parenting magazine, No. 15 May - June 2016.  She has been featured in The Autism File Magazine and has had a chance to contribute articles to Age of Autism.  Fiona loves to bake, play volleyball, and take pictures.  Her gallery can viewed here:  Photos by Fiona.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016


We had a busy day today.  Getting the kids up and out the door on time was my top priority.  Making sure Ronan got as much sleep as possible before our big day out, I waited to get him ready last...   

With how tired Ronan's been during the week, the last thing I want to do was wake him up early on a Saturday.  Saturdays are usually alarm-clock free days.  But today, we have somewhere to be.  

Fiona has a race today. She's already there warming up and getting ready to compete.  I don't want to miss seeing her shine.  But we may have to.  Ronan is still sleeping.  

The younger siblings are doing a great job keeping quiet until he wakes up, but the temptation to be the happy, typical, and sometimes loud kids that they are is overwhelming them.  I offer them gentle reminders to use quiet voices and their tip toe feet, and to find something to do until it's time to go, but they are energized and excited to see big sister.  I'm excited, too.  It's Fiona's last race of the season, and we want to be there for it. 

I peek in on Ronan twice.  Both times he's been snuggled deep under the covers.

I text my husband:  
Ronan's still asleep.  We may not make it L  

He texts me back:
No rush.  Nothing has started yet.  

I peek in on Ronan once more.  He stirs but then rolls over. 

I walk backwards out of Ronan's bedroom and try to keep busy.  Everything is already ready though – Ronan's backpack is restocked, the snack bag is full, extra water bottles are already in the car, and the iPad and the iPhone are charged in case we need them.  All that's left is for Ronan to wake up.  

He's still sleeping.  

So we continue to tip toe.  

For big events like today, I should've thought to have someone stay home with Ronan.  But I didn't ask anyone to watch him.  Easily, I could wake him and get us in the car and go.  But for him to have the energy and the desire to want to stay for the race once we get to the stadium, Ronan needs to ease into this day, not be jolted into it.  So we wait. 

We wait for Ronan a lot.  We're used to it and are well aware that his pace is slower than the siblings. They'd like for him to catch up.  I'd love nothing more than for that to happen, too.  But pushing him isn't the answer.  

Since he's regressed, we've been waiting for Ronan to talk again, to interact with us again, and to catch up with skills that he lost that used to be so easy for him.  Waiting isn't easy, but our family's gotten used to it.  The kids are more than able to handle some of the waiting, but they are as anxious as I am to see Ronan someday catch up.  They think he will.  I hope with all of my heart that he will as well. Ronan has surprised us over the years when he regains a lost skill, so we stay positive he will regain more.  

Ronan just surprised me!  He's awake.  He's happy.  I tell him that we're happy too.  We're happy to see him.  I tell Ronan that we've got some place to be –  to see sister's race.  Fiona's got a big day and we want Ronan to be there.  He indicates that he wants to go.  


Fiona did SO well!  She added two new personal records today.  Her efforts have paid off, and I'm so proud of her for trying a new sport and sticking with it.  I'm so proud of Ronan, too. 

Ronan stayed for the entire event.  I had a back-up plan (leave early and go home), but I never had to use it.  Even though it was a l-o-n-g day and a hot day, two factors that can result have previously resulted in a disastrous outcome, but today, Ronan overcame both.  I was thrilled.  Fiona was as well. She was happy to see Ronan be part of our family outing, and I know he was happy to see her when she was able to sit with us in the stands for a few minutes.  

I love it when our family is able to do things together.  With Ronan's struggles and health issues, those opportunities are few and far between.  We take the good days when we can and enjoy every single minute of them.  

Today was one of those days.  

I had trepidations, especially when the weather changed later in the afternoon, but I didn't have to worry.  Ronan remained happy, able and content to be with us and out of the house.   

My hope today was for a few things to happen.  It was for us to be together as a family.  It was for Ronan to actively include himself in our family outing.  It was for the weather to hold off long enough for Fiona to run her races (and kick some butt!).  I got to check each of those expectations off my list:

Spend the day together as a family  
See Ronan stay engaged and happy  
Enjoy the first sun shiny day we've had in over a week  ✓ 

The sun stuck around for most of the day, but as a storm got closer, I thought our day out would be a bust.  It wasn't.  Staying until the last possible minute in the stadium, we made our way quickly to the car as the skies darkened.  Raindrops fell as we buckled up.  Wind whipped up once we got on the road. Torrential rain quickly followed and stuck around longer than we anticipated.  But we made it.  

Ronan made it.  

The kids made it.  

And we were elated.  

As we made our way home, the wind picked up again.  Sheets of rain poured down.  My windshield wipers were on high for the majority of the drive home.  I didn't let the dreariness cloud my thoughts. It was a great day.  It was one of the best days we've had as a family in a really long time.  

Once we were back home and after dinner chores were done, I found time to sit and relax.  Sitting on the couch, I peeked out the living room window.  I couldn't believe it.  The dismal, dark gray sky we were under was starting to clear up!  It was now barely sprinkling, and against a blue sky off in the distance, I could see saw sunshine.  I called for the kids.  Ronan's younger brother and two little sisters came running.

"Hey, kids!  Look!  It's sprinkling a little, but look at the sky – it's blue!  You know what that means, right?

Three voices squealed in unison, "Rainbows!"

Scurrying to get their shoes on, Ronan's siblings scampered outside to look for a rainbow.  They didn't see one, but they imagined how beautiful and perfect it would look.  
Today was a beautiful and wonderful day.  With how everything worked out, I dare say it was pretty close to being a perfect day.  Not every day turns out to be perfect, so I'm going to cherish this day and the time I had with my family.  I hope that we are blessed with another day just like it again soon.  I hope you and your family are, too. 

xo, Cat