A difficult dilemma
My friend has only one son, autistic, and she now wants to expand the family and bring him a brother or sister – but her husband is very much afraid that the second child born to them will be also on the spectrum.
Last week, I called my good friend, who is also a mother to an autistic child. Before I could greet her, she told me: “So good you called, I need to consult with you.”
My friend has only one son, autistic, and she now wants to expand the family and bring him a brother or sister – but her husband is very much afraid that the second child born to them will be also on the spectrum. After I recovered from this bomb thrown at me over the phone, I told her that this was indeed a very complex issue that almost any parent of an autistic child has to deal with at some stage of his life.
Although the cause of autism is not yet defined, it is known that there is a genetic factor involved. The assumption is that a number of damaged genes are causing this syndrome but the scientists have not yet identified with certainty those genes that are responsible directly. The odds of having another child with autism in a family that already has one autistic child are 50 times higher than in a family which has no autistic child.
But troubling of all is the fact that to this date no medical examination – physical or genetic can diagnose autism before birth. Autism is a syndrome, meaning a child with autism can be diagnosed only by the existence or absence of certain behaviors, and usually only after the first year of the infant’s life. One-third of autistic children develop properly until the age of 1-1.5 years old and some of them even develop a language – but then they suffer a regression and lose some of the capabilities already acquired. I know quite a few families who are razing two children with autism, and it is a real challenge (to say the least).
On the other hand, I know families with one autistic child, who found the courage to have more children and they were born completely normal. I can attest to myself that I didn’t have the courage to get pregnant again after my son was diagnosed and this is the reason I have only two children. Quick review on the families of most of my friends reveals a similar situation: two children, the oldest is N.T (Neurotypical} and the youngest is on the autistic spectrum.
My decision not to have another child after my son was diagnosed was not an easy one. I always wanted at least three children but I realized that I don’t have enough resources to raise more than one autistic child. My friend explained to me that her situation is a little different than mine because my son has at least one sister and her son is growing up as an only child and she so wants him to have a brother or sister. As we kept talking it became clear to me that my friend wants a second child at any coast and she is ready to take the risk. She told me she has a moral problem with abortions so even if there had been a test to discover autism before birth she would have had the child anyway. I’m glad these doubts are long behind me but suddenly I wondered: if there would have been a test for detecting autism while I was pregnant with my son, could I have really end the pregnancy and thereby losing my amazing son? I can only thank God that that did not put me to this trail.