For some parents and kids, this time of year is the start of lots of new things. But for some, its a frustrating time whereas vaccination policies tend to make the return to school bitter-sweet.
For Rachel Atwood, bitter is hardly a strong enough word to describe her current state of affairs with the Ottawa County school system.
Atwood’s son, Timmy, is autistic. He’s been non-verbal up until just recently, a big accomplishment that should be time for celebration.
However, the Early Childhood Center school system has denied Timmy the ability to attend the school because Rachel doesn’t want him to have the chickenpox vaccine. Atwood says that the risks posed by his dismissal from school are far greater than any risks associated with chickenpox.
“Timmy is making amazing progress at his school,” she told 13 ON YOUR SIDE.
“He said ‘Mommy’ for the first time a few weeks ago and we’re seeing amazing growth and hope for his future and it’s all because of the program for this school.”
Recent cases of chickenpox have prompted county officials to force some kids to stay home, many of which don’t have chickenpox, they just don’t have the vaccination for it.
“His social piece, his ability to interact with others is a part of autism and for him to be able to function to have a life as an adult we need for him to get what he needs now,” she said. “Him being excluded from therapy at this critical development point for his age is far more harmful than getting chickenpox.”
Rachel says that her decision to pass on Timmy’s chickenpox vaccination is due to his having autism. She isn’t certain how the vaccine might affect his behavior.
The school system isn’t sensitive to Atwood’s concerns in the slightest, however.
“That is a our worse case scenario but we do that when we have to protect the health of the public,” Marcia Mansaray, Epidemiologist Ottawa County Department of Public Health, said.
The school system claims they are “aware of the challenges” posed by Timmy’s case. But Mansaray contends that every parent who signed the vaccination waiver understood that a 21-day school removal was possible.