Joint Attention: A Play About Regressive Autism in Chicago
Posted Nov 01 2013 12:00am
On Thursday, November 14th, I was a lucky member of an intimate audience, marveling, crying and cheering during the world premiere of Joint Attention the first play ever to tackle the issue of vaccines causing autism. Not an easy topic in real life, I wondered how it would ever do as a play, while I skeptically drove from suburban Chicago to Sheridan Road on the cold, lake front.
My best friend since age 7, Sue, a witness to the devastating health effects my daughter Megan has endured since vaccinations and regressive autism, accompanied me. We both thought there was no way any play could capture how “a young couple struggles with their son’s autism diagnosis.” It turns out, we were so wrong.
Pat Curtis, the author of this play, “Joint Attention,” did an exquisite job showing us the effects of
Pat Curtis and Teresa Conrick
an autism diagnosis while the actors, music and directing were brilliant, bringing it to life. But Pat did more than simply show what it looks like on the outside. She took us into the home of Claire and David, whose precious son had begun to regress. He had stopped having joint attention, lost eye contact, begun to scream, had diarrhea, was barely eating, developed rashes and - stopped talking - the regression that is increasingly part of an autism diagnosis. We are to hear from David that it was after vaccines, “many” in one day at fifteen months that his son changed and became ill.
Thimerosal, the vaccine mercury, a known neurotoxin and immune system monster, was a prime culprit. It was then that I realized I had forgotten to bring tissues. This familiar and horrific event happened to my own daughter eighteen years ago and it keeps happening still. Life and fiction, both strange yet real.
Pat then takes us into the hope and fear. David has hope. He reads on the internet about biomedical treatments and even finds a doctor who medically treats children with an autism diagnosis. He and Claire start the usual early interventions like, Speech and OT but it is the ABA and biomed, the diet, the vitamins and supplements, the probiotics, the hyperbaric oxygen, the detoxing and glutathione that brings back the eye contact, and begins to heal their child. Claire though, is fearful and her fear erupts into doubt, doubt about biomedical treatments and an allegiance to her pediatrician who denies the vaccine connection and subsequent success with biomed treatments. For those of us in the trenches of ill children diagnosed with DSM autism, this is our lives.
I remember that I had met Pat a few years back at Autism One. She had mentioned that she was going to write a play about autism. I thought it was an interesting idea especially as she had been a school psychologist and had experienced the rise in autism cases first hand as a professional then. Many of the parents were reporting to her that their child had changed, became ill after vaccinations, and then showed symptoms of autism. She saw this over and over. She had a message to share with the world – vaccines seemed to be harming more and more children. Autism was then the result.
David and Claire are a microcosm of families across fifty states and beyond. Marriages torn from their foundation as basic functions, like sleeping and eating, become disrupted and more importantly, faith in a medical system and a government fall apart as well. The love of family and the truth become center stage. That is what we witness in “Joint Attention.” That is how the epidemic will be healed and ended.
Though the play ends on November 16th at its current venue, I am certain it will appear at more locations. If it’s true that “all the world’s a stage,” then a play about autism makes perfect sense as it is for so many of us, too many of us – our world.