By Claudia Wallis, TIME.com
What happened to little, red-haired Hannah Poling is hardly unique in the world of autism.
She had an uneventful birth; she seemed to be developing normally — smiling, babbling, engaging in imaginative play, speaking about 20 words by 19 months. And then, right after receiving a bunch of vaccines, she fell ill and it all stopped. Hannah, now 9, recovered from her acute illness but she lost her words, her eye contact and, in a matter of months, began exhibiting the repetitive behaviors and social withdrawal that typify autism.
"Something happened after the vaccines," says her mom, Terry Poling, who is a registered nurse and an attorney. "She just deteriorated and never came back."
Parents of kids like Hannah have been fingering vaccines — and, in particular, the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal — as a cause of autism for over a decade, but researchers have repeatedly failed to find a link.
What's unique about Hannah's case is that for the first time federal authorities have conceded a connection between her autistic symptoms and the vaccines she received, though the connection is by no means simple. A panel of medical evaluators at the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that ... Read more>>