March 6, 2008

A look at autism in Galesburg

Kaden Linderman may look like your average seven-year-old, but ask him a question and you’ll know something’s different. This young boy was vaccinated with DTaP, IPV (polio) HepB, Varicela (chicken pox), MMR and the Pneumacocal all at once when he was 18 months old. This is what his parents believed caused his autism due to the amount of heavy metals and a preservative called thymerisol inside the vaccines. Kaden has what many specialists call autism, a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication while causing restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. This disorder is what makes Kaden such a special boy. It affects his interactions with other children, his daily routine, and how he sees the world around him.

This project started out as a documentary of a day in the life of Kaden Linderman for my digital photo class. I decided to emulate James Nachtwey, a famous photojournalist and war photographer who tries to focus his photographs on people while not sacrificing the moment for the art of the photo. He generally tries to get up close and personal with every subject he shoots to raise awareness about their current situations. In my case, this was quite a challenge.

With his condition, Kaden doesn’t like to get very close to strangers, or even speak to them, and this made the project very hard when trying to take photos in low lighting situations with a child who won’t look at you and refuses to sit still. After a few days of getting to know Kaden, he started to get used to having my camera and I around, making possible the photos you see here.

The real reason behind this project is to raise awareness about this disorder that is spreading rampantly throughout the world. Children across the globe are born to parents who have never even heard the word “autism.” My hope for this project is that by seeing these images, readers will be inspired to go out and learn just a little more about this disorder and possibly be motivated to help raise awareness about it, not just in Galesburg, but around the world.

Two days after the publication of this story, The New York Times published a story looking at the link between vaccination and the onset of autism

The original version of this story had errors concerning Kaden’s reported age and vaccination history. They have been corrected in the current version above.

Liz Thomas

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