Daily Mail, Jan 1998.


ROCHELLS Poulter has to hold back the tears when she watches videos of her baby son Matthew, smiling happily for the camera. For they not only show Matthew developing normally but remind the family of his lost potential.

Today, six-year-old Matthew has some of the most difficult behavioural problems caused by autism. He is socially withdrawn, uncoordinated, aggressive and has continence problems. Although he has a high IQ, his language is so disordered that few understand him.

Matthew still goes to an ordinary school near his Brighton home, although his parents wonder how much longer he can cope. 'It takes half-an-hour just to walk him to school, when it should take five minutes, and he has been in the accident book 30 times already this year- ‘he is always failing over,' says Rochelle, 37.

Matthew's parents thought they had come to terms with the change in their son's behaviour - which set in a few months after his first birthday - until a chance remark last year at an autism support group.

"A mother asked me if he had received his MMR jab, because she’d heard there might be a link with autism. It was like someone had hit me,' says Rochelle. 'All the pieces fell into place. I cried.'

She says the injection at 15 months heralded the start of Matthew's problems.

'In a way, making the connection was worse for us,' she says 'We'd convinced ourselves it was nothing we had done. Now we knew it was our fault.'

She remembers him screaming after he had the jab and whining all day. "Three days later his face came cut in a rash and then it spread all over his body. Eventually it went, but at the 10-month check I mentioned to the health visitor I felt there was something wrong with him. He wasn't talking to me any more and he wasn't doing what he'd done before -he'd stopped developing.'

He turned into a 'demonic toddler' and last year was diagnosed autistic.

The couple were turned down for the vaccine damage compensation scheme but have legal aid to pursue a case through the courts, which they see as vital for their son's future.

Rochelle says: 'How will Matthew be able to support himself as an adult? He can't hold a conversation, let alone a job.' They would like to see the three-in-one MMR jab banned and the immunisations given separately again, as has happened in Japan.

Rochelle says: 'Matthew was a lovely little boy, so normal. To see the transformation now is heartbreaking.'

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