“Hey you took off your shirt, good job little guy.” The smile and wonderful eye contact I get from my three year old in return for my high pitch and over the top congratulations warms my heart and soul.
As moms, a smile is something that we take for granted. A glance is common place from infancy. But when your baby did not start off that way, you appreciate those “little things” so much more.
Nicholas is my youngest of two little ones. He was adorable at birth, being nicknamed Indio, for his straight hair (at the time) by my aunts. I was running after a two year old and recuperating from a serious medical condition, so his quiet, anxiety-free disposition seemed heaven sent. I nicknamed him “Backpack Baby" because he could go anywhere and rise to the occasion, he just went with the flow.
I confess, I noticed that he was not talking consistently, or reaching the milestones that are placed on the growth and development chart “ the what your child should be doing” chart, but I was not worried. I rationalized this “no worry attitude" in a few ways.
At the time, my highly functioning four year old Isaiah, who uses words like dehydrated and reads whole Dr. Seuss books was a late talker. The day I filled out the paperwork for Isaiah to get speech services at 2 ½, he replaced his very limited vocabulary - “you go blue church”- for full sentences that even shocked me.
Nicholas would be fine I thought, it’s just his genetics.
I am a principal by training, whatever issue we have academically, I knew I could fix.
Nicholas would be okay I thought, it's just more time on academic tasks.
Strangely, when you spoke to Nicholas with that over the top voice (with lots of effect), and wrestled him down with huge hugs, he laughed and cooed, and made eye contact. He even said a few words during those moments, so I thought he would just be fine.
He is going to grow out of it. Period!
At Nicholas’ doctor’s appointments, when I spoke to the pediatrician about my concerns, she reassured me that he was fine, "he's just a little speech delayed", which is common in little boys. I acquiesced, but by his two year old visit, I requested a speech referral. When we met with the speech therapist, it occurred to me that my two year old did what he wanted to do. He had a terrible time following the therapist soft and even tone directions. He played independently with her colorful toys, and truly had blinders on to anything she wanted to do with him. After a couple of sessions and a completed parent questionnaire, the frazzled therapist turned to me and asked:
“Have you gotten him tested for Autism?"
“Just because he does not speak, why you gotta label him incompetent? - "always trying to label a little brown baby”.
However, my trained, educated side made me look at all the variables and say:
“How do we proceed from here?”
If you can relate to Nicholas’ story, remember that early intervention is key to success. You are not alone, 1 in 54 boys are autistic. Be proactive and stay encouraged.
Check out: Autism Speaks and download their 100 Day Kit for newly diagnosed families.
Words By: Nicole Peltier-Lewis