I know that's the question on everyone's mind. How did we know that our child could possibly have autism? Could we have done anything sooner?
If you're like me, you've read parenting books and online articles on how to best raise your child. Your children are your world and you want to only give them the best.
After having an assessment to see what type of therapy (there are three types of therapy for early intervention: speech, physical and feeding, better known as occupational therapy) Henry needed, it clicked together in Kevin's mind as we were driving home what they were trying to tell us. I'll admit, I wasn't really listening which is really bad on my part. I was still just in total shock from the what two therapists and a service coordinator had said.
They asked me what my goal for Henry was. Mine was just to have him wave hello and goodbye like every normal child his age does when people enter and exit a room. Sounds simple enough right?!? Most kids realize when people come and go but it's rare for Henry to even notice.
That is our goal for next year after an entire year of therapy.
So when did I wake up out of the cloud? It was a couple of days later when I randomly woke up at 4 a.m. while Kevin and Henry were fast asleep and I began to do some clear thinking in the quiet morning.
I opened my computer and thought about what would be helpful to read when I remembered that Sesame Street came out with a character who has autism. After doing a quick search, a little storybook popped up on my screen and there was Elmo playing with Julia, a little girl with autism.
In the story, Abby Cadabby wants to join in playing too but Abby feels bad because Julia doesn't recognize that Abby wants to play with them. It takes Julia a long time to realize that Abby is there and Elmo explains that Julia is different. The story is pretty cute but what was eye opening, is that the behaviors that Julia has in the story line up with Henry's behaviors.
Instead of waving hello, Julia flaps her arms to show she is happy and excited. Henry does the same. Julia doesn't play cars normally such as running them across the floor. She likes to spin the wheels on the bottom, so does Henry. It takes a long time for Julia to recognize Abby in the story and answers back long after a question is asked. So does Henry.
Then I knew.
Kevin woke up sometime later and we talked about it. He found several different online articles and all of them said the same thing that a formal diagnosis can't be given until two years old but the signs are there at 18 months. It's best not to ignore it and wish it away, the earlier the intervention begins, the better.
That's exactly where we're at.
Please note, I only share this information to help other families and to tell my story. Every single child is different and if you think your child is struggling or behind, it's always best to talk to your pediatrician or an occupational pediatrician to get a clear idea where your child may be at. For more helpful tools please also see Sesame Street and Autism.