Being a first time mom I didn’t have a lot of experience and wasn’t sure what was normal. As my first adopted child grew I began to suspect something wasn’t right. I shared my concerns with our doctor who said with a grin, “You’re a new mom, just relax and enjoy your baby. He’ll out grow it.” He out grew the crying but other things got worse. I didn’t know a child could be so unfocused or so over focused.
Everything was delayed. When he finally started walking, we noticed he had an unusual gait. It followed him to adulthood. This is often noticeable in children with ADHD and Aspergers.
He didn’t talk till he was almost three, but started out using full sentences and enormous words. People often commented on his big vocabulary.
It took him longer than other babies to sit up, to crawl and to walk. When he finally walked, nothing was safe. “No” had no meaning to him. He didn’t learn from the consequences of his actions. Once in his walker he scooted over to touch a hot oven. He got to it before I could reach him. He touched it and cried. I thought, “he’s learned a lesson, stoves are hot and he won’t touch it again.” He didn’t! He reached right over and touched it again. He cried and touched it again. I don’t know how long he would have continued touching and crying if I hadn’t pulled him away. I knew then that I would have to watch him closer than most babies.
Once we got through the early screaming years, he became a happy little guy. He was fun, funny, and adorable but something was different. Often he would retreat into his own world somewhere. Sometimes he would go into awful temper fits. There was no reasoning. It became so obvious, that his doctor finally referred him to the Child Guidance Clinic at the Children’s Hospital. They admitted him and took him through a week of testing and labeled him “Minimal Brain Damaged.” I thought, “how could that be, he seems so alert and intelligent and aware of his surroundings.” Another doctor said, “He seems to have some neurological damage.” When they tested his touch responses he didn’t seem to respond like he should have. And yet sometimes he could feel things even stronger than most. Another doctor said, “He seems to have some Autistic tendencies but he can’t be Autistic because he talks and has such a big vocabulary.” He was labeled LD then ADD and ADHD. His inability to reason and associate cause and effect was called “Dyslogic Syndrome.” But even with all those labels, it seemed like there was still something else. He has never been officially diagnosed with Aspergers, but two of his daughters that I have legal custody of, have been diagnosed with Aspergers and they are so much like their daddy. History repeats itself.
Our baby fought life. He resisted our attempts to talk, walk, potty training, and to learn anything we tried to teach him. As he grew older he fought riding a bike, tying his shoes, taking a bath, going to bed, going to sleep, getting up, getting dressed, eating, helping with odd jobs, school, homework Everyday was full of major battles.
Potty training was a big problem. Our son had many accidents in both years of Kindergarten and throughout his school years. Even in high school I’d get an occasional call from the school asking me to bring a change of clothes, that he’d be waiting in a restroom. It seemed like as he got older I realized it was part of the “focus problem”. He would get the urge to go but till he could get to a restroom, his focus was on something else, and an accident would happen. Often he wasn’t even aware of it until someone noticed a wet spot and called it to his attention. That can be very embarrassing in Jr. High and high school! Although to the Aspie who doesn’t always pick up on social skills, sometimes wet clothes isn’t even a big deal.
Sometimes children seem who perfectly normal for the first couple years, then they begin to lose communication skills, words, pointing, and eye contact. Should that happen, voice your concerns to a doctor. Early intervention is very important. Give your child the “Chat Test.” If by 18 months he shows signs of the list below, share this concern with a doctor.
1. No interest in other children.
2. Does not initiate pretend playing.
3. Does not point to or ask for something.
4. Does not point to and show interest.
5. Does not initiate proper play with toys.
6. Does not make eye contact.
By age 12 months a child should be able to say a few single words and by 16 months should have a few spontaneous two word phrases. Should a child lose communication skills at any age, contact a doctor. The earlier Autism is diagnosed the more they can be helped.
Our son had trouble connecting with other children. He had major sensory issues, meltdowns, and all the typical delays. At a very young age he showed all the symptoms of Autism, but back then (Late 60s early 70s) professionals did not recognize the signs. There is no cure for Autism, but there are many medicines to treat the symptoms.