When Did You Know…?

When did you suspect your child had autism?  I get that question all the time.

At two weeks old, I was holding my daughter after feeding her.  She looked up into my eyes.  We maintained a gaze together, so engrossing that I felt myself lost in her.  She was perfect and I felt such joy.  After a few seconds, she broke our connection. Her eyes were far away.  It was as if she drifted away even though I was holding my face close to hers.  I had a feeling that something was wrong.  I thought it was new mom paranoia.

A year and a half later, that feeling was validated by an autism diagnosis.  My daughter developed typically until she was about 10 months old.  Then we saw behaviors surface: she would make a funny face when she was excited or happy,  she walked late, she slept very little, she did not respond to her name or to our voices.  We thought it was cute and thoroughly normal.  At a year old she had a few words: “baby”, “cat”, “duck”.  At fifteen months, those words were gone.  I would smash things on the floor to get her attention and she would not flinch.  We thought she may be deaf.  However, when we played Elmo’s theme song, her face would light up or she’d come running from the other room.  She was not deaf.

At 15 months I took her to a music class with other babies.  She preferred to walk in circles or eat the instruments rather than participate. The teacher, who was not very professional, said: “What is wrong with her?”  I was highly offended and did not go back to class.  So I took her to a gym class and the other toddlers were singing, dancing and climbing all over the equipment.  My child licked the floor and then cried hysterically for no apparent reason.  When I took her out of the class and put her in her car seat she babbled happily.  I knew something was wrong.  I cried in the car that day.

We told family and friends about our fears.  Some people dismissed us as being “overreactive” or “wanting attention”.  We were subject to anecdotes of delayed development and claims that “so-and-so was a late talker, too”.  I knew something was wrong with my child.  She was not just a “late talker”.

What perplexed me was that she was so happy.  She would play with her toys for hours.  She knew every song on her videos.  She loved to cuddle and was so affectionate.  How could something be wrong with a child so loving and happy?

Her developmental pediatrician took less than ten minutes to come to the conclusion that my child had autism.  The doctor told us it was a life-long affliction.  She told us that our child needed intense intervention.  She told us that she may never speak, go to college, marry or live independently.  All my dreams for my child were snatched away by those three words: she has autism.  I remembered looking into my daughter’s eyes and watching her slip from my gaze. That moment haunts me.  However, it drove me to get her the help she needs.  Always trust a mother’s instinct.



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Kim Cristo

Kim Cristo is the mother to a child with autism and a neurotypical child. She advocates for the rights of autistic individuals and their families.

Kim Cristo

Kim Cristo

Kim Cristo is the mother to a child with autism and a neurotypical child. She advocates for the rights of autistic individuals and their families.

2 thoughts on “When Did You Know…?

  • June 20, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Hi! My son has been seeing a developmental pediatrician and has been diagnosed with mild autism. I have been in denial for the past nine months hoping that he had just a developmental speech delay. He is 3 and will be 4 in October of this year. I am coming to terms with his diagnosis because last year the doctor listed the developmental delay as a number one concern and Austism as a secondary concern. We were hoping that with speech therapy he would improve.
    I am quite confused by autism and I am currently in the process of learning what it will mean for my son and our family. He is such a good kid, he is happy and friendly and social. He is loving and even if he shows it differently than my other kids I know he loves me. He was giving me hugs 6 months ago turning his back to me. He now asks me for a kiss and allows me to hug him facing forward. I know this may sound silly but it is progress and I am grateful for it.

    • Joel Manzer
      June 25, 2017 at 8:00 am

      @Ellen – You’re not alone.

      My wife and I had a long 4 year challenge obtaining the diagnosis of PDD-NOS for our son. The first sign for him was speech delay. After 6 months of back and forth with his pediatrician and a speech therapist… nothing. We had to argue with his pediatrician that we knew something else was not right, and his reponse/suggestion was to wait 6 more months based on the fact that both my wife and I were late talkers as well.

      My only suggestion is not to worry about the word ‘Autism’. Your heart is in the right place to be concerned about your son. What makes him ‘tick’… makes him who he is, and what he wants.

      In short, discovering what makes him happy and fulfilled – and preparing him and the rest of the world for his growing into an adult.

      That is the essence of what being a parent is about. 🙂



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