When did I know my son had Autism?

I have been asked so many times when did I realize my son had Autism.
I remember the day clearly, it was in September of 2003, my son was 6 months old. From what I am told most parents say around they realized their child has Autism was around 18-24 months but for us it was different. I suspected my son had Autism much earlier than the norm, I am not sure why, but I just knew. Could it be because his older brother is on the Spectrum? I did notice similarities and knew what to look for. I doubt that was the reason, there weren’t very many similarities between the 2 boys, a few, but not many.

On this sunny morning in September and it was a regular day, I realized my son didn’t respond to his name like most babies did or gaze into my eyes lovingly as his siblings did before him. The realization of my beautiful brown eyed baby boy who was absolutely perfect wasn’t like most babies. In fact, Reece cried a lot, he didn’t sleep much, seemed to catch every cold going around, he preferred his dad over anyone else in the world, including me.

The guilt I felt
I want to reflect on how I felt during the first stages of realizing something was different. When I realized Reece was not developing like an average baby his age,I immediately went to a place of guilt. What did I do wrong? How could I have prevented this? I challenged everything in my life, every scenario trying to figure out what I did wrong. I couldn’t find an answer to why. It was not a good feeling as a new mother, it was not a healthy place to be. I think every mom has done this once or twice in their life, we seem to want to blame ourselves for things we cannot control.

What I did after I realized
I realized something wasn’t right, I knew he needed intervention. We got a referral and he started therapy at our local Children’s Centre. This was the beginning of many therapies over the course of a decade and a half. It would be 3 more years before we finally had an official diagnosis of Autism, not for lack of trying but the lack of understanding and resources.

Regular Developmental Checkups are important
Reece had his regular 6-month baby check-up and it was discovered he was not quite where he should be developmentally for his age. He didn’t sit up on his own, didn’t attempt to roll over. I thought this was because he was massive and top-heavy, he surpassed the 100th percentile in weight and height at 3 months old. Reece didn’t babble or coo regularly like other babies his age did, He didn’t respond to his name. He didn’t sleep very well and cried most of the time. We started Physiotherapy to help large motor skills, Occupational Therapy, and Speech to encourage what little sounds he was making into more sounds, words did not come for many years.

When I said it out loud to a person
I vividly remember when I said “I think Reece has Autism” out loud to another person. I told my sister first and it was at Reeces first Birthday party. It was hard for me to acknowledge and even harder to say the words. I chose my sister because she had a baby a few months older, she would pay attention, not brush me off and listen to what I was about to say. My sister looked surprised when I said it at first but replied: “he’s too young, are you sure?” I was absolutely sure. I told her to watch him play for a bit she will see it.

Reece loved cars but only spun the wheels. Reece played with his toys differently than my niece who was just a few months older, she was making car sounds and he was spinning the wheels on cars, staring at the wheels as they spun. My niece was attempting to stack things Reece lined things up in rows, he was 12 months old. The signs were very clear. I told my sister more of the reasons why I thought he was Autistic. I explained his sleeping habits, his developmental delays, and little quirks, how he played “shy” to pretty much everyone except hid dad. It was clear Reece had Autism, little did I know then what was in store for us as he grew.

What his Doctor said initially
I remember addressing my suspicions to his Dr around 18 months old. The Dr actually told me “It’s just a phase Mom, he will grow out of it”. I was not going to take that answer to heart because I knew. The scary part was at the time I “knew” more about the warning signs of Autism than this Pediatrician.
The prevalence of Autism at that time was 1:150 children but the early warning signs were grossly misunderstood by Medical Professionals. It was believed that signs of Autism surfaced around age 3. My son was 18 months old when I finally told his Doctor my suspicions, it was ignored.
Early Intervention is key. I would beat myself thinking we didn’t have early intervention.I fooled myself though he had intervention very early on, earlier than most kids at that time. Reece did not formally start ABA until he was 5 but we started ABA principles before he was 2 years old at home. We continued many forms of therapy for him and it continued for more than 15 years in formal and informal settings.

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