When to Dig a Little Deeper

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Our son was recently diagnosed with autism and echolalia. And although my husband and I had a hunch of what his diagnosis would be, it didn’t make it any easier to hear.

He was about two years old when we began to notice his speech wasn’t as developed as the other kids his age. While kids at the park could put two words together or communicate basic needs, our little guy still spoke in a broken gibberish that was difficult to understand.

Sure, he knew how to ask for juice or a snack. He could repeat the lines from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and he could sing his ABCs. He could also sing along to his favorite nursery rhymes. He could identify numbers, letters, shapes, and colors.

Therefore, we naturally thought maybe he’s just a slow talker. All kids develop at different paces. We didn’t want to compare our son to where the other kids his age were, but it was difficult not to.

We brought it up to his pediatrician who then gave us a checklist to mark our son’s milestones. Except for his speech, he crossed each milestone. In fact, he was a little advanced for his age. So, our concerns subsided and we told ourselves he’ll get there.

However, as time went by, we started to notice a few things behaviorally that stood out.

He would cover his ears when walking into a building. The sound of toilets flushing and the hand dryers in public restrooms freaked him out. He would recite lines from his favorite TV shows and do this nonstop throughout the day. He would bang his head on his pillow to fall asleep at night. He would line his toys strategically. He liked watching objects and toys fall and would repeat this action frequently. And when he would get really excited, he would do a loud shriek while flapping his hands.

Some of this behavior is typical for a toddler. But we realized we were asking ourselves more often…is this normal?

Our pediatrician referred us to the MUSC Developmental and Behavioral Department to conduct an evaluation, but unfortunately, there would be a year and a half waitlist before we could even be seen. We then checked into our county’s Child Find program that conducted an evaluation.

I completed an extensive questionnaire assessing my son’s abilities and challenges. The Child Find specialists conducted observations and engaged in play to evaluate his behavior. I can still feel the tightness in my chest after receiving their evaluation report that boldly stated where my little guy fell on the spectrum.

My son is now four, and I felt I wasted so much time.

I experienced a ton of guilt. I blamed myself for not getting him the help sooner. I blamed myself for not paying closer attention to the early signs. I blamed myself for not being more proactive when we first detected a delay. I felt like the world’s worst mom.

Not to mention, I feared how the world would see my son.

Would they see a sweet boy that loves to do puzzles? Would they see my loving son that loves to give hugs and kisses? Would they see a boy that loves music? Would they see a boy that loves learning new things as long as you’re patient enough to show him?

Because let’s be honest…the world doesn’t always handle “different” very well.

This has truly been an insightful journey for my family. It’s an experience that we’re still wrapping our heads around and making sure we’re utilizing all the resources available for our son. We’re still learning and finally getting answers to those questions we once scratched our heads on.

Our son has an amazing mind. Now, we’re just learning how to see it through his perspective.

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