Autism – What Did You Know and When Did You Know It?

I’m not a person who likes to draw conclusions on obviously incomplete data.

For example, I like to make sure people are as aware of things pertinent to any post I write as possible. That’s why I’m prefixing this post with the statement that I have an Autistic soon-to-be-six-year-old at home. I know that people who have taken the time to read my blog are probably already well aware of this fact.

They’re also probably pretty well aware that I would not change my son—in terms of somehow trying to “cure” his Autism—for the world and all that in it is. He is a wonderful, unique, quirky, weird (and I use this word advisedly, for, like his daddy he is “weird” and in generally pretty awesome ways) little mess, and I couldn’t love him more!

That being said,  I know there are a good many people out there dealing with “problem children” (or at least, that’s how they likely seem to many of them) and wondering what on earth is happening. To be clear, I’m talking about the parents of diagnosed and undiagnosed Autistic children.

On the one hand, I want to quite plainly say, “I feel your pain.” On the other—except in some rather rare cases—I want to all but holler, “Get over yourselves.” This keeps me “in balance,” since I generally won’t do the former, I don’t tend to do the latter either.

But the thing that I have thought about a great deal, has been summed up in that much politicized but intriguing question, “What did you know, and when did you know it?” What makes me write this article, is my remembrance of the time “before” I had an Autistic child, but after my son was born. Some people will “get” this, many will not, so let me explain.

Autism is seen by most, as a thing having a definite onset. Even I have been prone to say things like, “It was about eighteen months when we began to see regressive behavior.” And that was the “signal” that Garrett was Autistic.

The truth is though, the further along I go, the less convinced I am that Autism is marked by some sort of “onset.” The more I conclude that there were signs that Garrett was Autistic virtually from birth.

I’ll get into this further in a second, but first, allow me to explain how very important this apparent truth is. You see, where it’s possible for people to be born with diseases, it’s not the common experience. The reality is, most children born with some deformity or difference, are consider to be who they are by and large, not somebody who was somehow “done wrong” in some manner.

This is how I see Garrett. I see him as a unique, different, little boy. No, he’s not “normal” (like that’s inherently a good thing), and I’m entirely fine with that. In fact, I think it’s probably to his advantage, at least in certain regards.

Back to the “road signs!” One of my earliest memories of Garrett, was being in a standard hospital “post delivery” room, holding my little boy in my arms and wondering when I was going to see his little eyes. Initially, I was unsure that was ever going to happen, then, for some reason, somebody turned off the overhead fluorescent lighting and almost immediately, his eyes opened. Okay, so we have apparent light sensitivity (those who deal with Autism are very well aware that many Autistic folks have “sensory issues.”).

This alone, was far from enough to convince me that there was something more to deal with going on. Even so, it was a sign.

Garrett came home, but mommy was not feeling well, and so, was readmitted for a time to the hospital. He seemed to be a pretty normal baby. He wanted fed every couple of hours, and didn’t seem to need to be changed more or less than any other baby with which I have dealt. He seemed to sleep well and, as babies do, he seemed to sleep quite a bit—again not more than normal. Momma came home shortly, and all seemed “right with the world.”

As we went along, Garrett exhibited a couple more “symptoms.” First, he got very fussy, for no apparent reason at times and it took a lot of time and repetitive motion to “calm him down.”

Second, he displayed a marked sensitivity to many of the common baby formulae—to the degree that he would basically projectile vomit if he got too much, drank it too fast, or sometimes, for no apparent reason.

Now any of these things alone (and frankly, all of them together) don’t sound like much, and most parents (particularly if experienced, or with experienced family or friends around them), would have thought little to nothing of any of it. But that doesn’t mean they were not early signs of Autism.

One of the bloggers I have taken some time to read (the primary—if not only—writer on, points out that one of the issues for people with Asperger’s Syndrome or what is referred to as “mild Autism,” whether seen as Asperger’s or not, is that folks “having” them “seem normal enough.” This makes it so people assume “nothing is wrong with them.” And if that was truly what was meant by what was said, that would be the end of it, but it’s not. What they actually mean is, “the person has no issues with which to deal not found in any normal person.” The obvious problem with this statement is that if you look at the average cancer patient, it’s likely you’ll see nothing extraordinary. That doesn’t mean nothing is “there,” it just means you cannot see it.

Though Autism is not (at least in my opinion) a disease, it is similar to some diseases in this regard. You can look at an Autistic person, and see nothing “out of the ordinary.” And that’s not just true for people with “mild” Autism (or Asperger’s). My son has “moderate” Autism, but mostly, people looking at him would be entirely unaware, but for what appears to be “simple bad behavior.”

It’s my contention that the “early symptoms of” Autism can be just as easily missed for an appearance of normalcy. This is obviously less likely the more “severe” the Autism, but for most, it seems a pretty likely thing.

Final thought? Though it appeared that the first manifestations of Autism in my son, came at about eighteen months, looking back, I’m not so sure. 

Okay, I need to wrap this up now. Hope your time is good and as usual, thanks for reading!

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