When people learn that Josh has autism, one question I get is, “How did you know he had it?”
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a medical expert. Please do not take information from my post as medical advice. If you are in need of medical care, please seek help from a healthcare professional.
When you have multiples, it’s easy to make comparisons as they approach certain milestones. Jack would hit his milestones a little earlier than most kids, but Josh would reach these same milestones a month after Jack.
When it came to speech, both boys were delayed so I didn’t make a fuss about it. They were preemies and it was possible that they would exhibit some developmental delays.
Around the time when they turned 18 months I began to notice some peculiar things that Josh would do. One thing he did was grab three objects whether they would be toys, pens, or markers. Two of the objects had to be the same but not the third. Then, he would line these objects and leave them in random places.
One time I walked into a room, to find two pencils and a block in the middle of the room’s floor. Let’s just say the first thing that came to my mind was the Blair Witch Project. Of course, I’m just kidding but I became fascinated watching him do this from time to time.
Another thing I noticed was when he would turn his riding toys over and was more fascinated by the wheels then with riding them. I thought he had inherited my father’s mechanical skills.
Well, this went on for a while. Then, in April of 2007, Oprah presented a show on autism with Jenny McCarthy. During one part of the show the ladies began listing signs to look for in children with autism. When they mentioned the arm flapping, I turned around to see Josh sitting down on the couch, bobbing back and forth while flapping his arms. I just broke down and cried. I knew at that moment that he had it. He had been bobbing and flapping his arms for weeks now.
At this time, the boys were enrolled in a program for children with developmental delays and they were receiving speech therapy at home. I began asking these professionals, counselors, and teachers in the boys’ lives for information and help since I believed it may possible that Josh had autism.
Some told me it may be too early to tell, while others asked if I had seen that Oprah show, basically making me feel like a neurotic mother. They brushed me off. I wasn’t looking for a diagnosis, I just wanted information and to get ideas for helping him in case this is what it was. I was so afraid that Josh would just one day shut down and I could never get him back. So I decided to take things into my own hands.
First, I tried to educate myself reading everything on the web about autism. One thing I learned was that children with autism tended to become obsessed with certain textures. I began to question one of Josh’s daily habits of crawling under my shirt and popping his head up through the collar. I’d give him a kiss and pull him out from under.
Jack had never did this so I thought maybe Josh was seeking something and I wasn’t understanding what that was. So, I sat propped by pillows on my bed and called Josh over. I encouraged him to crawl under my shirt (yes, I know this sounds weird) and out popped his head out of my collar. I then watched to see what he was going to do next.
He simply laid his head on my chest and just stayed there. I don’t know if it was the skin-to-skin contact, the beating of my heart, or my breathing but he seemed so peaceful there. I began to talking to him and he looked up at me and just focused on my mouth. He started babbling.
We did this on a daily basis and I could see his speech improving. It didn’t hurt that he was also getting speech therapy. The difference was that he was talking to me. So, for the next year and a half, I kept my eye on Josh and mentally noted things here and there.
In the summer of his third year, something happened. I didn’t know what was going on but Josh began getting upset for the oddest things. If he was served dinner, he would all of sudden start screaming as if someone was hurting him.
Even bath time, became excruciating. I didn’t know what was going on but I wanted whatever pain or fear he was enduring to go away. So after meeting with his pediatrician who suggested that Josh may have “obsessive compulsive disorder”, she referred him to a behavioral specialist.
During his appointment with the behavioral specialists I shared Josh’s behavioral history while they observed him at play. They left the room, and came back ten minutes later concluding that it was not OCD but that he had autism.
I remember hearing those words and feeling relief. The specialists thought I was going to become upset at this diagnosis but instead I felt like a burden had been lifted. I had always known that Josh was a little different and watching Oprah that day only confirmed my observations and gave it a name. With this diagnosis I was able to get any and all help he and I both needed.
Today, Josh is doing awesome. Click here to read how he is doing and how he embraces and owns his autism.
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