It was 2006. I gave birth to my second child. This was my first born boy. My other child was a girl and age 4. The first born child was easily reaching all milestones, talking ridiculously well at age 2 and advanced in so many ways. I knew the first born daughter was advanced, so when it came to raising another child, I had no idea what the norm was. My son came into this world weighing 9lbs 5oz and being around 19 or 20” in length. My son nursed so frequently that I ultimately gave up on breast and turned to formula when he was around 8 weeks of age. The boy would eat 16oz before even being able to fall asleep for just a few hours at a time.
Life was hard. I walked around with little to no sleep most days for around four years. The struggle was real.
Looking Back – Signs of Autism
While I am not sure if the lack of sleeping was a sign of autism, I know that my son had other characteristics of autism that went overlooked. For example, my first born son needed to have a specific colored bottle for each type of drink. I am uncertain of the exact colors that were for each drink, but he had to have one color cup for juice, one for milk and one for water. If you handed him let’s say the red with juice in it, but the red was normally for water, he would have a total meltdown. He would throw himself down after tossing his cup and proceed to be immensely angry. This was a huge part of his life, often easily angered. We had no idea what to do.
Mental Health Questions
Since bipolar and other mental health issues run heavily in my family, I simply presumed he had a mood disorder. That’s all that made sense to me, for I had no experience with autism, only mood disorders as I watched my sister grow up being bipolar. Most of the signs my son exhibited to me, were that of someone who was bipolar. Funny thing is, he was actually diagnosed ADHD, Bipolar then finally around age 8 we received a high functioning autistic diagnosis.
Signs of Autism In My Opinion
- The need to have a specific cup for specific drinks at all times – highly routine driven.
- Hated Loud Songs, like Happy Birthday song to him, assuming this is part of autism? To this day you cannot sing him Happy Birthday for he hates it with a passion and he’s now 10.
- Toilet training didn’t occur fully until he was around age 4 years 3 months, that’s only because the pediatrician said it’s been long enough of waiting, let him go diaper free.
- A delay in fine motor skills. To this day my son is 10 and still has a fine motor skill delay. We had him attending Occupational Therapy once a week for years to work on this.
- Inability to have empathy without being logical told how to be empathetic. This means he has learned to have empathy but it’s a difficult road to get him to continue to have this concept mastered.
- A huge love of animals, his dog Jenny sleeps with him every night. Having Jenny the pug sleep beside him was really the first time he started sleeping fully through the night on a regular basis. To this day, my son loves animals, insects, etc more than anything else beyond YouTube!
- The absolute need for routine, it’s better now that he’s older, but for most of his life he couldn’t have unexpected events happen. For instance, you could go tell him to get his coat on because we were going to head to the store if it wasn’t planned, he would have a meltdown.
My memory may fail me often, so each of these examples are just a few that I recall having to deal with and some days still deal with as signs of autism.
Not Every Child with Autism is the Same
There are many different signs of autism and the autism spectrum is long, it even includes some mood disorders. So let’s say bipolar is something you are figuring out, this happens to fall closely within the autistic spectrum from what one family counselor told us years ago. You see, my son had many signs of autism but not nearly enough to get a full proper diagnosis until we met with a psychologist whose son has Asperger’s. She knew almost immediately upon meeting my son that he was on the spectrum. The way he rocked when in the room with her, the ticks he has when excited about something and his way of speaking with lack of eye contact. Those are all signs he had back around age 8 when we met with a psychiatrist who specialized in this area of mental health.
Keep on Fighting – Your Child Matters
If you are struggling with some of the things I had struggled with and you see a sign of autism in your child, my advice to you is to continue fighting. Do not take medications for your child thinking it will fix it. Trust me – my son was placed on some heavy duty anti-psychotic drugs and others from ages 4 up until age 8 when we walked away from medications completely and simply made lifestyle changes. The medications have left this boy with everlasting side effects that I won’t disclose as that’s his personal medical information. The road was rough, but we continued to meet new counselors and psychiatrists until finally we had an answer and a way to move forward that made sense!
Keep fighting for your child, you are the only one who can influence what happens in their life and it is your job to continue the long, sleepless night battle until you feel resolve.