• Chelsea Michelle

I thought I knew what Autism was, until I had my son

Updated: May 26, 2020

There was this saying I heard while I was pregnant. ‘The memories will fade, but you will remember how you were made to feel’. I feel this is true for post partum depression. There isn’t much I remember during my sons first year of life. I look back on my memories and it’s all mostly just blackness.

I remember a month after he was born, my in-laws were in town for Mother’s Day; my first Mother’s Day. They wanted to go sight seeing and to dinner.  I didn’t.  So, I spent my first Mother’s Day alone in bed with my newborn. I remember this day because I was so relieved I didn’t have to play host, or change my clothes, or pretend to be invested in conversations I was too tired to keep track of. Although, my husband forgot to bring me back a doggy bag of food which did leave me famished and sad for lack of yummy Mexican food.

I also remember a night when the baby woke up so mad.  I angrily picked him up and frustratingly tried to breastfeed. I was exhausted, we were having a difficult time breastfeeding. So I was in pain and trying to console an inconsolable baby and myself. I felt depleted, defeated, and completely alone. That night mother and child cried uncontrollably together for 3 hours.

And that’s pretty much all I remember of year one, not much more in year two.

I do remember going to a social event and being apprehensive about going because I knew people would look and touch Jameson. He didn’t like that to the point I almost started wearing a sign while baby wearing that said, "do not talk to or touch my baby".

Early on I became familiar with the term ‘high needs’ and would use this to excuse Jamie’s behaviors to the outside world. As a first time mom with (what I now know was an undiagnosed case of PPD/PPA) it was easy for me to miss his early signs of anxiety. There were a few people who asked if I would get him assessed but I brushed it aside because they just didn’t know my son.

As he got older I excused his social awkwardness; because for the first 3 years of his life it was basically just me and him every single day all day all night. There was the occasional play date but nothing consistent enough to regulate anything. I also had a crippling anxiety over putting him in any sort of daycare.  The low percent of him being abducted or mistreated by a teacher or bullied by other kids became so acute to my mind it ultimately stopped me from enrolling him in any other care besides my own.

Maybe if he was enrolled we could have been assessed earlier. Or maybe not.

There were things I implemented to help us all out, the most significant change in behavior came after I started teaching Tinkergarten classes.  Bringing him to those nature classes showed a vast change in his ability to explore on his own. We started a visual routine for morning and night. Our weeks were filled with something every day.

Mondays Tinkergarten.

Tuesday homeschool co-op.

Wednesday’s tinkergarten.

Thursday’s gymnastics.

Friday’s homeschool co-op.

Then, Saturday’s and Sunday’s were just me prepping for the next week and ignoring everyone.

Eventually, I got so burned out by it all, I stopped doing almost everything.

So why in his fourth year of  life did I decide to get him evaluated?

I guess the defining moment was after his first day of gymnastics, his coach asked me if he was on the spectrum. At that point in time I knew I should really consider what might be something out of my control and even Jameson’s. I have to tell you I felt a bit silly filling out the questionnaire and background history. One because I genuinely didn’t remember his early childhood due to my depression and two there wasn’t anything that screamed “I have autism”. My child asked to be around friends, my child loves to be touched, and kissed, and held. My child initiates conversations and introductions.

Aren’t those the exact opposite of what we know of how autism looks?

So what were the things that made me agree to the evaluation?

Jamie would avoid eye contact not with me but with almost all others.The more you asked him to look at you the more he would look away; almost as if he is no longer capable of looking directly at you.Jamie would spin in circles for 45 minutes at a time.Jamie will only eat dry texture finger foods (with the exception of strawberry yogurt, preferably Annie’s but yoplait will suffice).Jamie will only wipe using one square of toilet paper but it has to be perfect, it can’t have tears in it or be attached to any other piece.  If these things were not just right we would have a full on tantrum, including full body extensions to the point of stiffness.At one point Jamie’s night time routine included him reciting all of the planets over and over again.Now he figits and has to rub every part of his body on my body before going to sleep. -Jamie will stick his whole hand in his mouth over and over.Jamie knew his whole alphabet, letters and their sounds by two. He could tell you all the planets and dwarf planets by the age of two. He has been obsessed with space and oceans since he was two.

All of these signs individually could mean nothing, just the quirks of a young kid. As a stay at home parent these little things and more; that I see everyday made my gut tell me it might be something more. You see, even though there were others on the outside telling me to get him assessed, I felt in my heart that there was more to Jamie from the age of 3. Maybe this was also because the fog of my PPD had lessened but sometimes you really just need to listen to your gut about your children.

My husband was not on board with getting an assessment and actually talked me out of our first appointment because “there’s nothing wrong him, he is a super smart kid”. However,  now we had to wait another 6 months because I knew I wasn’t crazy, there were signs and all together they did add up to something!

I knew to be the best mother to Jameson I needed to have every possible tool in my arsenal. If it was nothing then yes, we are out some money but now we can move on and see how we can alter his behaviors by changing his routine or our parenting style. And if it is something, then let’s move in the right direction to give him all the tools to be a confident and independent individual.

At five years old our son is diagnosed as HFA.

High functioning Autism, this used to be called Aspergers. He has ADD, anxiety, delayed motor and sensory processing skills, and symptoms of a tic disorder.

Ultimately his diagnosis is for me to be the best parent possible to him. It is not something I share with others upon meeting them. It may seem silly then to share it on this platform, however what I thought I knew about Autism and "its' signs" has been completely flipped on its head with Jameson.

So I encourage you to follow your gut wherever it may lead you. There is no reason to feel guilty or think 'if I knew earlier"; you know now and now is when you can help. Now is when you can rise to be the best possible parent to your child. There is nothing wrong with you, there is nothing wrong with your child; they are who they are.

And now I have the tools to be his greatest champion, there is no more second guessing; from this point on there is a well trod path to follow. We may still have some trials and errors ahead of us but we will get through them all, because of the millions of families before us!!!

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