Autism Unplugged

I want to write a little bit about autism today because I’ve had a couple of questions this week and a surprised look from someone when Colin did what any kid his age should have been able to do.

Autism used to be a scary, scary word to me.  I used to think of kids who could not talk or move or respond.  Then when I was pregnant the image became kids who would not touch or hug.  Honestly it was the one thing of which I was most afraid.  Birth defects or childhood illness did not phase me — but if my child could not respond to love or affection . . . I wasn’t sue I could handle that.

I thought Colin was the most brilliant baby in the world.  Before two he could identify all kinds of shapes including hexagon and octagon.  He read very early.  He loved to repeat the words in books.  He wasn’t a particularly huggy, love-y kid — but they aren’t always.

He was about three when I started to notice that he didn’t seem to be keeping up with the other kids any more.  His language was strange.  He spoke in phrases he knew from TV or that had been repeated to him.  When he was upset he would cry out, “Ernie! Ernie!”  I didn’t understand until one day when we were watching Sesame Street Bert became (typically) frustrated with Ernie (for playing his bugle in the middle of the night or whatever Ernie tends to do) and Bert shouted out, “Ernie!  Ernie!” Then it clicked.

We went to a preschool screening and Colin did everything asked of him.  He could stand on one leg.  He could put the puzzle together.  He could whisper the shapes and the colors, but he failed the speech portion of the screening.  I don’t remember what he was supposed to do.  Have a little conversation with her?  She asked if we would like to see the early childhood specialist and we did.

She asked me a million questions.  Did he need routine?  Yes.  Did he like to spin things?  Yes.  Did he still still walk on his toes a lot?  Yes.  She sat on my couch and said, “I’m not really supposed to say this right away, but Colin displays the markers for autism.”

I looked at her with tears in my eyes and said, “I know.”

Because I did.

This was harder to remember than I thought it should be.  Let’s talk more about this on Wednesday.

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