"When did you first suspect he had autism?"
I get asked this a lot. I don't have an exact answer other than "It's complicated."
I think back to those completely sleep deprived days of new motherhood (Which is different than the sleep deprivation I have now. Back then I thought it eventually he would sleep through the night. The good old days) I cannot for the life of me really pinpoint a moment of "What if he has autism?" I just have these memories now that resurface and it's a moment of flappy clarity. It's still so confusing.
His toddler playgroup. This is where it should of slapped me upside the head with some serious red flags right? Nope. Kiddo was a little older than most of the tots in there. He was already running NOT walking by 8 months and into ALL THE THINGS!!! One of the other moms used to joke how he was in "The Accelerated Program" while her kid just chilled like Buddha on her lap. The Kiddo was fiercely independent from the get go. He just looked at those kids just sitting still and was like "I'm out!". ZOOM! Off he would go and off I would run after him through the kind hostess' house that week. One that would not have been baby proofed to the level we were at yet. The other moms would get a chance to catch up on adult conversation and I would pray to God that he wouldn't break something that week.
Of course eventually all these kids that didn't walk as quickly as he did started toddling. The playing field leveled out a bit and I could go to houses knowing gates were up, Breakables were put out of reach. It got a little easier but then dammit wouldn't you know it those kids started talking. All the sudden words like "Duck" and "Mama!" were yelled out all the time. Kiddo started doing that too. A little later and not as much but he did them. Plus all the nice mommies in the group all echoed that wonderful catch phrase "Early walker, late talker!" See? Not a thing to worry about. It's totally cool. Don't mind me as I clean up the two hundred diaper wipes my son managed to pull out of the box and scattered around your kid's room while your kids actually want to play together, side by side. Keep talking! I'm listening! Oh you're pregnant again? Great!!! (In my head I am screaming "Are they crazy??? They want MORE of this???")
I think back to that last Christmas before we started down the autism road. My husband had set up the tree in our family room while I had the kiddo upstairs doing the dinner, bubble bath and fresh pajamas thing. He turned off all the lights except the tree and told me to bring Kiddo down the steps. I held his hand on the steps as we climbed down one by one. I counted each step out loud to encourage him and he echoed some kind of a hum talk pattern back to me. I remember him in his pale blue fleece footie pajamas toddling up the tree. His eyes were wide and a big smile on his face. He was so happy and decided he needed to add to our tree. Thus started a holiday season of whatever was missing in the house, go look on the tree. TV remote? On the tree. Where did my bookmark go? On the tree. Dimmer switch to lights downstairs? Yep, you guessed it. On the tree. Everyone thought "Oh my gosh! That's so cute! He's helping decorate it!" Now I think maybe he was just thinking "Oh we put stuff on the tree. OK, let me go get some stuff for it." Literal thinking is his way.
So yeah, it's complicated. I have a thousand memories that come back and I think to myself,"Why didn't I know? Why didn't we start this sooner?" It just seemed there was always someone around that made me think it was okay and not worry. I don't blame them. I don't blame me. It just what happened. I can't change the past. It's just a complicated one.