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  • Writer's pictureRob

Recognizing Early Warning Signs of Autism: A Father's Personal Experience

When our eldest son was born, like most parents, we were filled with extreme excitement and overwhelming fear. Parenting was the first job I ever had where I had no idea what I was doing but wanted to be the best I could be. Initially, I looked to other father friends for advice but soon discovered their experiences did not match my own.

As our young son grew, we noticed he was not responding to his name. He also did not elicit a startle response to loud noises or claps near or around his ears. Thus, we were concerned that he had a hearing condition. Still, everything checked out fine when we brought him to an audiologist. I asked my friends, and they could not really relate. Instead, my friends said, "Most kids don't pay attention or ignore you. Don't be too worried."

Reflecting on this moment, I wish my wife and I alerted our pediatrician to this deficit. Thus, my first recommendation is to go with your gut. If you suspect or have the slightest hunch that something is "off," please seek medical attention rather than being swayed by friends and family telling you "not to be worried."

The confounding part of our experience is that our son was hitting other milestones despite these odd behaviors. His speech and cognition between 12 and 18 months were impressive. He could recite the letters of the alphabet and count to ten. He could also spell his name using wooden alphabet blocks. However, soon after reaching his 18-month birthday, we moved to a new town. After that, we began to notice some changes in his behavior. Despite being outside the teething window, we saw increased mouthing of inanimate objects and an even more significant regression in speech and responsiveness.

Fortunately, we found a pediatrician in our new town with a lifetime of experience. We scheduled our son's two-year well visit. During our appointment with the new pediatrician, we discussed these concerns, which prompted the doctor to perform some simple tests. The pediatrician bounced a small rubber ball toward our son. Sadly, there was no response - a total disinterest in the activity. The doctor slid a miniature race car across the floor and was again met with zero acknowledgment by our son. Finally, the pediatrician slammed a few drawers and clapped his hands loudly, but again, nothing. It was at this moment that the doctor said, "Your son may be on the autism spectrum, and you should seek testing with a developmental pediatrician."

Following that appointment, my wife and I began to do some research as to where we could obtain testing for a diagnosis. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were met with extreme wait times. Thus, we made two appointments with separate institutions, just as a failsafe. Simultaneous to this effort, we solicited help from our state's early intervention program.

After months and months of waiting, our appointment day had finally arrived. Following a multitude of standardized pediatric tests, we received our son's diagnosis. Our son was diagnosed with sensory integration dysfunction, social communication disorder, mixed receptive and expressive language disorder, global developmental delay, and autism spectrum disorder.

This was the beginning of our incredible journey. Following receipt of our son's diagnosis and throughout the chaos and roller coaster of emotions, my wife and I hit the ground running. We decided at that very moment that we would do everything in our power to give him all the resources he would need to become the best version of himself.

Still, to this day, I have a hard time digesting all of this, but despite this diagnosis, he is still my son, whom I love entirely. I look forward to sharing our journey in the hope that it will help you navigate yours.

Autism Awareness


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