Autism Story

Early Signs * Diagnosis * Current Interventions

We have had a pretty wild journey. I might tell you some of the stories down the road but for now I'd like to just get you up to speed on the main points of the process. The questions that I'm asked about most frequently are those that lead to these kinds of answers.

Early Signs

Well, I guess this is my best place to add this fact. I come from a blended family and my youngest sister has autism too. Being a blended family, I lived with my mom and one sibling in one state and I would visit my dad and other siblings in another state. So I didn't see her as much, and at that time I just grew up knowing her. I learned very little about the range of symptoms and spectrum etc., I just learned about her by being with her. As many of you will probably already know, autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning there are varying symptoms and severity from one case to another. As my son developed and I saw things that I thought weren't right I thought, "Wow, that's just like my sister." But Josh is higher functioning than she is so I would see something else and think, "See! Now that's nothing like 'Binky', I'm just being a paranoid mother!" So I would then ignore what I thought were some minor differences.

For the most part Josh developed normally. He hit most of his milestones on time or even early. There were only a couple of them that he didn't hit and it was related to speech later on. Mostly what I saw that was different were things like how he chose to play. He got a little ride on toy when he was a toddler and instead of riding it he would flip it over and spin the wheels. Or he would get some Hot Wheels and he would stare at the package for a long time. Then when it was opened he would have to keep all the cars together and they had to be lined up in the right order. Meaning in the order that they were packaged in. Say, he wanted his cars and he found 3of them. Then, for instance the red one was missing he would scream "RED! RED! RED!" over and over 'til we found the red car and then he could line them up and repeat the order. "Orange, blue, red, white. Orange, blue, .........." You get the idea. To calm many babies/young children you can sing to them. For him that could work sometimes but if you wanted a sure fire way to sooth him, start counting. He would walk on his toes. My grandpa thought something was wrong with his feet. He could talk and had an amazing vocabulary but he couldn't have conversations. He also has a lot of problems with sensory input, which is common. One thing that happened that really caught my attention on this was when he was on my grandpa's patio and he pushed a swing hard and when it swung to him it knocked him flat on his back on the cement. Obviously he got a hard crack on the back of his head, but he just lay there for a minute and then got up and kept playing. Never made a sound, never grimaced, or anything that showed even discomfort much less pain.

It was just a lot of little things like that and they just kept piling up. I know they sound like a big deal together, and there were moments that really stood out as a problem to me but at that time I didn't know what to do about them. It was enough to have me off balance but only enough to make me think I was just being paranoid.  If I did express concerns I got the response that this person I was confiding in thought that I was just being a paranoid parent, which then made me feel more crazy for worrying about him. Of course these were people that had some knowledge of kids, but not special needs in particular, and they didn't know him. With minimal observation the right people knew what was wrong. (Lucky for us, there is more awareness now than there used to be.) 


Many people were starting to notice that things weren't right. Fortunately for me I have some very compassionate, and also well informed family and friends. Unfortunately, however, they were nervous that I would be offended, or maybe even incensed, if they were to approach me to tell me that they thought maybe my son could be something other than a typical child. So one day, a brave soul printed a couple of symptom checklists for a self evaluation. It wasn't my happiest day, but I was actually relieved that others were seeing this too, and that I really wasn't crazy. But no parent is ever happy about this kind of realization that "normal" is forever down the toilet.

The next step we took was to call the local school district and get an evaluation of his development. I know that your first thought might be "why not a doctor?" but my thoughts at the time were of intervention and medication is not my cup of tea. So the school's response was that Joshua did meet their qualifications for starting in an E.C.D.D. (Early Childhood Development Delay) class and he was enrolled in school immediately. (Which was months into the academic year.) At this point he was age 3. It was a year later that we got an evaluation done by a psychologist, which produced a formal autism diagnosis. 

*A quick side note here for those just starting down this road, I do recommend this approach for a couple of reasons. They may not apply to everyone's situation but they did to ours and many others I'm sure. One is insurance coverage (or not enough coverage, as the case may be) and the other is the very slow moving process that more serious diagnosis requires. Going to the school solves that because they don't care what the diagnosis is (to a point) and as a public school they are required to meet the needs of the children in the district (within reason) and do that for free. When they do their evaluation all they do is get information from the parent about the child and observe/interact with the child a bit. From there they will decide if they think there is a delay and if so, does it meet criteria to place the child in an early intervention class. Fortunately, this class comes with speech therapy, and occupational therapy as well. (At least in our state it does.) Not that it's a lot but it's sure beats nothing. Which gets you around that pesky insurance coverage problem to get therapies approved. You do need to see the doctor and get that ball rolling too, but there's less pressure to make it happen quickly because you're already intervening.

Current Interventions

Coming Soon