First of all I want to start off with a message to all of you fathers reading this (your wife probably dragged you over to the computer and is making you read this—sorry about that). If your child is showing signs of delayed development, get that child evaluated by a team of professionals. If your child is 2 and under, the evaluation is free, regardless of your income.
The worst thing you can do for your child is to ignore the early warning signs. If there is a speech delay, if your child doesn’t look at you, or the child seems unusually withdrawn, you may have a problem. Sitting back and saying things like, ‘Oh, he’s just a boy. Boys act differently than girls,’ or, ‘Late talkers run in our family,’ accomplishes absolutely nothing. I feel confident in saying, in general, that most fathers have a lot of trouble accepting that their child may have a problem. Believe me, I know from experience. For some, such as myself, acceptance takes a little longer.
When my son Ewan was about 6 months old, he just seemed a little different. He was crawling, rolling over, and using the couch to hold himself up as quickly as other 6-month-olds; however, he never really looked at his mother or me like most infants do. He was also living on 3 or 4 hours of sleep at night and did not nap during the day. As we all know, most little ones sleep all of the time. Anyhow, my wife had started to make a few comments about Ewan, saying things like, ‘He never looks at me. And he doesn’t wrap himself around me when I hold him.’ Of course, I just blew if off and said something like, ‘Oh, you’re full of it. He’ll be just fine. Quit worrying so much.’
A few months passed by and my sister-in-law (who happens to be an Occupational Therapist) made the comment, ‘He reminds me of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism.’ I immediately got pissed and raised all kinds of hell with my wife later that evening and I remember saying, ‘There is nothing wrong with my son!! Your sister is full of crap!’ After some discussion, my wife convinced me that Ewan needed an evaluation to determine just how far behind he was in comparison to normally developing children of his age.
To make a long story short, we had the evaluation done (it was painless by the way), and we found out that Ewan definitely had some issues. His speech was seriously delayed, he wasn’t engaging in pretend play, and he was self-stimming (spinning in circles and constantly humming and making weird noises.) Shortly after his eval, we took him to see a doctor that gave us sort of a generic diagnosis. He told us that Ewan was probably not Autistic but he showed symptoms of someone who was on the Autism Spectrum. This really confused the hell out of me but it also was the first time that I accepted the possibility that there may be something wrong with Ewan.
After many months of therapy sessions and countless doctors appointments, I started to become less bitter and every day, bit by bit, I slowly let go of my denial and concentrated my efforts on helping my wife help Ewan get better. My poor attitude towards the initial early intervention evaluation accomplished absolutely nothing. Had we not gotten Ewan involved in therapy at an early age, we would be dealing with a child with all sorts of issues. I remember the first time Ewan actually called me Dad; I had to fight back the tears. Without my wife and without Early Intervention, my son would have much bigger problems.
Bottom line Dads, Listen to your spouse if she says that there may be something wrong with little Johnny and get on the phone with somebody from early intervention to schedule an evaluation. Don’t be stubborn and don’t be ignorant. Failure to ignore early warning signs could damage the possibility of your child living a full life as an adult.
Originally posted in The Autism Life.