What are the signs anyway?
The first baby...Gabriel.
Every parent thinks their child is perfect, especially on that very first day. I was no different. After fourteen hours of labor, I was holding my seven pound twelve ounce, twenty inch long baby boy for the first time. He was perfect. He had dark brown hair, blue eyes, chubby cheeks, ten fingers, and ten toes. Best of all, he was mine. He was beautiful. The first few months Gabriel was like any other baby, he slept, ate, and slept some more. I was exhausted from being up all night, but that was normal. By three months babies typically start sleeping through the night, not Gabriel. I spent half the night awake with Gabriel. He screamed all the time. He never wanted to be rocked and the swing made him sick. By four months, it was more of the same. He was reaching mile stones just fine. He could roll over and was starting to sit. When I stood him in front of something, he could hole on and stay standing on his own. He was just busy. When Gabriel was six months old, he spent almost all the time crying. He never slept, never wanted to be held. He was only quiet at bath time. He was always hungry but never nursed for more than ten minutes. He couldn't seem to handle the closeness. I was devastated. I thought I had failed to bond with him properly. That I wasn't doing a good job. When he was six months old, we found out that he hadn't gained any weight between his three and six month check up. He was underweight and needed to start eating as soon as possible. When I got home, I gave him cereal for the first time, a bottle for the first time, and was relieved that he was sleeping at nap time. I tried not to blame myself for not knowing I had run out of milk on him and tried to move forward and do all I could to keep him healthy from that point on.
"Mom, it's the strangest thing. When he tries to grab his toys, he can't seem to stop opening and closing his hands." It used to take Gabriel forever to grab the toy he wanted. He would open and close his hands rapidly which just raked the toys. Once he picked up the toy, he could get it to his mouth and manipulate it like any other baby. The doctor wasn't worried, so we weren't either. We joked, "what is he, autistic?" Shortly after he turned nine months, Gabriel got control of his hands. He picked up a toy on the first try and did a 5 piece shape puzzle. Now we knew, there was nothing wrong, he was just really smart.
"Mom, he's not crawling, should I worry?" Gabriel was late crawling. He didn't seem interested. He was happy with his pile of toys all around and didn't see the need to follow me from room to room or get the toys that were just out of reach. Again, no need to worry. He was saying three words, strange words for a baby, but words, "ball, shoe, night night." When he was one year old, I walked out of the room at my friends house to get water and left my keys on the floor. Gabriel crawled across the room and got my keys. She was in shock. I was relieved. Gabriel had to be normal, he just didn't show us anything until he was sure he could do it right.
We got used to Gabriel doing things at his own rate. He started talking on time and other than walking, always scored six months ahead of his age on the pediatric developmental questionnaires. He was fourteen months old when he took his first steps, and then he was normal, smart, but normal.
2 years old
When Gabriel was about two, I decided to try potty training. He had had horrible constipation over the past year (which I was still in the middle of dealing with) and I thought it would help if he was potty trained. I used the three day method. The first time unsuccessfully and the then again six weeks later successfully. Within three days the second time, I could do groceries and go most of the day with only one or two accidents. Soon after, we unexpectedly moved and he untrained as fast as he had trained. No matter what I did from that point on, Gabriel would not retrain. We were back in pull-up land and to make it worse, I now had two boys. Jude had been born. Gabriel was fascinated by Jude. He loved him the moment he met him and had a nurturing side I did not expect. He fed Jude bottles, tried to hold him, talked to him when he was upset. Again, we chalked everything up to circumstance. Gabriel had gone through many changes in a short span of time. It is normal for toddlers to regress when you move or a baby is born...right?
3 years old, four months...
Another year has gone by. Gabriel is still not potty trained. His brother has gross developmental delays (now 18 months old and not walking or even babbling). My younger son was receiving early intervention through the Moore's Center. Once a week, a therapist would come to my house and work with Jude. Gabriel was wild. I had all I could to do keep him occupied for a minute. He was testier than any other child I have ever met given that I was very consistent with him and did not tolerate poor behavior. Neither boy would sleep through the night and Gabriel was trying to give up naps too. The only quiet time in my house was between 11pm and 4am despite a strictly enforced 6:30pm bedtime and mid-day nap time. I was running on empty. I thought I was failing as a parent. That's when the therapist came to me with her new concerns about Jude. Apparently, he spent too long playing with one toy. Liked to spin them a little too much, and didn't look at her when she talked to him. We had ruled out hearing problems, but he still had no words or even sounds. She suggested we have him screened for autism. There was more. She was reluctant to tell me because Gabriel was not her patient, but all the hours she had spent in our home had given her time to see a lot of Gabriel too. Her suggestion was that I get both boys screened because Gabriel had a lot of red flags. She suspected Asperger's Syndrome.
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