After having made an appointment with a child neurologist per the professional from our county’s Early On organization, I found myself sitting in the neurologist’s office with Jonathan and one of my daughters. Because Jonathan wasn’t speaking, we began using sign language with him so that we could at least help him communicate a little bit. The sign for eat he picked up real fast!
His neurologist examined him and then asked me a battery of questions:
- Does he like or seem obsessed with zippers or buttons?
- Does he line his toys up?
- Is he obsessed with certain toys?
- Do certain sounds upset him?
He asked other questions about Jonathan’s behavior, but those are the ones I remember most. I answered yes to all of the questions. I remember that my daughter and I were amazed that the doctor never having seen Jonathan before knew all about his behavior. The doctor smiled at me and after a little more interview he said: “Mom he is autistic.”
My question: What is autistic?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.
My world came crashing down around of me. I was frightened, not knowing what autism was. I was uncertain as to whether I could help him. I immediately began to worry about his future. I was devastated inwardly. I was quaking outwardly. This little boy, who trusted me and my husband completely had a condition that I knew nothing of. He needed us from the outset of his life, and we were there. He needed us now—I was there but didn’t know what to do. I wondered would he ever speak. More tomorrow.
When you get over the initial shock, take a breath and plunge right in. You won’t drown.