“The baby doesn’t want me. I’ve tried everything. TAKE HIM.”
My husband opened the front door to our small trailer. Thrusting our screaming newborn into his chest, I stormed to the bathroom and sobbed in the shower.
And yet, I couldn’t make the water hot enough to melt away the knot in my chest.
“And yet, I couldn’t make the water hot enough to melt away the knot in my chest.“
My Child’s Autism Diagnosis- Brittany’s Journey
Perhaps that scene resonates with you in ways words can’t describe. Maybe, like Brittany, you’ve always known something’s different about your child.
So in the hopes of encouraging and supporting you, this mom of 2 shares her journey seeking her child’s autism diagnosis.
Specifically, Brittany shares the signs of autism throughout the first 7 years of her son’s life.
So let’s grab hands with a fellow momma and child. May we humbly move forward (from wherever our starting point may be) together.
Early Behavioral Signs of Autism
My friend and her little boy were visiting. Her son was two days younger than mine. We sat them down in the living room each with a toy while we chatted.
I turned to load the dishwasher, but immediately regretted it. My friend’s sudden gasp told me everything.
Her son was playing quietly with the toy he’d been given. My son was on the second shelf of the entertainment center, precariously perched and eyeing the next shelf.
He was hanging 4 feet above a stone hearth.
My Child’s Autism Led To So Many Rules
It was one of two nights each week Daddy was home and not on the road.
My hubby was trying to help with the bedtime routine, but he wasn’t doing it right. I loathed being “that mom.” But our son had rules.
“He doesn’t like bananas any more. You have to give him apple slices. Peeled. No core. Make sure the hard parts are cut out of the center…
That’s the wrong plate.”
My Child’s Sensory Struggles, Itchy PJs & Autism
I desperately needed a meltdown free evening.
“It’s 7:45, he needs to get into his PJs. Not those, he won’t sleep in them.
… I don’t know, he says they “itchy” him.
Not those either, they have a regular tag. The Carter’s should work. No appliques.”
Sign of Autism- The Unyielding Routine
8:00, it’s time for his night night song. Remember:
Row, Row, Row Your Boat,
THEN Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,
THEN Jesus Loves Me.
He won’t sleep if they are out of order.
Confusion & Judgment On The Journey To An Autism Diagnosis
Two and a half.
Meltdowns in front of witnesses. The worst kind. No one said anything, but their glances were CLEAR.
That kid needed an “attitude adjustment.”
Maybe I was just doing it wrong.
Autism Meltdown Or Toddler Tantrum?
In my attempt to escape, I grabbed him and ran into the public restroom.
His little body was rigid with fury.
The attitude adjustment wasn’t working.
Then the shame and guilt flooded my own body.
Why had I ignored my instincts and worried about what people thought?
I sat down and pulled my beloved rage monster into my lap. He was so stiff. So, so angry. And then he melted.
I sobbed into his hair as his tears soaked into my shirt.
Your Kid Is “Behind”
Five Years Old
“Mrs. Morgan, he’s older than the other students, but his fine motor skills are way behind. And we have concerns about his social skills too. He’s SO smart though! We love having him in class.”
The Pre-K teacher’s eyes were heartbreakingly apologetic.
When The Experts Can’t Help Your Kid
Five and a half
“We can’t make headway on the fine motor without having some behavioral evaluation.
I’m sorry, but we need to discharge him from OT for now.”
They could’ve told me this before I paid for the appointment.
All The Testing: My Child’s Autism Diagnosis
I hit play on the voicemail app and immediately regretted it. The evaluator droned on and on listing an unending barrage of test results.
I couldn’t process it all.
School System Fails Special Needs Kids & Doubts Mothers
I sought services from the public school system.
Well, I know this is what the evaluations said.
But in my experience, he’s just an active little boy. I don’t think we need an IEP at this point.
He’ll grow out of most of these behaviors.
As Long As He’s On ADHD Meds
The school psychologist sat back with confidence that she knew more than me.
Nah, I don’t see any cause for concern really. I think he has a lot of positive qualities.
As long as the ADHD meds are on board, I think he’ll do fine next year.
Autism Is Widely Misunderstood
Below Brittany points to the obvious but widely unknown.
Autism is extremely complex and often looks very different from the Rainman persona widely accepted.
Don’t take no for an answer when you know otherwise. God chose you for a reason, Sweet Friend.
Read on as Brittany points to her son’s strong social awareness and vocabulary.
Many pediatricians and educators are unaware of the nuances of autism (especially in girls).
(For more on speech and language development, read How To Homeschool A Struggling Reader: The Mother of All Guides).
A Mother’s Intuition Knows:
My mind raced through the Rolodex of my memory for what seemed like the billionth time.
- 5 weeks: Huge smiles and the most alert eyes I’d ever seen on a newborn.
- 8 months: Already cruising along furniture, crushing gross motor milestones.
- 18 months: 3 months into full sentences, constantly shocking us with hilariously big words.
- Two and a half: Complex imaginative play, an infectious laugh, and insight beyond his years.
- Five: How does one kid KNOW so much? He sounded like an adult half the time.
- Six: He desperately wanted to do a good job and make us proud. Were we putting too much pressure on him?
- Seven: I started working again. Routines were off. Maybe that was the real issue, and I was just blowing the other stuff all up in my head again.
I Know My Kid
But my gut. My gut wasn’t buying a word of it.
Every mom instinct was screaming that this assessment was wrong.
In nearly 8 years of raising this skinny, snuggly, dynamic, and hilarious human, I know him better than anyone.
I know my boy because, for seven years now, I’ve been his safe place.
Childhood Timeline That Only Mom Knows
I’ve been there for all of it.
- Endless laps paced across the floor trying to get him to sleep.
- Snuggled under my chin
- On my chest
- As soon as I put him down, the screaming would start again
- Rigid routines that I resentfully championed-
- These were his signs that all was right with the world
- Structure => Comfort
- His volatile emotions were too big for his little body-
- His only safety was in my snuggles
Children Can Speak For Themselves- Autistm Diagnosis or Not
At 7, he’s old enough to ask for those cuddles to help him self-regulate.
He now can communicate his need to bury the panic of intrusive thoughts in my (sometimes forced) calm assurance.
When everyone else wants to gives up, Mommy helps him slays the chaos of sensory overwhelm.
Another Specialist & The Autism Diagnosis
I find myself sitting in a well-appointed office. Yet again, we’re here to see another specialist and I cling to hope built on glowing referrals.
And finally I hear those words:
“Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1. Used to be called Aspergers.”
“But, you already knew this.”
I nodded with a small smile, tempered by sadness but overwhelmed with relief.
Yes… I’ve known since he was two.
Special Needs Moms Arming Themselves For IEPs
Even with my child’s autism diagnosis, the frustration and overwhelm never cease.
I’m still compiling the notes from all the different specialists, arming myself for yet another round of IEP meetings.
And the day to day is still fraught with meltdowns and overwhelm. For both of us.
But I will be, as I’ve always been, my son’s safe place.
I don’t know what life will look like for my son at ages 10, 15, or 25 will be.
Will I reflect back and regret decisions I’ve made? I’m sure I will, but I know there’s grace for all of us.
Will I ever see the bow that ties this together into some greater meaning? The silver lining?
I’m not sure.
But I have absolute certainty that —woven throughout— we’ll see strands reflecting the mother-son relationship that anchored us both.
I’ll rest knowing that I’m his safe place.
Brittany Morgan is a lifelong storyteller and word enthusiast. She started copywriting professionally in 2006 and went full-time as a marketing strategist for non-profits in 2016. But she mostly really likes Oreos (DoubleStuf or go home) and her kids, who will probably bust in demanding an iPad password at any moment.
Connect with Brittany at Brittanyhmorgan.com
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