You might ask, when did I first “know” about Liam. Well, I really didn’t know anything for quite a while. I was a new mom and, what did I really know?
Liam was an early riser and not huge on naps. He spit up quite a bit – to the extent that a cloth diaper became my wardrobe accessory for his first 10 months. He walked a little late, but otherwise got around well enough. He sucked his thumb, which can be an indicator, when taken with a ton of other factors. But I sucked my thumb until I was 10, so I thought it was just cutely genetic. He spoke single words early, especially for “a boy.”
Two things, retrospectively, were indicators, however, that I just didn’t know about. First, was his difficulty transitioning to the bottle when I needed to return to work. At the same time, I have heard about this with other infants. He was five months old and just would not take a bottle. We tried all of the standard tricks: someone else giving it to him, different nipples, etc. He was quite stubborn actually. Until I put him in front of a Baby Einstein video. Then, he would literally let me do anything to him. I’ve inserted one here in case you have not had the experience : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HbEejSqE9Y
When we started therapies years later, I would find out that Liam strongly craves visual stimulation. It provides him comfort and “peace,” if you will. The music helped as well, but he loves visual. In fact, we had his hearing tested because, when placed in front of the television, he would act as if he could not hear us at all. A trick I later learned, instead of yelling, was to simply turn off the TV if I wanted him to listen. I still use this strategy today, actually! Craving certain stimuli might explain why many kids on the spectrum are so engaged with video game play. But not all children will prefer visual. Although “weaving” one’s fingers and rocking are also visual. Anyway, Liam took the bottle and I was a happy mom, able to go back to work – than you, Baby Einstein.
The other aspect that I missed was that Liam didn’t use gestures and had what’s called a lack of joint attention. I always share this with teachers with whom I am speaking. He does not use nonverbal language to communicate thoughts and did not point to things to drew our attention to anything – mom, come look at this – type of things. This is actually a big indicator. A colleague once, a psychologist, shared that he was testing two four-year-olds – both non-verbal. The one however had gestures and pointed in response to “show me the….” The other did not. The one without gestures and pointing was the one that the psychologist was more worried about.
At the time, I didn’t realize that Liam did not have gestures or did not point things out to us. He started to use single words early enough that we understood what he needed and wanted. In looking back, however – no gestures. Only a word or now, words.
We survived and learned to listen to him through this time, even if he might have gotten a bit too much screen time – something we negotiate on a daily basis to this day.
Thanks for reading!