This last year has been a definite emotional roller coaster for us. Shortly after our little Skyler turned one we began to notice that there was a delay in his speech and little quirks in his behavior. While we heard tales of other kids his age delivering graduate level dissertations we were lucky to get Skyler to play patty-cake. It was never that it seemed like he didn't understand things that we said to him, it was always more that he was just too dern stubborn to pay attention. He would spend most of his time walking on his tippy toes (giving his toned calves that would make professional kick boxers jealous) and bouncing up and down flapping his arms when he was happy. He was very stand-offish to most people other than us and wouldn't really give us much emotional involvement (we were lucky to get the occasional hug from our little boy). Skyler seemed to be a sympathetic crier who would be set off at the smallest sign of someone else being upset. Some of the things that he would do at one point he had stopped doing altogether (like saying "Ready, Set, Go!"). He had shown no real interest in things like birthdays, Christmas, or presents and would always play alongside, but not with, his cousins. In talking to other people and with my experience that I've had as an aide for a special ed kindergarten, we came to the realization that he might have a form of autism.
The realization that there might be something unusual about our little boy was a very hard thing to consider for us. We wanted to make sure that Skyler was well taken care of, but we didn't want to think that there was anything "wrong" with our little boy. The thought was too much to handle for us. We clinged on to the thought of it "just being a speech delay" as much as we could, hoping for the best for our little guy. In a check up with our pediatrician we voiced our concerns about Skyler's possible autism. The pediatrician ignored our question for about five minutes concentrating only on what he wanted to concentrate on. He then asked us two or three brief questions and replied with, "it's probably nothing". This is not the answer that we were looking for. Needless to say, we decided to change pediatricians and a couple of weeks later on the new pediatrician told us that there was a very strong likelihood that he had some form of autism.
That night is the hardest night that Amanda and I have ever had. We cried for hours just thinking about the possibilities of Skyler not having a "normal" life. We worried about how school would be for him, how he would deal with dating, if he'd be able to get married, if he'd be able to go to college, if he'd be able to hold down a steady job. We worried about how we as parents would be able to raise him and had doubts put into our minds in our own abilities and whether or not we could handle the future.
A few months later we were able to see a doctor up at the U who observed Skyler and ran some tests. The doctor gave him a general diagnosis of autism, but said that the intelligence is there to make it more likely Aspergers syndrome or PDD. With the doctor's diagnosis and most of the emotions behind us we were ready to do whatever we could to help our little boy. We set him up with appointments from "DDI Vantage" and put him on the waiting list for the Pingree School for Children with Autism. We have gotten together with some good friends who have a child with Aspergers and have been able to see how well he is doing. We have found so much support from friends and family to help us through the hard times.
We are now working hard to do everything that we can to help our little boy in his growth and development. We have been for several months working with the DDI Vantage program to set a course to help Skyler to grow and succeed and we have seen great changes in his behavior. He has completely opened up to others, getting up to sit on his uncle's laps and cuddle next to grandpa. The steps backward that he had taken with his speech are starting to turn themselves around slowly but surely. He has become more affectionate with us giving us kisses on the cheeks and wanting to cuddle for long periods of time. He has begun more and more to communicate with us and show us what he needs rather than whine with no indication of what was wrong.
All in all, over the past year we have realized that there is nothing "wrong" with our little boy. He has some difficulties ahead of him and we know that some other people will not know how to handle him. We know that others may develop more quickly in some ways around him. We realize that he may not have an 800-word vocabulary at the age of 2 while other kids may, but we are seeing more and more just how smart he is in so many other ways and we are confident that our wonderful child can and will lead a perfectly "normal" life.