There I said it.
I said the two words I have hated hearing since approximately a month ago when I first heard them uttered from our pediatrician’s mouth.
There are many things parent’s never want to hear when at their child’s check up. Anything outside of “he/she is doing fine and right on track” pretty much fits the bill of never wanting to hear it. Some things are more easily accepted than others [“Johnny has a small speech delay, but will catch up soon”, “Sarah isn’t walking yet, but it’s ok cause some kids take a bit longer”] — so you worry about those things, but rest assured that things should smooth out sooner than later.
We went in for my son’s routine check up last month. It was for his 15 month check up, two months late, but still his 15 month check up nonetheless. Prior to this appointment I had already spent many appointments in the doctor’s office clearing up my son’s eczema and finding out his allergies [he has a peanut, tree nut, and egg allergy for those curious]. So by the time his 15 month check up time rolled around, I think I had seen enough doctor’s that I put it off for a bit. By the time I called to schedule, I had to schedule 3 weeks out and there you have it.
The appointment itself was horrible. Apparently sometime in those two months without seeing a doctor my son had decided the doctor’s office was the WORST PLACE in the planet. He screamed the second the doors shut behind us until the second we walked back out those doors. I am not exaggerating in the slightest. He didn’t want them touching him, measuring him, weighing him, comforting him, or anything with him. He wanted to leave. Now. But unfortunately, we still had a visit to deal with. So we waited. The doctor waited outside to see if he would calm down with just me in the room and he never did. Not once. Nothing helped him calm down. Nothing.
That was apparently red flag #1.
Red flag #2 came with the admission of his speech. He has a list of words. A few words, mostly half syllables that are the word to him, but they work. He says them when presented with an item (“sha” for shoe for instance). He does not use these words to communicate what he wants to us however. They are just words he kind of knows. Nor does he use them all the time. The most consistent would be “sha”. But the other words are give and take the day if he chooses to use them. I go most days with only hearing “sha” and “nom nom” (when he sees food is present) and that’s it [mixed in with plenty of screaming and crying].
No, my almost 18 month old son does not call me Mama. Nor does he call his Dada. I’ve heard him say Mama a few times — but I’m still not 100% sure he was calling me. I’ve heard him say “Dada”, but I know for a fact it was not talking about Daddy, but me trying to get him to use the syllables.
And there in lies red flag #2. He has words and sounds, but he cannot use them to communicate his wants and his needs.
Those were enough to get us a special appointment with the behavioralist this past week. So she could see exactly what was going on with him.
This appointment went a bit smoother. He still did not want to be touched/weighed/measured, however, he did calm down in my lap a little bit while we waited for the doctor. She appeared and took us back to her room [a nice room full of lots of toys! fantastic right?]. Most kids would have jumped off Mommy’s lap to see all the toys. My oldest would have left me in the dust for those toys. My baby boy wanted nothing to do except sit in my lap. She eventually got him warmed up enough to take one toy from her and to sit in my lap with it. He would not leave my lap for 3/4 of the appointment. It wasn’t till the very end of the appointment did he venture over to the other toys and bring them back to my lap.
His gross motor skills are advanced. This we’ve known for awhile. He can do lots of things most kids his age can’t [he eats perfectly fine with a spoon and a fork — almost better than my 3 year old does some days]. So this was not a worry. The tasks she put in front of him for this skill he passed and enjoyed. He did well with these things.
The red flag here was the lack of eye contact. My son will make eye contact with you on a normal basis. But he does not make eye contact when he is playing with you. He doesn’t really play with you either. Red flag #4 — he does not come to Mommy or Daddy or anyone to play with him. He does not come to us for help either. For example, he has a box of crayons that won’t open, he will sit and cry/scream rather than seek me to help him open it.
Red flag #5 — this comes from at home, but he’s a head banger. As in, he will cry/scream, stop for a second, but his hands on the wall and bang his head, then go back to crying/screaming.
Red flag #6 is the only one I give some discredit to. At the appointment, he hoarded things in my lap. I think part of this was him hoarding out of knowing Mommy’s lap was safe, but I’m not 100% sure on that either. But it’s something to keep an eye on it, just like the rest of these flags.
What does all this mean?
Honestly, nothing at the moment. He’s [almost] 18 months. All of these things could just be delays. They could be things he can grow out of, they are also normal for his age to some degree. The speech delay is normal — lots of kids have it. Hoarding toys is normal for this age. Banging their head is quasi normal and lots of kids outgrow it by 2.
Where is our biggest concern? The communication barrier. The fact that he doesn’t seek us for help. He does come to me all day for love, hugs, etc. He gives me lots of hugs all day. Lots of smiles all day. If I’m sitting on the floor, he will come and sit in my lap in a heartbeat. But he will not come get me to show me the cool toy in his hand, he will not stack a tower of blocks and look back to see my reaction, he doesn’t have imaginative play with stuffed animals, etc. These are our concerns. He can outgrow it all apparently and it could all just be a temporary delay.
But that doesn’t stop the worry. That doesn’t stop all the pamphlets I now have. The future appointments I have scheduled to check up on him.
It also doesn’t erase the gut feeling I’ve had for awhile that something was wrong. I don’t know if my son has autism, is on the autism spectrum, or has any other kind of developmental disorder. I do know I have known for awhile that his behavior was exhausting and frustrating on me. That I felt like I couldn’t get through to him to understand me.
I know it’s not normal that he cries and there’s absolutely nothing that will console him at any given time during the day. I know it’s not normal for him to prefer playing by himself at his age.
I do know that when the doctor told me the possibility of him having an issue, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. It was heartbreaking news, but at the same time it was like somebody said the thing I couldn’t say. I pray he outgrows this and we can work through this and at the same time I pray for strength that I can handle things if he doesn’t.
We have another evaluation to get another set of eyes on him next month. Based on that evaluation will show us our next steps.
I have no idea where this journey will take us. I do know I have an amazing son who I love with all my heart. Who is the sweetest, most loving child. That no matter what they say, what label they stick on him, all of that won’t change about him. Whether he’s normal or not, he will still be the same kid. He will still be my baby boy.