Trusting My Instincts – My Son’s Early Symptoms of Autism

Kyle & Kristyn 1994

A Unique Talent

I remember watching Kyle, at age two, as he lined up bottles on the bathroom counter. There was something strange about it. He would find every container of shampoo, lotion, bubble bath, or hygiene product I owned, and create a monument. Each bottle was arranged meticulously by height. What was more mysterious was his ability to memorize the numerical position of each bottle. If I asked, “Where is number fourteen?” He would point to it without counting. I’m talking about a two-year-old child. I told myself this was a unique talent, and my son was gifted. Yet I was troubled.

Curious Behaviors

There were other curious behaviors, like waving his fingers in front of his eyes while he hummed. Sometimes he would laugh for no apparent reason, then stop as suddenly as he started. He often did not react to even the loudest sounds, including my calling his name, as though he were deaf. And he was not using language in a meaningful way.

Family members made casual comments. “Do you think Kyle might–do you think he has a learning disability?” They carefully chose their words, and I remember feeling irritated.

“A child with a learning disability doesn’t know his numbers at age two,” I’d reply sharply.

Puzzling Patterns

Yet there were more signs. Kyle would repeatedly arrange any two square objects by placing one diagonally over the other and slightly to the left. His father and I found these designs made with crackers, books, blocks, and envelopes. As Kyle placed the two objects into this pattern, he’d say, “Soooooooo.” It was the same peculiar sound each time.

One morning after I put in his favorite video, I sat stunned. At the beginning of the movie, the trademark of the video production company flashed on the screen. The trademark was one square spinning and landing on top of the other, in the exact position of Kyle’s homemade designs. A loud metallic tone hummed when the squares touched. Not exactly “sooooo” but close. A chill went down my spine. Finally I had made a bit of sense out of his behavior. I now knew what Kyle was trying to recreate, although I didn’t know why it possessed him so.

Looking for Answers

I shared my concerns with our pediatrician. “It’s common for second children not to speak as early as the older sibling,” he stated. When I described the other behaviors, he said, “Yes, children do interesting things, don’t they? I wouldn’t be concerned.” He completely dismissed my worries and sent me on my way.

Trusting my Instincts

I believe as parents we are bestowed with “gut instinct” when it comes to our kids. We need to trust that intuition. Initially, I tried to deny the inner-voice telling me that Kyle’s behaviors needed further investigation. But eventually, my loving parental concern took over. I was determined to find answers and get Kyle the help he needed. With one phone call I changed pediatricians. And that single move brought all the eventual answers and assistance I desired. Had I shrugged my shoulders and accepted the brush-offs of our first doctor, Kyle would have missed out on the tremendous educational opportunities he received. His “head start,” which all special needs kids deserve, might have been delayed. Or else he could have missed it altogether.