The phone rang two days into my son’s first days of junior kindergarten. He was still a baby in my eyes and probably not old enough to go to school anyways at the age of three and a half; heck, he had only just been potty trained! I put him into daycare because he had been reluctant to speak, instead preferring to either scream or look blankly away from me. He was fascinated by music boxes and loved taking them apart to watch the moving mechanics on the inside. When he had said his first words, they weren’t  “mama” or “dada.” Nope, we were in a grocery story and he pointed to a sign that spelled out the word “M-I-L-K”.  “Milk,” he said softly. Hey, that’s awesome I thought as I raced him around trying to coddle him to show off his super reading skills. I was stoked: I mean, after all, I had plunked him down in front of the YouTube Phonics For Babies shows. Must have worked!

An Old Fearless Soul

At nights he couldn’t sleep unless it was completely black and there was not a sound to be heard. Not a whisper or a hum. And during the days, wow, was this kid fearless! He would run and leap, and he would follow anyone around. When I took him to a restaurant he would try to walk up to strangers to see what was on their plates and sometimes he just wanted to look at them– ok, I mean stare. “He has an old soul,” I heard from strangers more than once. He didn’t behave the same as other children, I admit. He would get so wound up and out of control, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief when no one else was at the park when we arrived, and then eventually found myself mentally mapping out every lowkey, unpopulated park in the area. But never once did I stop and think– is it autism? I had a limited worldview. When I was sixteen I been a caretaker of a boy with autism, and he was vastly different than my son. Quiet and reserved, with constant stims — that was what autism was to me.

Have You Noticed Anything Different About Him?

The day I got a phone call from his JK teacher I was at the office. I was busy and cranky. I had lost an invoice for the company and was scrambling to find it. On the other side of the line, a teachers voice said, “Have you noticed anything different about your son? Has the Dr. mentioned anything to you?” “He’s three!” I pretty much snapped at her. Of course, I had noticed some things, but all my friends had unreservedly assured me. “Boys are different!” they would say. And despite what my concerned, I stuck with the reassurance.

Is it Autism?

School got progressively worse. They were calling almost daily for me to pick him up after some meltdown or another. I took a deep breath and booked a meeting with the teacher. I brought her a coffee to make amends for brushing her off that day. In hindsight, she was pretty amazing to notice what she did so quickly and I will forever appreciate her. After our talk, I went home and made an appointment with his pediatrician. “What seems to be the matter?” he asked at the appointment. I described everything that was happening in our lives. He nodded gently then looked at me, “It sounds like autism.” “But he’s so extroverted,” I blurted out. “It doesn’t make sense.” He nodded again. “Any personality can be introverted or extroverted. Just because your son is extroverted doesn’t eliminate the possibility of autism.” I don’t remember how I felt immediately after that except for confused. What I thought autism was, based on what others had said and the boy I had cared for so many summers ago, was not what was happening before me. But you can bet one thing: that night I went home and googled “is it autism?” And so our journey began. How did your journey begin? Did you know right away or were you like me? Do you have an extroverted child with autism?