by Tracy Sekhon; Founder + CEO of ARTC
As a parent, I watched my child obsessively from the time he was born. I couldn't stop staring at him- from the perfect little fingers to the blue eyes gazing with wonder. It was easy to envelop my world in this little body. He was my "everything", and I was his.
This world of wonder grew as he developed new skills but I couldn't help comparing him to his older brother. His brother was just a bit older (16 months) so it became second nature to compare my younger son's development to my older son. From eating, to crawling, to talking, I compared it all.
When my youngest son was about 18 months there was a dramatic change from how he had been developing previously. These changes created greater concern with me as the gap between my sons became increasingly larger. I began addressing my concerns with his pediatrician who advised treating symptoms of hearing loss. The hearing loss was remedied with surgery and tubes. Even then, he wasn't progressing normally after his hearing was restored.
After being told that he was showing signs of Autism, I took him to our pediatrician, who completed the checklist and advised that his score indicated that he was no to low risk. I knew nothing about Autism until a speech therapist mentioned that she thought something more was going on than his hearing loss. It wasn't until I insisted he give me a referral to a specialist who could diagnose him, that I was directed to UCSD ACE for help.
According to Wendy L. Stone, PhD and Lauren Turner, PhD recent research results, "Compared with children with non-autistic developmental delays, children with autism have been described as less likely to demonstrate early social-communicative behaviors such as making eye contact, looking at others, greeting others, offering and giving objects, showing and pointing to objects, raising arms to be picked up, imitating, and using non-verbal vocalizations communicatively. They are also described as less likely to understand or respond to the communication of others, such as following the point of an adult to an object or responding to their names being called." (http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/autism/according-experts/impact-autism-child-development)
Finding commonalities gave me a sense of reassurance. The parts I had to let go were the general statements and standards of "normal", "typically developing", "neuro-typical". Such comparisons were not helpful to our journey. Here are a few tips, I found, to avoid getting trapped comparing my child with autism to "normal":
Little by little, I learned to love my son for all that he is, not just the parts that seemed "normal". I also ventured into new worlds that embraced what we needed most, which has been love and acceptance.