In 2012 our son Jackson was born and I’ll never forget the first time I looked in those crystal clear blue eyes. I held that stare, that connection for as long as I could. I couldn’t believe we had created something so beautiful, so perfect.
As an academic I felt prepared for Jacksons birth. I read all the books, had a list of milestone and the ages at which he should hit those milestones and felt prepared for anything.
Jackson was on top of things. He checked on the milestone list one by one.
smiling and laughing- check
holding his head up, his larger than normal head- check
walking- way early
talking- early, my baby is a genus
Though J didn’t like to be held; he would respond to his name, he would look us in the eye, and he did talk. So we didn’t worry initially because from what we knew and based on the milestones he reached he seemed to be developing typically, then at around 18-20 months everything changed.
It coincided with a series of ear infections, one after another, until finally after his 5th one we were allowed to get tubes put in. During these 4-6 months of infections I saw my son slowly drift away.
He stopped making eye contact, he stopped responding to his name, he stopped responding at all. As I write this Jackson is 5 1/2 and I think that at 2 he had more words than he does today. The other things that we noticed but didn’t NOTICE were now more prominent. He started to stim (self-soothing behaviors) more often, spinning in circles, jumping up and down on the sofa, and running non-stop. He also wanted to be alone all the time, he became very rigid with the types of food that he would eat, and he was now unable to ask for the things that he wanted and therefore became increasingly frustrated.
At 2 we had him evaluated by Arizona Early Intervention and they agreed that he had a speech delay but they weren’t sure if he had autism. We started speech therapy but all of the other behaviors were weighing on me. After seeing very little progress with speech therapy after a year we got on a list to have him evaluated for autism and six months later we were at the appointment.
“Your son fits all of the requirements for autism.” It was the phrase that no parent ever wants to hear, but I knew that we needed to hear it again. I asked her to repeat it. “Your son fits all of the requirements for autism.” Matt and I sat there in silence; our worst thoughts had been confirmed. Jackson had autism.