As the parent of a child with Autism, the most important thing I say to any parent I run across, who has concerns about their child, is err on the side of caution. If you think your child shows signs of anything, it’s better to go for early screening and intervention than to assume it’s just you.
The Monster was our first child – we had no idea, based on our experience, as to what was ‘within tolerances’ and what was truly ‘delayed’. For instance, several of my siblings spoke late, so when the Monster was a little bit behind verbally, neither of us thought anything of it… and we perhaps waited a little longer than we would have otherwise to get him intervention.
And, as one of the dad’s in my support group points out, the only reason he’d known to get help with one of his kids was because he’d already had NT children, and one was outside of his experience as ‘normal’. (Just hammers home the point that parents who have NT children first have a bit of an advantage in self-screening.)
Because we were dealing with the Monster, we held off for a while on having child #2. One of the biggest fears holding us back was the lack of research as to the chances of having a second child with an ASD. The current research when we were trying to conceive implied that it was as much as a 5% chance (where having a child with an ASD is a 1-in-88-or-so gamble anyway)… but with dealing with the Monster’s Autism already, we didn’t know if we’d be game for having to handle two children with special needs. We do know a number of families, through our various networks of friends and support groups, who do have two or more children with issues, so there was definite evidence of the possibility of it happening.
In the end, we obviously decided it was worthwhile, because we do have the second child, who is now closing in quickly on thirteen months old.
It’s very interesting, trying to parent the baby as well as the Monster. There’s our watching for any sign of trouble with the baby. But there’s also the slew of studies we’re in, which keeps the wife running back and forth to Kennedy Krieger for appointments. These studies give us regular exams with the baby that give us ‘objective’ measures of how he’s doing, taking out of our hands some of the guesswork as to whether or not we need to be concerned.
Aside from the occasional, inadvertent typo – the first copy of the latest report said that the researcher was concerned about the baby’s gross motor skills, when it was meant to say ‘was not concerned’ (pending his learning to walk, which he’s on the verge of) – he seems to be developing fine, so our concerns for now seem to be overblown. (Well, okay, there was the critique that he’s a hint behind in receptive language, but that’s our fault from what we can see more than some real issue, and we’re working on that.)