This is a blog post by Nicole Thompson, mother of 2 wonderful young boys. Nicole is a full-time legal secretary of 20 years, an active volunteer for Autism Delaware, and writer of articles regarding autism and the details of her youngest son’s recovery from autsim for Examiner.com.
From the precious moment he was born, Grant was my “Snoopy”. I am very fortunate that he is my second child, otherwise I might not have noticed his delays and quirks as soon as I did. When he was an infant, I watched him sleep in his crib and I thought to myself “what is different about you, little one?”
Snoopy had what I thought were medical problems of some kind from the time he was a baby. Specifically, he had chronic diarrhea, and an issue of some kind with his ears, as he would constantly cover them tightly with his hands. We made many, many trips to the doctor, and the outcome always the same – “there’s no sign of an infection, he must have a virus”. Finally, blood work and stool samples were ordered, and I was certain that the problem would be revealed. However, to my great surprise all test results were normal. Meanwhile, Snoopy seemed developmentally behind the other children his age at daycare. I attributed his delay to all the forth doctor visits and medical focus, so I allowed a small window of “catch-up” time.
At this point, Snoopy was about 18 months old and had not improved in any way. The other children his age at daycare all walked, talked, played, and interacted with one another. Snoopy walked, but he was often off-balance and he liked to continuously spin in circles. He did NOT talk or even make beginning sounds of words like “ma” or “da”. He was distant at daycare and at home, and he particularly liked to sit by himself and play with toys that had spinning parts. Often, it seemed as if the only two things in Snoopy’s world were himself and his spinning toys. At one point, I remember wondering if he might be partially deaf since he did not even respond to his name.
He also acquired strange behaviors like wiggling his fingers directly in front of his eyes, looking at objects and people out of the corners of his eyes, and he intently focused on things like water or sand sifting through his fingers. (I later learned that this behavior is called “stimming”). He even preferred to view some things upside down like his letter/number puzzle pieces and books. Mealtime was particularly stressful and frustrating. He was he was a “picky eater” to the absolute extreme! I also noticed strange reactions with regard to his vision. He was extremely sensitive to light, both indoors and outdoors. Even on a cloudy, overcast day, he squinted his eyes, or buried his head in my shoulder. In addition, he frequently covered his eyes when he was in an unfamiliar social setting, like the grocery store. He developed a resistance to touch too. He did not even like his hand held.
Now Snoopy was about 20 months old, he had fallen even further behind the other children in his class, and his “medical issues” were even more intense. At that point, I had enough! No more waiting for him to improve, catch-up time was over! My desperate search for answers began. Why couldn’t anyone tell me what I needed to know – WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY SNOOPY?
Snoopy had so many issues, which at the time, I did not know were all classic signs and symptoms of a child with autism. I did not know anything about autism. I did not know that the world of someone with Autism can be very disturbing, chaotic, and overwhelming. I did not know that someone with autism typically has an overactive sensory system (known as “Sensory Processing Disorder” or “SPD”), which robs them of the natural filter that “typical” people have and take for granted. The sense of sound can be so heightened that they are completely bombarded with all kinds of sounds from every direction – no wonder Snoopy walked around with his hands over his ears! The sense of sight can be so heightened that they see everything and everyone in their surroundings at the same time – no wonder Snoopy covered his eyes! The sense of touch can be so intense that a simple hug or touch of the hand, might be unbearably uncomfortable – no wonder Snoopy did not like his hand held! The sense of taste can be so overexaggerated that anything more than a bland cracker or scrambled egg on the tongue cannot be tolerated – no wonder Snoopy spit everything out of his mouth, or just refused to eat! I did not know that intestinal issues are common in children with autism – no wonder Snoopy had chronic diarrhea! I did not know that children with autism experience developmental delays of all kinds – no wonder Snoopy had no speech, and he was a good year behind his little peers!
Now I needed to get to the bottom of what I had been trying to find out for months – WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY SNOOPY? My precious Snoopy steadily slipped away into some strange world of his own. Without a doubt, come hell or high water, and at any cost – I would save my Snoopy!