My son A-Man was a typical little boy. He was obsessed with the ABCs song, he loved to watch Thomas on TV, and he loved to tell people about the world around him.
Then at right around 18 months, he stopped. He stopped singing. He stopped saying “I love you”. He stopped eating foods that he would previously eat without issue.
Don’t worry, this is not a post where I’ll try to blame a vaccine for his autism, but it was unnerving that his development stopped and regressed so suddenly around 18 months.
So naturally, we brought it up at his next check up. We were absolutely shocked to hear what came out of the pediatrician’s mouth.
She blamed our parenting. She spent well over a year telling us that there was no reason for our son’s struggles and delays outside of our poor parenting skills. When we finally convinced her to refer us for a speech evaluation, we began the road towards various diagnoses including autism, dyspraxia, and sensory processing disorder.
When the Doctor Said His Autism Was Just My Parenting
It’s Because You Don’t Make Him
This was the overarching theme of our pediatrician’s opinion regarding my son’s delays and struggles. We didn’t make him do things, so he didn’t.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to “make” an autistic preschooler do anything, but it doesn’t end well for anyone. A-Man has a mind of his own, and there really is no changing it.
See, if she had listened to us and given us a referral, we could have learned more therapy techniques to help us help A-Man to tolerate changes to routine.
She said that he didn’t eat because we didn’t force feed him foods that made him sick. She said that he didn’t talk because we gave him what he needed when he signed, even though it took us months to teach him to use signs effectively.
She made us feel like terrible parents, when really we just needed to learn to work with A-Man’s neurology, not against it.
It’s Because His Brother Talks for Him
Mr. C started talking at right around 9 months, and he hasn’t stopped talking since. He’s advanced and he can be a bit overbearing.
Unfortunately, that made him the target of our pediatrician’s complete denial of A-Man’s struggles.
Because of course, the only reason that our toddler wasn’t talking was because his preschool brother was talking for him.
The issue was, this just didn’t happen. Mr. C talked a lot, trust me, but he wasn’t speaking for his brother. When A-Man needed something, he made it known to everyone, but he couldn’t find the words to use.
These communication struggles typically resulted in extreme meltdowns, which we, of course, thought were just tantrums.
It’s Because You Give Him Attention
How many times have you heard that your child will stop throwing fits if you simply ignore them? Maybe you read it in a blog post. Maybe you hear it from your mother-in-law. Maybe you hear it from an older lady at the grocery store while your kids are screaming.
For many kids this is true. If your child is having a true tantrum, it might help to ignore them and wait until they get bored.
If your child has autism? Bad idea.
See, tantrums are thrown for attention or to get something, but meltdowns happen when a child has too much stimulation and completely loses control. If you ignore an autistic child having a meltdown, they could harm themselves or others.
Giving a child attention when they’ve lost control isn’t poor parenting. It simply teaches your child that you will be there for them, even when their emotions are bigger than they can handle.
It’s Because You Got Divorced
This is the one that hurts the most, even still.
I left my ex-husband right around the time we started to see A-Man’s regression. I moved from a very rough situation to a better one. Looking back after a few years, it was the best decision for our entire family. We’re all better for it.
But in the moment?
When A-Man’s pediatrician said to us that our divorce was likely the cause of our son’s delays? That we had shaken his world so strongly that he was holding onto any possible sense of control he had?
I lost it.
I begged, and begged, and begged for a speech referral. If nothing else, let’s have a speech therapist check him out. I promised my pediatrician that if the speech therapist said there was nothing going on I would drop the whole thing.
The speech therapist turned into a referral to occupational therapy. I explained to the therapists like I had to so many others that my son was not a “bad kid”, that he didn’t want to misbehave, that there was something else going on, and I cried when she held my hand and said, “This is how his brain works. This is not his fault. This is not your fault. This wasn’t your parenting.”
We left that appointment with a diagnosis of dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder.
That turned into another referral to see a developmental pediatrician, and we were told to not be too surprised if we walked out with an autism diagnosis.
Nearly a year later, that’s exactly what happened.
Now I know all about neurodiversity, sensory struggles, and disabled self-advocates. I know that A-Man needs sensory therapy activities spread throughout his day, and I know that he needs a big squeeze when he starts to stim.
I know all of that because I kept fighting. I kept pleading. I became “that mom” at the doctor’s office.
So my advice to you when they say it’s just your parenting? Keep fighting until you find the answer.
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded EditionAutism Every Day: Over 150 Strategies Lived and Learned by a Professional Autism Consultant with 3 Sons on the SpectrumAutism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over the World101 Games and Activities for Children With Autism, Asperger’s and Sensory Processing DisordersThe Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with AutismLook Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’sAutism Spectrum Disorder (revised): The Complete Guide to Understanding AutismUniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
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To learn about other parents stories of recognizing the signs in their special needs children, check out the rest of the posts in the series!
Autism What to Know and Signs to Watch For | Natural Beach Living
How to Recognize Signs of a Mood Disorder in Young Children | Every Star is Different
Sensory Processing Red Flags | Lemon Lime Adventures
Seeing the Signs of Childhood Trauma | STEAM Powered Family
Recognising signs as a first time special needs parent | My Home Truths
Hemophilia, Juvenile Arthritis, and Allergies… Oh my | Grace and Green Pastures
Myths About Recognizing Developmental Delays | Life Over C’s
Recognizing the Signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder | The Chaos and The Clutter
7 Sanity-Saving Tips if You Think Your Child has Special Needs | B-Inspired Mama
Signs That Your Early Reader Has Hyperlexia | And Next Comes L
How to Deal with the Unexpected Learning Disability | Kori at Home
Forgiving Myself for Denying the Signs of Autism in My Daughter | Parenting Chaos
Ripples on a Pond: Warning Signs of Early Childhood Development Problems | 3 Dinosaurs