Let me mention first of all that I totally agree that early intervention is the best way to go for anyone seeing developmental delays in their child. That said, I would like to relate my experience in this respect. Let’s start at the beginning.
I was blessed with a lovely baby on the 28th of April 2012. He achieved his milestones well in time and we weren’t worried when he wasn’t speaking at the age of 1 years and 6 months. There wasn’t even a single word or the semblance of a word. He did not sign and he won’t know how to ask for milk or food or tell us when he needed to pee or go potty. He understood only the most basic instructions and made no effort to do more. Our complacence was mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, we didn’t have a young child around us to compare him to and then we thought that since he looked okay otherwise, maybe he’s just taking his time. Nonetheless, when he was still not talking at 20 months of age, we were a little concerned. We visited an ENT expert and she assured us that all we needed to do was talk more to him.
Another six months later, DD started school, or rather preschool. When I dropped him off to school, I noticed that he was the only child who couldn’t speak. Some boys were there who weren’t as verbose but none were completely non-verbal. This triggered a panic button for me. For the next two months I rushed from this facility to that, trying to get the best advice available. I live in India which is pathetic when it comes to non-terminal or non-disease based treatments. People don’t know what a syndrome or disorder is and all mental issues are classified as a mental case or low intelligence case.
Since there are no EI plans, here you are pretty much on your own. One of the young doctors in a government facility heard us out and said he suspected ASD. I feared just as much. I had read about autism and my son’s constant need to move, his attention deficit and suspected sensory processing issues just made the diagnosis too simple. Other than his speech (receptive/expressive) disorder and a few of the above mentioned sensory issues, my son was completely "normal" - just like any other kid. He is loving, expressive of his affection, has excellent eye contact and is rather intelligent. Still, the word autism was like a thorn stuck in my soul, it just made every happiness seem sad and dull.
I lived in the mortal fear that my son may not speak at all. However, at 2 years and seven months he started saying papa and then progressed to 3 words in another 8 months. At this time my second child, a daughter was born. Then something clicked and it has been 6 months now and he has learned several single words and can understand almost all that we say to him. The biggest hurdle was that he wouldn’t listen to reason, probably because he couldn’t understand so many words and bargaining tactics (if you do this, I’ll do this/you’ll get this).
He still speaks at a one and half level OR less, but his ability to be able to learn new things improves daily. He can easily put together 5 parts puzzles and can recognize and say almost all his alphabet, so we know he’s not below average in intelligence. I just saw him sitting near his baby sister and trying to make her laugh and I thanked the Lord that my autism scare was unfounded in most parts. Though the word autism still creeps up in my mind often enough, I manage to easily ally my fears. He still very behind in his communication skills but I hope he’ll catch up. What’s heartening is that he is constantly trying to bring that change.
Being a mother makes your weak hearted. I was always a brave little girl and grow up to be sarcastic of any PDA especially that related with sadness or crying. However, my son’s struggle with this aspect of his development, which most children master easily has made me very protective of him and additionally it has made me constantly worried about if my little daughter (who is 6 and a half months as of now) is achieving all her milestones at the right time.
Life will bring new challenges but I can only just hope that all challenges related to my children and meant for my children, be easy on them.