What I remember most about Patrick's second year of life is that he had absolutely no eye contact and you had to have a hand around his wrist ALL THE TIME.
I'm sure other parents thought I was insane. Their children could play within the confines of a park, backyard or laneway. Mine could not. You couldn't put him down next to a vehicle after getting him out of his seat unless you had a hand on him. Patrick was a runner. He was also a climber. You couldn't leave the room even to answer the phone. He would end up on top of the entertainment unit ready to jump off.
I have video from his second christmas and in the background you can hear me yelling "look here Patrick, look at mummy". He didn't.
Even at three he didn't answer "Hi Patrick" nor could he even show you how many 'fingers old' he was. He didn't know that other children could be hurt by him. He was your typical 'bull in a china shop'. He was pretty destructive and even now I have no lamps in my living room, no curtains on the windows and no pretty figurines or other collectables.
Patrick walked early (9mos), learned his vocabulary quickly, and toilet trained on time. I don't think we were in denial. As early as 6 months old we knew he was "different". But we were ok with that. We just did what we had to because he was Patrick and needed different accomodations than other children. Because I didn't realize the difference between having vocabulary and using words in a meaningful way we never even suspected autism. We did think in passing that because of his energy and impusivity that he might have adhd or something similar but decided not to persue it. I wish we had. It would have made life easier for him.
We kept visits short because he would become wild when out of his home environement for too long. We didn't use a babysitter because we knew he would be too much. We dealt with his sleeplessness, we used stollers when we could to keep him safe, and we traded off duties with each other to keep ourselves sane. He was a violent nurser (laughing in retrospect) and bit me often. He didn't cry a lot but was often frustrated and didn't get when you were trying to tell him. He missed a lot of concepts that other children grasped easily. He slept very little.
Patrick started having seizures when he turned 3 yrs old. Shortly after this our pediatrician suggested we refer him for a psychological asessment. She was very honest with me and even used the word autism in that discussion. By Christmas his third year I had done enough reading to know he was autistic. He didn't get his official diagnosis until June this year because of the long waiting lists.
I have to say that age 2-3 was the worst for me. We tried to cope with his 'differentness' with humour but it was a very depressing time for me. I was worn out and completely exhausted. And of course I had no outside support. That would have made a big difference. I think we need to change the mindset that no services are available (here anyway) until you have a diagnosis. All I wanted (and I cried out loud about his many times) was for someone to tell me when he did behaviour A to do B in order to get result C. Nobody would help me.
I thank God for my husband every day because of all the help and support he gave me when I was in the depths of despair. Without him I'm not sure I would have come out the other side. But (in order to balance the gloom of this story) we did come out the other side in fine shape.
Patrick is still autistic (of course). And he's still the biggest challenge I've ever faced. But he's getting Speech and Occupational Therapy. I have a social worker to talk to. He'll have an aid he so desperately needs when he starts Jr. Kindy this fall. Things are falling into place. We're a very happy family and he is a delightful little boy.
He is my joy!