Sunday, August 25, 2013

ABCs of Autism - F

F.  First-born.  Anthony is our first born baby, our first son, our first.  Mike and I got married July 31, 2004 and Anthony was born June 10, 2005, so we were new at being married AND new at being parents when Anthony was born.  The other night, Mike and I were talking about it, when he was a baby.  I can't remember why, but Mike said that he thought no matter what, it was all uphill (meaning better - this is always confusing to me) from the beginning, raising kids, because it was so, so hard in the beginning with Anthony.

I remember the night that I went into labor, Mike and I walked over to have dinner near the downtown mall.  We had dinner and then stopped at a bookstore in the mall and I bought Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block book.  I had seen him on The View that spring, like when I was home from work for Spring Break or something.  I used to laugh ruefully when I thought how lucky it was that I bought that book the night before I had Anthony.  If I hadn't, where would I have been?  He was so, so ... I hesitate to call him awful but he was AWFUL.  He was yelling so much in the operating room where he was born, this nurse said to him while he was cleaning him off, 'you're just mad at everyone, aren't you?'.  It was awful, he never slept, he nursed so much and for so long and I was all chewed up and everyone and their brother said what a GOOD nurser he was and I'd think, how can this be good?  I have never been so scared.  Seriously, no matter what happened to us after that first week, where I never slept and I was so terrified, it was better than that first week.  So that ended up to be good news, anyway.

Also because he was my first born, I didn't get him into early intervention as soon as I should have.  I am not mad at myself, but I do feel like kind of a dope.  I did ask his doctor at every visit and he'd say, he's so smart, keep reading to him and keep talking to him and he'll be fine.  Mike saw our pediatrician after Anthony was diagnosed and he told Mike that it never occurred to him that he had Autism.  He said his idea of someone with autism was that they were so negative and that Anthony was such a positive person, he just never thought that could be it.

If I could do it over, I'd just call First Steps, our early intervention in Indiana, by myself and not wait for a reference.  I thought I had to get permission or something, but I was wrong.  I am not too mad at myself, like I say, and I don't think it's messed up Anthony terrible that I was six months or one year later than I should have been but if I could do it over again, as I say.  I'd do it differently.

Everyone said, he's such a boy!  He's so physical!  He's so smart, he's fine!  Everyone told me about other kids who didn't talk, Einstein, their own child, their neighbor's child, their cousin's sister's brother's husband's child, blah blah blah on and on.  Ever since Anthony has been diagnosed, a lot of people ask me about their own kids, or a friend's kid or something and I always say this - I think the difference between Anthony's delay, a delay that indicated autism, and a regular old delay, is joint attention.  I remember Mike saying that every kid he knew would look up and point if a plane flew overhead and Anthony never did.  He could not follow directions.  One time my sister Laura was over and I asked him to hand me a bag of chips, he had it in his hand, and we were laughing because he just WOULD NOT do it, it seemed so crazy.  Now, of course, I realize that he seriously couldn't do it.  I bet he could now, actually, but there were years where he could just not follow a simple one step direction.

My advice would be like this, if you think there is a possible delay or something to worry about, call early intervention.  In Indiana, you just have to google First Steps, but if you google early intervention in any state, you should be able to easily contact someone.  It takes a while to get started, especially now that no one has any money, but whatever - it is worth it.  As I tell everyone who asks me, just call, have them come out, the worst they can do is tell you there is nothing to worry about and maybe you wasted your time.  If there is a problem, I tell them, then it's good news because all it's doing is making you right and starting you on the path where you need to be.  It's not like if you never call for an evaluation, it's going to make your child not have a delay, it doesn't make it go away or anything.

I'm proud of Anthony every day, I'm glad he is my first born son.  All I've ever done with him is what every mother does, right?  I've done the best that I can, and I continue to.  I do always get nervous when the subsequent children around around 18 months old, I'm always scared that they are not going to talk (which, I mean, has ended up to be ridiculous, especially with Maria and Veronica), but except for that peccadillo I think we are fine.  Anthony is my first born, my first of FOUR kids (which I still can't believe more than half the time), but those girls love him so much - he is the luckiest big brother I know.

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