I held him in my arms smiling and trying to get his attention. This precious gift, this tiny baby that I longed to make a connection with. He wouldn't look at me. No matter what I did, he refused to smile back at me or at anyone for that matter. He wouldn't play with his image in the mirror. All my babies loved that, why didn't he? He was quiet. Most people would consider him a "good" baby. No tantrums, no screaming, mostly just quiet.
Deep down I knew something was wrong. I watched him grow. I carefully took note of things that just didn't seem right. He didn't point at things he wanted or look at what I would point at. He wouldn't sit up until 11 months, why wasn't he sitting up? He would throw his head back and forth and flap his hands. He made some sounds, but wasn't really babbling a lot. No words like "Mommy" or "Daddy". Just silence. So I researched a little. Just curious, not sure, but wondering...Could it be the A word? Was it too soon to even consider the thought. Many people thought so. Many people say boys just take a long time to develop. "Don't worry, he is such a good baby" they said. But I knew better. I knew something wasn't right.
At 15 months I did something about it. I wrote everything down that I could remember and I took him in for an evaluation with the pediatrician. She sent us to the Neurologist where it was confirmed that Jacob had autism. It was the most terrifying day of my life. Hearing those words. I cried harder than I ever had. I was clueless about what to do next.
Since then, though, I have learned a lot. I looked up information on the Autism Speaks website. I learned about early intervention and ABA therapy. I realized autism doesn't have to be as scary as it seems. Parts of autism are beautiful. The way he sees the world, the joy and laughter he brings to our family. Its priceless. He is so much more than his autism. He is a little boy who loves trains and puzzles and playing on the ground with his Daddy. He loves lining up his toys so they make sense to him. He loves doors and cabinets and the way they move. He loves being outside and he loves music.
On the other hand, he can't tell us how he is feeling. He can't tell us what he wants to play or explain that when he says he wants milk, sometimes he actually wants water. He can't tell me no. All questions are answered with a yes, even when he is trying with all of his heart to say no. He can't stand when a door is left open, it seems like it physically hurts him. Sometimes he has repetitive movements that hurt him, he wants to stop, but I can see that he just doesn't know how. When he hears a dog bark, he covers his ears and cries even when its far away. He bolts. The minute he has a chance he runs in any direction as fast as he can.
What is autism? Why does he have it? What can I do to help him become more independent?
These are the questions that every mom of an autistic child asks herself. These are the reasons why our family is involved in "Light It Up Blue". We want to help find answers. I specifically want to show people how important it is to learn all of the early warning signs of autism so that they can begin getting their children help as soon as possible. The brain has more plasticity when a child is under the age of 5 years. This is the best time to get intensive early intervention. This gives autistic children their best chances of independence in life. Help spread awareness to help autistic children. Its so important. Help children like Jacob learn to speak and learn to live a more independent life.
Light It Up Blue tomorrow by wearing blue or purchasing a blue light bulb from the hardware store to show your support. Visit autismspeaks.org to learn the early warning signs.
If you'd like to donate to Jacob's Team: Hunting For A Cure please visit www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/houston/cretandallison Your donation is tax deductible and goes directly to Autism Speaks to help fund the needed research for children and adults on the Autism Spectrum.