When Caiden was born nine weeks premature due to my developing a rare condition called HELLP Syndrome, we were thrown into a world we didn't understand. For months I obsessed over the ounces he gained, the milestones he approached, and attempted to rationalize what had happened to us. Over the course of my week on the L&D floor, and Caiden's month in the NICU, his future seemed to blur, only gaining clarity as he approached his first birthday and our lives beginning to return to normal.
However, preoccupied by a drive to get others to understand not only his prematurity, but my own dance with death, we failed to notice the signs pointing us in a different direction.
When Caiden wasn't walking by his first birthday and was weak on one side of his body, I strongly suspected he had cerebral palsy. I had seen countless other preemies diagnosed with it, and from what I was seeing, I thought that had to be it. I felt like one of those parents who thinks their child has some rare, practically unheard of issue that Dr.Google told them about. I knew something was different about him, but it wasn't cerebral palsy.
Trying to ignore the gut feeling I had, more than six months after his birthday, we were shocked into a realization. He's got autism.
Having seen him interact with his cousin, just a few months older, it was apparent he wasn't a normal kid. He chose to play by himself, got mad at the tiniest things, and threw temper tantrums that put all other kids to shame. He hurt himself and others, finding it and all forms of discipline we tried, hilarious. The key, was that he barely talks and forgets the words he does pick up.
A friend mentioned the similarities between her autistic son, and Caiden, so I did some digging. Nearly every website that listed warning signs for an autism spectrum disorder, described him to a T. The outbursts, repetitive motions, lack of communication skills... everything fit.
So we made the call.
June 18th, just three days before Caiden's second birthday, we take him to be evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. At this point, we're fairly certain it is autism. We were told to expect it. At the very least, he is severely speech delayed and will need therapy for that, but will most likely go beyond.
Since discovering that he may fall on the spectrum, my focus has shifted. Prematurity awareness will always hold a special place in my heart, but a year or so after over coming it, the impact it has over your life fades. It was a scary experience, for the first few months, the first year even, but we got past it. Autism, is every single day.
Caiden has been different since he was born at a meager three and a half pounds. Now we begin our journey to discover just how different he may be. Whether he has autism, or some other "issue", he is our son, and we love him regardless of the diagnosis handed down. Some days will be difficult, some will be amazing, but each will be as unique as he is.