Sentinel Progress

About time for things to look up

Everybody has good days and bad days but it seems like lately, I’ve been focusing way too much on the latter. Starting now, that’s all gonna change.

Actually, not starting now, my new life outlook began on Thursday — when after my son Sam’s pediatrician visit, two years and nine months worth of constant worrying finally came to an end.

From the moment I discovered I was expecting, I was plagued with one fear: Will this baby have Autism?

You don’t “catch” Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) — you either have it, or you don’t. Symptoms may not present for a couple of years but ultimately, you’re born with it.

One in 68 is the national statistic for kids being diagnosed somewhere on the Spectrum but when you already have a child with ASD, the odds drop for future siblings from 1 in 68 to just 1 in 5 — and our oldest son, Ben, has ASD.

One in five, one in five, one in five.

From the time that second blue line showed up on the the pregnancy test that’s all I could think about: one in five.

I prayed Sam would be a girl for the simple reason that statistically, ASD affects girls at a lower rate than boys. When the ultrasound tech tech told us he was a boy — my worry intensified.

Other than an annoying case of gestational diabetes, my pregnancy was uneventful. And when Sam came into the world, I was shocked at how much he resembled his older brother.

I have since gone back and labeled all their baby pictures because it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart — my twins, with three years between them.

Their physical resemblance to each other did nothing to abate my fears. They are so much alike, I thought. What else do they share?

Sam showed no outward signs to me of developmental delays and hit all of his milestones on target: He rolled over, sat up, crawled, walked and began talking all right on schedule. Textbook.

So why was I so afraid? Simple. I didn’t trust what I was seeing.

With the exception of talking, Ben hit all his milestones too. Early, in fact — he was walking at nine months.

I had missed the warning signs with Ben and I didn’t trust myself not to miss them again with his little brother.

There are some things a parent just can’t see, we’re not objective.

On Thursday, when Sam’s pediatrician told me she saw no reason to be concerned with ASD and she truly felt that the “danger period” (most cases are identified between 18-24 months) was behind us — I burst into tears.

The relief that came washing over me was one of the most power feelings I’ve ever felt in my life — I really felt it — this weight, this stress, this panic — it was gone. In an instant.

And all the while, little Sam is just sitting there, smiling at me, and it occurred to me that nothing had changed, only my perception.

Had that doctor told me the opposite and confirmed all my worst fears it wouldn’t have changed how I felt about him one bit.

Bottom line? He’s the same kid he’s always been — it just so happens that he’s neurotypical.

His (non) diagnosis did raise one interesting point that I hadn’t considered until my husband mentioned it: We’ve never raised a child without Autism before.

So just like before, we’re in all new territory, in uncharted space, on a road we’ve never travelled upon.

And you know what? This is one journey that I am looking forward to.

Strickly Speaking

Kasie Strickland

Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Sentinel-Progress and can be reached at Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the newspaper’s opinion.