Autistic teen, worried about toddler

Hi everyone, 

I am new here and looking for some advice and support. I have 4 children- a daughter 7 (with ADHD and learning difficulties but not autism) and three sons- 13 year old (dx with autism age 4), a 12 year old with no additional needs and a 20 month old. 

I am becoming increasingly concerned about my toddler, who still doesn’t talk (he used to say words but now doesn’t), seems to have “absences” and just generally concerns me. The problem is that I struggle to say why! 

My husband (who is very supportive) thinks I am anxious because of my eldest son but I feel like it’s more than that. I didn’t know that he was autistic when I had my second son so it wasn’t something that concerned me, and my daughter (who is adopted) was brain damaged in an accident as a baby so I knew there would be complications there, and there’s no genetic link between her and the boys. So it’s possible he is correct and I am paranoid as the youngest is the first baby I have had to worry about the genetic link with. 

Is it normal to be fearful when you already have an autistic child or should I follow my instincts and speak to a health care professional? 

My husband is brilliant but he isn’t the father of the eldest two children so he didn’t know my eldest as a toddler and wouldn’t understand how it all felt, if that makes sense. Sometimes I feel like I am still sad about my eldest having autism but I could never admit this as I am known as a “coper” and can’t really express my true feelings. 

However, my toddler definitely does things his brother did not- cuddles in to me, puts his arms up to be held and sometimes answers his name. So I keep swinging from being concerned, to reassuring myself, to worrying again. 

Can anyone help me, I am tying myself up in knots. 

I promise I am more sane than this ramble makes me appear! 

  • I am a father and I can identify with your circumstances very well. My wife and I have a very similar relationship. The mother naturally are much sensitive to the child's feedback responses (eye contact, hugs and speech). At 20 months statistics will tell you that it is not rare for boys not to be verbal yet. My son said his first words at 22 months but more importantly he only mostly spoke nouns (known as labelling) for several months that followed. He did not call us mum or dad to catch our attention. through basic therapy technics that we learned... we showed him pictures of ourselves and spoke the words mum and dad to reference the photo and indeed he copied the sound correctly and several weeks later was able to make the connection that he can use those words to label us and not just our photos.  In other words he was naturally better at relating to things than people.

    At this young age it is impossible to identify mild to moderate ASD but if you have concern (identified at least 3 red flags) then you absolutely should start the process of reporting it to health professionals and begin the process leading to assessment. it begins with a screening process that can lead to referral to full assessment. All steps takes time so by the time you reach diagnosis the child would probably reached 2YO and by this time both mother and father will be able to reconcile the outcome of professional findings and together discuss what intervention is needed. 

    My son got diagnosis at age 26 months. at this point it is clear that he is not of severe ASD category so he doesn't need 30 hours a week ABA therapy that we commonly hear about. but the vagueness of the diagnosis only cause further heated debates and disagreement between my wife and me.  Unfortunately reading horror stories on ASD forums about ASD teenagers only causes further stress because there is currently not enough statistical evidence to directly link diagnoses to type and intensity of intervention and to eventual outcome 10 years later.

    In the end, my (stay at home) wife spent the next 2 years developing herself as a self taught ABA therapist via books and online PRT course.

    My son is now 4 YO and is fully verbal but we still are very wary of how he interact with other children and we continue to apply social interaction techniques to encourage good social interactions whenever the opportunity comes up. 

    I hope you find comfort in knowing that the challenge in husband and wife relationship is shared by me and that together as a couple you can take steps towards assessment. We all hope that diagnosis will be negative but we must also recognised that there is a huge spectrum from minor to severe ASD and that there are interventions that may help at the minor end of the spectrum.

  • I am experiencing the same thing - worrying about my toddler, she's almost three and displays disturbing behavior. She shouts all the time and is very clingy. But she can be very loving too, kissing and hugging. So, I don't know. I do have a son who has ASD/ADHD diagnosed last March. Reading about the difference between therapist and psychologist helped me on how to proceed with my son's treatment. I hope this can help you too. 

    Right now, I am awaiting appointment for my baby girl. This is truly exhausting.