I Thought My Toddler Was Autistic


autismA few weeks ago, my husband and I had a heart-stopping day after reading an article on Newsweek, ominously titled, "The Child You Didn't Dream Of," where a rare form of autism called hyperlexia is described. It was as if they were writing about my son. Just like the author of the piece, my husband and I talked often about how our son must be advanced.  We certainly didn't think about his grasp of language and ability to recite the alphabet, stop and read all the letters on street signs, and count to 20 before he turned 2 as a bad thing.

But now, thanks to this piece that offered a lot of anecdotes and not so many downsides, we were scared.

It was one of those things, in some ways, I was just waiting for. We have members of both sides of our families in various places on the spectrum, and it felt somehow we had more than the average person's chance of having a child on the spectrum. So this article confirmed this secret fear. In fact, I'd already made peace with having an autistic child.

I knew it would mean a major adjustment in parenting; working with my child in different ways than my oldest and a change in expectations. Even though I know you can't fully prepare for having a child with special needs, I was mentally bracing myself for the inevitable. Really, this article was a perfect storm. And then we started reading more about hyperlexia and realized there was much more to it than having a smart toddler.

Forgive us if we read the following passage, "He’d developed single words precociously, at a little under a year, started speaking in many two-word phrases at age 2, right on schedule, and now was speaking in longer sentences, just as the parenting books had said he should," and believed that not only did our child have autism, but apparently it's not so bad.

This article was an excerpt from a memoir by Priscilla Gilman, so as she glosses over her son Benjamin's lack of social exchanges, it doesn't sound like anything is really wrong with him. I'm certain if I picked up the book, I would see the challenges her family faced going forward, and she does talk about how he's still developmentally behind at age 12. However, reading about his skill set that was eerily similar to my own son's, and the fact that he "chattered gaily throughout the day," made me pair these qualities with my son's penchant for walking on tiptoes and totally freak out. It was not a pleasant day in our house.

After my husband and I dug in deep (to the Internet, again, which had already been the cause of this panic), we came to the conclusion that our son was not on the spectrum. Even though he isn't as socially outgoing as his older sister was at his age, he still loves to greet people with an enthusiastic, "Hi guys!" and has finally made friends at his day care. He is only 2, and I'm sure I'll have more moments of panic until I decide he's out of the woods. But for now, we're back to thinking he's our little genius baby and that's fine with me.

Which is all to say, try not to trust Dr. Google. While this article, and her memoir, may be a fantastic way to spread awareness about this rare form of autism, a little bit of information can be a dangerous thing.

Have you ever diagnosed your child from something you read on the Internet?

autism, developmental delays, toddler health


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Jeric... Jerichos_Mommy

No.  I have over researched and needlessly scared the crap out of my self though.

karis... karischub

Yep, I had to swear off WebMD. I haven't opened it in a window in almost two years...

Samantha Kevin Cahalane

No, not really.... My son is 19 months and doesn't speak yet. We have EI once a week and he's doing great. However, whenever I look up anything regarding a speech delay I am thrown into autism sites. It's hard to not wonder because being so young of course he has a couple of the autism traits, but so do all the other toddlers I know. He spins because he thinks it's funny, his eye contact isn't great when he's tired or distracted, etc. I'll be happy when he just starts talking!

nonmember avatar Anon

Sort of, partly. My kid has inconsistent development in different areas, so she was a puzzle. I knew her bio sister was blind, so I had her eyes checked and sure enough, she needed a pretty strong prescription. A year later, her visual learning was still very slow, and I heard a term during her 3yo opht. visit: "insufficient convergence." They suggested a simple exercise and sent us on our way. But I did some internet research and decided she should be tested for vision therapy. She qualified and we may have uncovered some other issues as well. So glad for the internet!

momav... momavanessa

No. My doctor kept thinking my son is autistic though. For not saying much when he was 2 and now he is 3 and can say everthing! Then because he doesn't make eye contact. Well he is scared of the doctor for one and he is every social outside the home. He says hi to EVERYBODY and is never anti social. I really think his doctor is just looking for any little thing. Plus we got second opinions and they keep saying he is a normal boy! So even Doctors are like the internet not always right.

aiden... aidensmomma508

Dr. Google is helpful to learn more about things, and just like you said it helped you figure out your son didn't have it.  I look things up online but I always ask my child's DR or school about it as well. You have a smarty pants baby, Enjoy!!!

J9Mommy J9Mommy

You say don't trust the net to diagnose, but meanwhile you are using it to comfort you that he does not have autism....do you see the irony ? 

How do you know your son is NOT on the spectrum ?

My son was hyperlexic and DOES have Asperger syndrome. Sounds exactly like your son with regards to the reading etc... Most kids with AS are not diagnosed until age 8. Age 2 is too young to know for sure. Toe walking can be a red flag. Just because he says hi to people does not mean he does not have Autism either. My son talks to people and says hi. We were concerned with my son around age 2, but kept pushing it off. Saying we must be reading to hard into it. Well after his first day in kindergarten we knew. Testing confirmed AS.

The fact you said he is not as social, just finally made friends, toe walks, hyperlexic I do see signs. People think your kid has to be in a corner rocking to have Autism. That is not the case. Many kids with Autism seem "typical," with short interactions.  

How is his speech ? Is most of it just parroting ?

Does he pretend to feed a doll ? Or does he just line up cars or watch things spin ?

Does he have sensory issues with food, noises, textures ?

Was he delayed with gross or fine motor skills ?

Don't go off your daycare worker either. Many are not trained to spot autism. If you have concerns you need to get an developmental assessment. Bottom line.


J9Mommy J9Mommy

I forgot to mention it is normal for kids at age 2 to be only doing "parallel play."  So it is hard to guage social interactions at this age. I did notice for my aspie he did not seem interested in peers at all, but he was great with adults around that age.

nonmember avatar Lindsey

You know your child best, of course, but from your description there perhaps you shouldn't rule it out just yet. No need to obsess, just keep an eye out. Awareness is always the first step. ~ a mom to a hyperlexic kid

nonmember avatar bea

No, but my daughter's 2nd grade teacher had the audacity to suggest my daughter had Aspergers because she wouldn't pay attention and was frequently defiant. Turns out, the teacher was UNQUALIFIED, could not control the classroom (most of the class acted out and would not listen to her) and my gifted daughter was BORED with the lack of stimulating curriculum in a Waldorf School. We left that "so-called school" and she's now doing well in at an International Baccalaureate Middle School.

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