It’s been a funny few months in our house. When I look back to the spring, everything felt as if it was going swimmingly. Though more sleep was still to be desired, Douglas and Arthur were generally contented boys. They had met their major milestones within the average ranges. For the most part, their achievements such as sitting and crawling happened within days of each other. But for me, some niggling worries started to kick in around the time of their first birthday. Niggling worries that became more significant. I wrote a post about how I was feeling, but it stayed in my drafts folder. I felt too frightened to share with the world that Douglas was slipping behind in his social and communication development, and was exhibiting red flags for autism.
Back in June, I wrote:
“When you have twins, it’s impossible not to make comparisons. The personality differences between Douglas and Arthur seemed clear from birth, or perhaps further back than that, in hindsight, with their different behaviours on our numerous ultrasound scans.
When you worry about one of your children’s development, a sort of mental shift takes place. And it’s sad, because you no longer ‘just play’ together. Whether you mean to or not, you analyse, you test, you compare.
Suddenly, your child’s little personality quirks are brought under scrutiny. Is that normal? Do other children do that? Should we worry?
I find myself wondering whether disconnection with the world has been mistaken as confidence, independence. Whether distraction is in fact purposeful avoidance of eye contact. He’s never been the smiliest baby, but that in itself wasn’t a reason to worry.
It’s a funny sort of churning feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I bittersweetly watch one twin bloom, starting to make meaningful connections with people and the world. While the other stays largely insular, sometimes difficult to reach. Our moments of connection are few and far between.
And so you walk into the GP’s office. Not really knowing what to expect but half hoping you’ll be told there’s nothing to worry about, all children meet their milestones at different times, come back in six months if you’re still concerned. But we were taken seriously and a referral to the developmental paediatricians was made straight away.
And so I am scared. Scared of what the future may hold. Scared for my beautiful, bright, carefree little boy.
I don’t want him to have to grow up in a world he struggles with, and one that doesn’t understand him.
But I also know we have done the right thing, and that early intervention, if needed, will be the best thing.”
What we observed and became concerned about:
- Poor eye contact – upon being picked up or during face to face activities, for example, Douglas would most often look around us or to the side and not meet our gaze.
- No showing of toys/sharing of experiences with us – Arthur, by this age, had begun to hold up toys for us to look at and gesture to them by vocalising. Douglas didn’t share experiences in the same way or invite us into his play.
- No waving
- No pointing or gesturing for objects
- Poor response to name, if any
- Often glancing upwards/sideways, seeming less ‘connected’ to the world
From our GP referral in June, we saw a developmental paediatrician in September. He spent an hour with us as a family, observing Douglas while he played and explored his office. We discussed his medical history, interests and helped him build up a picture of the ways Douglas does or doesn’t interact and communicate with us and others. By the end of the appointment, the doctor understood. He acknowledged the positives in Douglas’s behaviour but validated our concerns. He will review Douglas in March, and in the mean time we have been referred for Speech and Language Therapy, an assessment by the local Pre-School Teaching Team, and a hearing test. (We are not worried about his hearing, but it makes sense to eliminate a hearing impairment now if we can). We have also recently asked the GP for a referral to a paediatric ophthalmologist, just to ensure there are no issues with his vision.
Anyone who has been ‘in the system’, whether for themselves or for a child, knows these things take time. Currently we are on waiting lists of around four months.
The waiting is hard, when you want to know you are doing everything you can. However, Douglas continues to surprise us and is making good progress. His receptive language is improving and is understanding more and more instructions. He is making more eye contact, including the understanding that he can use it to ask for help. We are even close to a first word! We hope that this may just be a case of short term delays in reaching milestones, which will resolve in time, but we know that we can’t be complacent and we need to fight to get our little soldier the best start he can have.
Bright eyes, you will always be perfect in mine.
Babycentre has a useful guide to toddler milestones here