Lack of Imagination Play
My two oldest children are both girls, and I’ve witnessed many magical tea parties, fake phone conversations with pretend phones, etc. For my son, I noticed by his first birthday that he never had an interest in mirror play with other children, and never once did I see him play pretend with his toys or other objects around the house. When you visit your doctor, they should be asking you the milestones that your child is hitting. And while I am no means the kind of parent that thinks my child must reach said milestone by said age, it’s very important to watch for this sign of autism in your infant/toddler.
My son has been fascinated with cars, particularly Hotwheels and Matchbox type cars, since he was roughly 9 months of age. But rather than play with cars on tracks or engage others to play cars with him, he would take his cars and line them up in neat, precise rows. When he wasn’t doing this, he would also flip them over and spin the wheels repetitively, and watch the wheels spin, many times over. Some kids are known to do quirky things, and we love all our children for their little quirks, but this repetitive behavior was clearly obvious and much unlike anything my two older children had done when they were that age.
Loss of Speech/Delay of Speech
Watching my son lose his speech was so painful, even now it still hurts me to think on it for too long. (I will never, ever forget the sound of him calling me “mama” and I hold onto it to give me hope for his future.) By his first birthday, my son knew a handful of words that he would say often. Pretty simple words, but never a combination of tiny toddler words mushed together the way my other children said when they were one-year-olds. He never grew past this handful of words. And worse, the words started disappearing. No more mama, no dada, no go, no car. No more bye.
By 18 months of age, these words completely disappeared as if they were erased from his memory. A slate wiped clean. He is turning 4 in April of 2019 and we still have not gotten those words back. But that is okay. They will come back someday. I have no idea when it will happen, but I assure you, it will be worth the wait. For now, we’ve unlocked the power of American Sign Language with help from ABA Therapy and although my son cannot make the words come out of his cute little mouth, he can sign to me and tell me that he loves me. Loss of speech or severe communication delays are signs of autism that cannot be ignored. And if you have a good pediatrician that you trust, they will be sure to spot this for you.