Born This Way

3 Apr

No, it’s not a Lady Gaga post…

In the page for our Autism Story, I describe how I believe that The Princess was born with autism despite the fact that most scientists believe that is impossible. When Robert  McNeil did his series on the PBS News Hour on autism  he began by saying one thing about autism they knew for certain was that no one is born with it. But The Princess’s infancy, from birth didn’t make any sense with autism being a part of it. Since that time, studies have begun emerging showing that the brains of children with autism in utero show differences in the brains of normally developing children lending more credibility to the idea that some individuals are “born this way.”

One of The Princess’s sensory issues centers around oral stimulation. I can trace this back to birth. I was thrilled that The Princess, my first child, was a natural born breast feeder. She had a perfect latch right out of the gate. Quickly, I realized she was going to need more than just me to latch onto so I went to that fall-back, the pacifier. Shelby took to breast, bottle and paci with equal gusto. Our most traumatic weaning was going from bottle to sippy cup. When I took her paci away, she was surprisingly calm about it (we took it away when Will was born) but immediately began mouthing things. Looking back, that kind of oral stimulation was highly indicative of autism.

The Princess has proprioceptive and vestibular issues as well. I tried her with tummy time every single day and she screamed through it  like I was torturing her. The same thing at bath time. I didn’t even know at the time what proprioceptive and vestibular meant. She was delayed with sitting, standing, crawling and walking. Once she got them though, she caught up quickly and gross motor was no longer an issue.

The Princess never looked for our faces. Not once. Not while breastfeeding, not when we would put our faces to hers in play. Again, we didn’t realize it was abnormal at the time. Then we had two neurotypical children who made eye contact. One who at three months reached for my face when I looked away from him to bring it back into his view.

Then there was stranger anxiety. A lot of kids have it. Some bad. They’re not always autistic. The Princess did not want anyone but The King or I to hold her after two weeks. She would scream hysterically and could not be comforted. Our family members had hurt feelings. Friends didn’t want to see the baby who cries constantly when held.

We loved that she stared endlessly at fans on her back as it meant we could actually eat. We had no comprehension that babies don’t do that to the extent The Princess did.

So many things that never made sense. Until autism became official. Although it is controversial, more and more parents are finding the same thing out. The Princess was never progressing normally and then went backwards. She was slow in progression and then she stopped. For some people it sounds like she never had a chance. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that being “born this way” means The Princess was doomed from the start. I do believe she is an important example for doctors and scientists to study. Our brains are amazing in how they function. Millions of little synapses to make things go how they should. The Princess’s brain and others like hers may hold the keys to unlocking so many doors. Scientists who discredit accounts of children “born this way” are giving up a valuable opportunity.

I do want to say, I don’t think parents of all newborns should stress about their child being born with autism. At this point it is impossible to make a definitive diagnosis under the age of fifteen months but it’s not a bad idea to record things that happen. If your kid ends up neurotypical, you’ll have fond memories of that time, but if you start noticing patterns, it will help your child in the long run.

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