Wednesday, September 9, 2009


A lot of parents of autistic children don't even realize there's a problem with their kid until they have another baby and start to see the differences. This may seem odd to people without autistic children. How could you not know? How could the repetitive action, the hand flapping, the delayed speech, and general weirdness slip by any parent paying attention? There are lots of reasons that it does. In our situation, Martin said lots and lots of words. So we could answer "yes" to the pediatrician's questions about Martin gaining vocabulary. Martin also said sentences with two or three words. Again, we could answer positively that Martin was speaking in sentences. What we didn't know was that Martin could say words, but was not necessarily attaching them to any reference. He could say "door," but that didn't mean he knew the word denotes the wooden thing between rooms that opens and closes. We didn't know that when Martin said sentences, he was only mimicking sentences he heard other people say. He could not construct them on his own.

Now I have another baby. She is 16-months-old. I can already see the differences. She can ask for juice. She can say "hi" and "bye" to people at the appropriate times. The huge shocker: she can take directions. I carried her into church on Sunday, set her down, and told her to go to the nursery. I did all of this not really expecting her to do what I said. But she gave me a smile and headed into the hallway, around the corner, to the nursery. I was stunned.

I'm really undone by the fact that I have a child who seems to understand what I say. I have lived the last five years like one of those adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Wa-wah wa-wah. I can never count on the fact that Martin understands what I say. I can't imagine what it will be like to parent a child who can. I'm completely disoriented.


  1. Sure. But, in a couple of years Martin is going to wonder why Sasha can't seem to get it straight that Fillmore was president before Pierce and that Fillmore was a Whig.

  2. For the record, he can also wonder why it is that I can't seem to keep that straight as I have had to look up this little fact at least three times in the last three months. Google mocks me by telling me that I have visited the Fillmore page three times.