Triptych

1. Shortly after my son was born, in the hospital delivery room, I stuck my tongue out at him. I had read that infants would imitate adults who did so in one of those innumerable baby books, but got no response. I tried several more times in the coming months, but don’t believe he ever mimicked my action.

I have often wondered is this was an early sign of his autism, despite the fact the researchers generally agree that it cannot be diagnosed prior to 18 months. If so, it would demonstrate that he was born with the condition, and it did not develop later as some people hypothesize.

I’m the first to admit that I may be misremembering this, so take it with a grain of salt.

2. Shortly after my son was diagnosed, at age three or four, I noticed something funny about his reaction to food.

He was (and remains) quite resistant to trying new things, and I would often go to great lengths to get him to at least taste some new foodstuff I was trying to introduce into his diet. Alas, all of my entreaties were met with “no!”  Inevitably, after much wheedling, I would take a bite of the thing myself while making loud “mmm-mmm-MMM” noises and announcing how delicious it was, trying to convince him to try it.

As I would bring the whatever to my open mouth, my son’s eyes would widen, and he would yell “no! NO!” all the louder. I have no way of knowing for sure, but it sometimes seemed as though he was unable to distinguish between my eating the food and his eating of the food. That is to say, it reacted as though I was somehow thwarting his will by putting the food into my own mouth, as if I had figured out a way to put it into his mouth despite his objections.

I don’t know if it was true or not. But on evenings when he was particularly stubborn, I would gleefully take bites of his refused food just to exact some revenge.

3. My son has trouble with pronouns, and doesn’t understand that you must reverse them when referring to someone else. If I say “do you want me to pick you up?” for instance, he will raise his arms and say, “pick you up!” If I ask, “Do you want mint gum or watermelon gum?”, he replies, “do you want watermelon gum.”

We moved a few months ago, and I recently took him to a new therapist for the first time. At the end of the hour, when they came out to the waiting room, I asked how it went.

“Great,” she said. “He was a little silly at first, but calmed down after 10 minutes and worked really hard.”

Then she paused for a moment, and got a queer look on her face. “One funny thing, though,” she added. “He kept saying that he wanted to pick me up.”

3 thoughts on “Triptych

  1. Your memory is correct. I distinctly remember you telling me about your mimicking experiment with Squiggle when he was newborn.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve been reading your blog for eight years or so and have been missing hearing about your family. When I moved to Seattle seven years ago it was nice to have gotten a bit of an introduction to the city from you.

    Anyway, my three-year-old son had his pronouns backwards for a while, too, when he was first learning to talk. His father and I became so adept at automatic interpretation that we began speaking to each other with backwards pronouns, sometimes. Our conversations started getting a little weird, as you can imagine.

  3. My sons and grandchildren – the only kids whose language development I’ve followed closely – also had trouble with pronouns. Getting the point of view thing straight, getting the gender straight – is is sort of arbitrary. I suspect this confusion is a common stage of language development in neurotypical kids.

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