Early signs of autism

I remember when someone asked me if Luna became more autistic at 18 months old than she was at 16 months old.

And while I understood what that person was trying to ask, I don’t think they understood the proper way to ask it.

Luna is autistic. She will never be less autistic than the day before. Tomorrow will not bring a day with more autism either.

Being autistic is how her brain is wired. How it’s functioning and developing and processing all of the input we take in every second of our lives.

I think what that person meant to ask was if Luna has shown any more signs of autism at 18 months than she did at 16 months, or even when her neurologist first brought up autism at 13 months.

So let’s rewind:

At 13 months

•had staring spells that could be sensory processing or absence seizures (this is why we have a neurologist and run brain tests)

•had no speech, she didn’t say words or understand words.

•didn’t respond to her name

•didn’t acknowledge others in the room

•fixated on spinning objects

•didn’t use hand gestures

•didn’t point/follow point

At 16 months when she was unofficially diagnosed (meaning it was not written on paper)

•all of the signs from 13 month are still prominent plus the following

•flaps her arms repetitively

•scrunches her hand repetitively

•spins in circles

•stops eating certain textures

•always upside down

And at 18 months

•very prominently walks on her toes. She will pop up on her toes for a few steps and then walk flat foot.

•lines up her toys, snacks, random objects.

•more sensory meltdowns.

Luna is now 23 months old and all of these signs are still a very clear part of her life. Luna has taken great to her AAC device for communicating and her receptive language skills are blossoming. She’s starting to use signs, not frequently, but enough that I know she knows them. She understands more and more words every day and uses echolalia to repeat sounds of words.

I want everyone to know autism isn’t just one of a few of these signs. Everything together led to her diagnosis.

The DSM5 criteria for an Autism Diagnosis comes from THREE categories together

1. Communication deficit

2. Social deficit

3. Repetitive behavior

It was all of these things combined that led to Luna’s Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. If your child does one or some of these things, look out for them and consult a professional— but please understand how the disorder and diagnosis come to be. Not one thing but multiple signs.

Luna was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum in December of 2021 at just under 22 months old. She had a referral from her neurologist to see a neuropsychologist. She overdid the assessment with all of the formal evaluations. Luna’s neurologist first brought up autism at 13 months old. Knowing Luna is autistic helps me understand the way she processes life around us. It’s understanding that her brain is wired differently than mine. It’s understanding that she might not do things the same exact way as other children her age. And it’s understanding that Luna is Luna and that's why we love her. We love her neurodivergence and love learning and growing with her.

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