I remember Piper's first word at about 7 months, she said "Dada" we were so excited. She even started copying a bit and we have various video's before her 1st birthday where we'd capture these moments on video. These few words would soon disappear as we watched our child become lost in a world all her own. She started to ignore us and wouldn't move or acknowledge we were there. (I even got her hearing tested again) Piper tip toe walked, but we heard that was normal in children her age, however, when I would see other children her age I quickly noticed that my special little girl may be more special than we anticipated. I approached my GP (General Practitioner) with my concerns and he said "All children develop at different speeds. Don't worry, she was premature so she will naturally be behind. She's fine" I told him that she used to talk and now she can't or doesn't seem to want to and normal physical activities that other children are doing her age she seems very far behind. Again, the same story. I think as a mother we have this instinct and it doesn't let up, I knew that something wasn't textbook "normal" about my child. My husband thought the same thing as the doctor, I was over reacting all children are different.
The assumption of ASD came after Piper's Second birthday. We had other children here and I noticed a lot about Piper and how she was always wanting to be by herself, how when a baby came to the party she didn't even acknowledge it or notice it was there, she was in her own little world. In addition to that she would seek out activities that would excite her senses. (ie: smashing her face in to a pillow really fast over and over again) And she was constantly moving and hyperactive. We went to a park with a photographer for her 2 year old photos. Given the choice from the photographer of park or sand, I quickly stated that for some reason Piper doesn't like the sand anymore but she loves the outdoors so the park settings would be perfect!! We arrived at the photo location it was a gorgeous park with beautiful creeks, trees, flowers, and walkways. I couldn't wait to get Piper out of the car. As soon as I put her on the ground in this new park, she froze. Started throwing a tantrum and freaking out. Worried I swooped her up to comfort her. "Whats wrong?" If she could communicate I'm sure many things would have come out, however, we were left with this scared and fearful little girl. My husband has always been good with Piper and finding ways to calm her when these tantrums would start. We chalk it up to the terrible two's thinking WOW - right on schedule. Its like she knew that 2 meant tantrum time. Dan immediately takes her over to a creek because she loves water, hoping that may calm her down. We get bubbles out, trying any and everything for these 2 year old photos to work. We just couldn't understand why she was so upset, I mean we timed it perfectly. These pictures were right after her nap, she was fed, loves being outside, so what could the problem possibly be? That night when we got home it hurt my stomach to have the words come out of my mouth as I said to Dan that night "I think Piper may be Autistic" he seemed a bit shocked at that statement. He looked at me with endearment and said "She's perfect, she's not" I said I know she's perfect, but that doesn't mean she isn't. She had totally regressed and from the age of 1 until 2 she hadn't had 1 new milestone. No words, no new things, nothing. It was as if she was a 12 month old little girl trapped in a body of a 24 month old. She was having frequent tantrums but hers seemed to be triggered by noises, I couldn't go anywhere with her in public. It seemed like out of the blue she would go in to this horrible screaming tantrum hitting me in the face as I tried to pick her up off the floor before she tried to smash her head in to concrete. When it became apparent that I would no longer listen to others about my assumption it came to me on Valentines Day 2013 (Our Wedding Anniversary). Piper had been great for weeks no bad tantrums so I thought, how nice would it be to have a "mother daughter lunch" together. I felt bad because it was as if we had become prisoners of our own home scared to go anywhere with her alone because the tantrums were uncontrollable. I thought I'd give it one more try. We sat down for lunch and everything was going great, I even took photos sending it to Dan while he was out at sea for work. "Mother Daughter Date. YAY" I texted along with the photo. I came prepared too. I had a bag of her favorite foods, objects, and everything she loved. We ordered lunch and I was beaming from ear to ear finally being somewhere with my little girl. All the sudden, for no reason apparent to me... Piper loses it. I can't control her (she's SO strong for a 2 year old) She tries to start smashing her head and I grab her and pick her up and she immediately starts punching and smacking me in the face while screaming this "I'm Hurt" scream. I quickly try grabbing our items as everyone in the place is staring at me and whispering what a horrible mother I am and I should be discipling her. (For those that don't know: Its hard to discipline your child when it seems like they are in excruciating pain but you have no understanding why. Not only that, even if I were to say anything to her - she couldn't even comprehend it.) I rush Piper outside telling the clerk I'd be right back to pay and as soon as I got her in the car. We step outside and immediately Piper stops. I'm thinking to myself, what in the world? Did you just want fresh air? I turn back to the restaurant which is all glass windows and all these faces peering from inside just staring at us. I walk back in thinking its a "Terrible Two's Tantrum" and because we still had our food being made I ask the waitress to have it To Go instead. About 4 minutes and it happens again. This time, I pack up everything place Piper in her carseat and we leave. (I leave in tears - because I just wanted to spend a special day with my daughter and I feel like I'm the only mother in the world, at that time, that can't enjoy sharing fun dates with her little girl) It was after this trip, I knew my gut feeling was right. Something about Piper was different and from what I understood from reading - Autism seemed a lot closer to home than anyone else wanted to believe, even if she was "too young to tell". This is where our journey begins.
Erika & Dan Harvey
A blog about our journey through the spectrum with our daughter Piper. Enjoy and feel free to share with others.