In six months, Miles had gone from a toddler with no language and poor adaptive skills to a delightful little boy who was pointing to objects he wanted, putting two words together appropriately, and initiating games like peekaboo and ring-around-the-rosy. He ate with a spoon, helped get himself dressed, and named hundreds of objects around the house. His language was becoming easier to decipher now, too. In Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, I share the moment I knew he would be OK.
Dinosaurs had become an interest of Miles’s. Actually, I had to admit that they were an obsession. He knew them all by name, and sometimes did a little bit of verbal stimming on the names: “Tywannisauwus wex, Tywannisauwus wex, Tywannisauwus wex, Tywannisauwus wex . . .”
We did not take away his dinosaur toys, however, because his play with them was so normal. He would use two toy dinosaurs to enact a conversation, playing both parts. When speaking for the dinosaurs, his language was a mixture of jargon and real words, sometimes in short, meaningful sentences.
“Hi, you a Ceratops?”
“Aha. I Ceratops.”
I joked to my friends that he could name every dinosaur but that he still couldn’t call me Mommy.
One day at the shopping mall Miles and Laura were running around some benches, hiding then popping up. When Laura jumped up from behind her bench, Miles waved at her.
“Hi, Waw-waw!” he shouted. Alan and I looked at each other excitedly.
Laura simply responded, “Hi, Milesie!”
Another time, on an airplane, Miles was absorbed with a book and did not notice Alan leaving his seat. When Miles looked up, he looked at me and clearly asked, “Where’s Daddy?” I stared at him for a moment, wondering if he had really said what I thought he had said.
“Daddy will be right back,” I replied hesitantly. Miles went back to his book.
Just a few days later, I was sitting in the living room watching Miles play. He was looking through some cards with dinosaurs on them. When he got to his favorite one, he became quite excited. “Wook, Mommy, wook at dis. Issa Tywannisauwus wex.”
I sat, stunned for a moment, and then I began to weep. At twenty-eight months old, more than twice the age his sister had been when she evidenced the same knowledge, Miles knew that his mother had a name. I held out my arms and said, “Miles, come here. Come to Mommy.”
He put down the card and stood up with a big smile. He ran into my arms with an expression of pure joy, and when I picked him up, he wrapped his arms tightly around my neck. It felt so good to hold him without being pushed away. As if he knew how I was feeling, he let me hold him like that for a long time. A long, wonderful time.
For months an old poem had been dancing along the fringes of my mind, and suddenly a scrap burst forward:
And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy.
Miles then lifted his head from my shoulder and gave me one of the exaggerated kisses Alan had shown him.
“Mwah!” he said, grinning.
“Mwah yourself,” I said.
I put him down and he went back to his cards. I stood there for several minutes and let the feeling sink in. Miles was better. He still had a way to go, but my heart was finally at ease. The delays were present, but the roots of autistic behavior were gone, and I could project the normal development that was yet to come. I did not care how many people claimed it was impossible. Miles was going to recover from autism.