An hour after putting Zachary to bed I heard a scream. My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach as I ran up the stairs to his room. The scream that had escaped from my 18 month olds throat was like nothing I had heard before despite having as many children as I did.
Opon entering his room I was stunned by what I saw. Clothes from his dresser drawer had been dumped on the floor and he was just standing there beside his little toddler bed screaming this strange and eerie sound. I glanced over to the other end of the room and was amazed to see Ryley sleeping peacefully in his crib unaware of the chaos that was taking place. I stood in the doorway thinking maybe he had been frightened by a nightmare or was experiencing some form of night terrors. If he wasn't fully awake then I didn't want to scare him more.
I softly called out "Zachary?"
No response except the screaming.
Slowly I walked over to him so I could get a better look at his face in the semi darkened room. He appeared to be awake but had a blank expression on his face - an expression that wasn't new to me. "Zachary, it's okay honey, mommy's here."
My voice didn't help at all. He just continued to scream. He continued to scream for what seemed like a very long time and it was almost as though he didn't even realize that I was in the room.
Suddenly he broke into a run and ran across the room almost hitting the wall, turned, and ran back to the edge of his bed, turned, and ran back to the wall again. He continued this running back and forth while screaming and flinging his arms up and down.
I pleaded with him to stop. I asked him if he was hurt. Being non-verbal at the time he said nothing to me nor gave me any indication as to what was wrong.
Zachary continued to scream and run back and forth in his room for at least thirty minutes then as suddenly as he started he flung himself on his bed and stopped. I sat down on the bed and rubbed his sweaty back, he cried as he rocked back and forth on his side for another ten minutes then he fell asleep. This strange behaviour carried on for almost two months. Every night. Some nights were worse than others but needless to say even the better nights were awful.
This strange behaviour was my first introduction to Zachary's world of autism.
Do you have a child who lives with an ASD or other disability? What were the first signs?
Until next time,