One thing I have trouble determining is the extent to which Oliver's behaviors are a manifestation of his autism or if they are just a normal part of being a three-year old boy. At the same time I know I shouldn't try to dissect him. He is a whole person. And he has autism. He is simply Oliver being Oliver. And yet none of those who have evaluated him to date have given me any indication of where he falls on the spectrum. And I haven't had the courage to ask. Knowing the answer to this would probably give me the false impression that I have some idea of what to expect for the future. None of us can know this but that doesn't stop me from wishing I had a crystal ball.
When we were first going through the diagnosis process each new specialist asked the same range of questions and I always found it difficult to answer accurately.
"Does he like to line up objects?"
"Yes. But he also likes to stack, throw, and hide things."
"Does he like to spin?"
"Yes. But he most loves it when his older brother spins him. Then he gets dizzy and falls down, laughing. He hasn't used his sit-and-spin in a long time.
So the answer to both of these questions went down as "Yes" even though I'm pretty sure that he doesn't spin or line things up more or less than any other three year old. One of his therapists once remarked to me that she was surprised that Oliver didn't have any stereotypical autistic behaviors. And, while it is true that he doesn't hand-flap or walk on his toes, I don't think it would be hard for someone who is familiar with autism to pick him out of a crowd of other kids. In fact, in a crowd it would be especially easy.
The reason I bring this up is because I sometimes have trouble knowing what to overlook and what needs attention. For example: Oliver has been eating with utensils since he was 11 months old but over the last 3-4 months he has stopped using his fork and prefers now to eat with his fingers. Is he losing a skill? Should I insist that he use the fork? In the evenings, sometimes, he will run aroud and around the play room until I catch him and tickle him. Is he using this activity to get his bearings when he is too tired to focus on anything or does he like the game of being caught and tickled? In bed at night he loves making shapes with his hand when it is back-lit by the hall light. Are these the same hand puppets that I made as a kid? It is hard to say, and I'm not even really sure it matters, except that I wish I had a better sense of the challenges that he will face.
I don't know if the picture will ever be clear or that I'll ever stop wishing I had a crystal ball. For the moment, though I suppost the important thing is to concentrate on helping him have the best today that he can have -- which, when you come right down to it, is about one part work and three parts pleasure. Which doesn't sound so bad in the scheme of things.