Mild Autism: My Personal Journey
and how it might be similar to yours in many ways…
The first sign of the “difference” was when my son showed he was much more “clingy” than others in the mother’s group of kids, at age about one. He hung onto his mum and got distressed if she tried to encourage him to join the others who were playing together.
So at that age there was clearly more fear than usual, about reaching out into the real world to be with others. But it was not too unusual to be concerned about. Our lad also needed far more attention than other children – if I or his mum strayed too far, for too long, he would be sure to let us know..! Of course that occurrence is usual for any child but at that stage we felt it was only a small matter of degree.
I think, however, but don’t remember exactly, that my boy’s eye-contact wasn’t too bad at baby age – his mum says so and we have a photo of him looking around seeming to assess things, in support of that notion. Decline came later on. So my boy was a “regressive”.
I remember seeing him at the age of two standing on the top of a set of concrete garden steps, on a cold clear morning. He was standing in the shade, barefoot on the concrete, not seeming to notice, staring vacantly. It seemed odd that he chose to stand there rather than move into the warm morning sun and the sunlit grass on which I stood. I called to him to come and join me, and invented some incentive that “if he didn’t come he would miss out”, the usual motivation for a kid. He remained standing on the top step. Vacant expression still, not hearing. I felt a chill that had nothing to do with the day, that something was very wrong. Later “vacant-and-staring” episodes soon followed. (Apparently this can be a sign of epilepsy, and autism is closely associated with it – not surprisingly – but this turned out not to be a problem for him.) At one stage after a particularly long blank-stare session of over a minute when I couldn’t reach him (a minute is a very long time in such situations.!) I became both furious and frightened and gave him a few quick whacks on the bottom to snap him out of it, with no noticeable reaction at all.
So it came as no surprise to me when he soon afterwards receive his diagnosis. I had in fact proposed such a possibility earlier. The first year into the 3’s was particularly stressful for all of us, but of course more so for my boy. He could seem reasonably contented then for no reason emit high calls of distress and start crying. (A baby also cries for no apparent reason, and you will see in this website I draw parallels between the two states.)
I likened his sudden mood changes to a cloud-studded windy day when the sun would suddenly be obscured then shine out again, the changes happening from moment to moment. Happy enough one moment, then clearly distressed for no apparent reason the next. Probably due to confusion of not connecting cause-and-effect as described on this page

My loved one was so deeply in his Own World that he wouldn’t notice people in the street and might have collided with them if they didn’t swerve out of his way or if we weren’t there to steer him.

And he would “do a runner”, a not uncommon phenomenon amongst kids like him, just run off without concern about direction or a look back to check where he should return to. No longer clingy, quite the opposite. I postulated that he had created some ‘false sense of security’ in his mind. (Demonstrating the value of his Own World-view to him! At least in the short term..!)

I remember one evening in the large foresty park we frequented, he rode off downhill on his tricycle, down the sealed track at speed, without regard for where I was or where he was going. Rather than, as usual, calling him back or running to catch him, this time I followed to see what would happen. He rode down the woodland path for at least 200 metres / yards, round trees and bushes, way out of sight of his starting point, until he ran out of path. In the gathering gloom he got off his trike and walked out into a patch of scrubby overgrown grass, and stood looking at nothing in particular. He stood there for at least 10 minutes, then seemed to think of something urgent, walked forward and looked in a different direction like a statue for a further 15 minutes. Or longer. (- it sure seemed longer. )

The evening turned to darkness and the park lights came on. Remember that he had little idea of where he was in the dark, and no idea and no thought of where I was. Especially those whose loved ones have injured themselves will acknowledge that “Own World Fantasies” creating a false sense of control and security can be dangerous!

Eventually he retraced his steps and started to wheel his trike back, seeming a little bewildered but generally calm, apparently he still felt protected. I couldn’t stand it any longer, but appeared from behind my tree and vigorously admonished him. He seemed taken aback at my unreasonable vehemence – clearly he was all right in his mind.

Admonishing had no effect, danger was imminent. I was determined to play-out his next “runner” to its full conclusion and see if some correction would happen of its own accord.