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Mom holding six month old infant

I’m Convinced My Baby Has Autism

By Amalah

Hi there,

I have been having a pretty paralyzing time lately with fear that my baby has autism. He is 5 and a half months old and has really bad eye contact, especially close range, and especially with parents. He will look at new people a little more (still typically briefly), and does do social smiles, though often turns his head away after. He doesn’t do the “staring a faces” thing I’ve been told babies love to do. He is much more engaged with toys (thought no repetitive behavior or preference for certain toys yet). He doesn’t care if my husband or I come or go or enter or exit a room.

I know you are not going to diagnose my baby with autism over the internet, but the anxiety I am feeling over this has become paralyzing. I’m *sure* that that’s what it is, even though I know it is quite early. I feel utterly devastated and panicked all the time. I love him TONS and am not engaging with him any differently, but I have been to therapy before for anxiety and never found it to be helpful, so I don’t know what to do. I also feel guilty, because in the back of my mind I am sure I’m right, but also tend to be catastrophic. I feel guilty because this is not the path I wanted and I’m scared for my husband and myself for the future.

Is there any chance a baby with bad eye contact and who doesn’t care about his parents approaching six months will turn out to be normal? And if not, how do I cope with the next year or so before I can get a diagnosis?

Sad and scared,
Autism fears

Honey. You need to call someone ASAP. 

Not for your baby, but for you. Your anxiety is what’s not okay here, and is what’s raising a MILLION SCREAMING RED FLAGS for me.

Your baby is behaving like a baby

Five and a half months old is too young to diagnose autism. Full stop. I know you’re Googling and finding lots of shaky articles that tell you otherwise, and reading other scary things about eye contact and eye tracking that are “confirming” your worst fears. But five and a half months old is far, far too young to make that kind of diagnosis, because your baby has SO MUCH developing left to do!

And I say that as a mother who had one autistic baby, followed by two neurotypical babies. They ALL seemed pretty “autistic” when they were that young, with the eye contact and their blah reaction to noises/people. They ALL preferred toys or pieces of trash or chewing on books to…well, just about everything that wasn’t a boob.

At five and a half months old, eye gaze and eye contact tends to be very short, because he’s simply taking in so much of the world around him. Your faces are the most familiar, and you register very very quickly for him as his parents and source of food/comfort/etc. It makes sense that he’ll quickly move on to looking at something  more “interesting.” Believe me, he cares about you. He depends on you. And the level of anxiety you’re describing to me is ABSOLUTELY capable of distorting your reality and your ability to see your baby as he is. Which is: Most likely totally fine, probably just kinda on the chill side.

Postpartum anxiety affects 1 in 7 mothers

Five and a half months postpartum, on the other hand, is exactly the right time for diagnosing a postpartum mood disorder. It’s not just PPD. Many women struggle with postpartum/perinatal anxiety or even OCD. Your history with anxiety puts you at much higher risk of perinatal anxiety or panic.

I know you’re likely arguing with me in your head about every word I’ve written here, because you *know* you’re right about this diagnosis and all the doom and gloom that comes with it. You *know* you have every right to be as anxious and worried as you are right now.

I hate posting this article because it’s very upsetting.

After Baby, an Unraveling

But I need you to read it, and then tell someone — your husband, your doctor, a helpline — TODAY that you need to get help before this gets any worse. Before the devastation and hopelessness and fear start to cloud your decision making. You mentioned finding therapy not helpful, but PPD/PPA can absolutely be successfully treated (usually with medication).

You’ve done nothing wrong here. This is not a failing on your part as a woman or a mother. This is just something that happens, and it happens to so, so many people. (One in seven mothers and one in 10 fathers, in fact!) And there IS help, and you WILL be well. You won’t feel paralyzed with fear. Your anxiety will stop screaming at you, and will melt away into the furthest background noise. You’ll be able to look at your baby’s face and feel love and peace and wonderment about his future. You’ll be able to focus on those little drooly smiles instead of obsessing over how he plays with toys.

Call 1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453. You can search for local resources here as well

Photo source: Depositphotos/Maksymiv

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Nicole
Guest
Nicole

Oh, Amy, I am so glad you have been sounding this alarm for mamas. How I wish I had known that postpartum anxiety is a thing. I knew all about PPD, watched for it like a hawk, saw nothing. Meanwhile I was having vivid, persistent, intrusive visions of my baby — and sometimes me too — dying horribly. I knew I was more anxious, but it never once occurred to me that it was a postpartum thing — it was just my life now, y’know? And, this early anxiety colored everything for years to come — I saw real things… Read more »

Smithy Shone
Guest
Smithy Shone

Amy is soooo right, Momma. Please, please tell someone. Be honest, as honest or even more honest than you were in your letter. Let them know this is clouding your mind, to the point of obsession, because that’s what this is. Those awful, intrusive thoughts are something you can get help for, and are not something you need to fixate on, or figure out or diagnose your baby with. If you haven’t already, talk to your pediatrician first, if that seems like an easier place to start. Share you concerns, and be honest about how much time you spend thinking… Read more »

Heather S
Guest
Heather S

I hate this attitude toward autism. It isn’t some debilitating disease or a death sentence. It just means your kid’s brain would work a little different than most. Autistic kids can be challenging, depending on where they fall on the spectrum but many grow up to be perfectly functional, independant adults. One of the sweetest kids at the school I worked at was severely autistic. He wasnt very verbal, easily frustrated and prone to tantrums that. He was an adorable, loving little boy most of the time. He just nedded some extra attention, thats all. Take it from someone who… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

I love how you framed and wrote your last sentence.This new mom is clearly dealing with issues of anxiety. Our main goal here is to support and encourage her so that she gets some help ASAP.