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Autistic traits at two years old- Beginning the journey to diagnosis

Updated: Jan 15

R was born at 40 weeks with an uncomplicated pregnancy. Her development tracked typically up until about 18 months. At 18 months, we reached out to her pediatrician because we noticed she stopped saying words she used to say consistently, and her speech seemed to have plateaued. We had recently just had a second child and moved to a new home so we figured all the change might be having an effect on her. Between 18-24 months in addition to delayed speech, I also noticed she wasn't using gestures like waving or pointing. She didn't respond consistently to her name- we often dismissed it as she was heavily concentrated on her current task or interest. Her ability or interest in following instructions seemed to have drifted- we chalked it up to her being strong-willed. I started noticing differences in what I now know is called joint attention. If I pointed something out, she rarely, if ever looked. She did not attempt to mimic us, nor did she point things out to us or attempt to get our attention during play. In fact, playing together felt increasingly more difficult. I remember canceling a popular toy subscription we had at the time because we just "weren't connecting" over toys. That being said, she was happy and content to play independently. Her play centered around sorting and stacking, water, and outdoor play, and she also enjoyed games like tickle, chase, or peek-a-boo.

In addition to some of the differences I mentioned above, we contacted our pediatrician for some behavioral concerns. R stopped napping between 18-24 months no matter what lengths we went to tire her out and provide appropriate sleep hygiene. Additionally, she was a climbing machine- to the point it was a safety concern in our own home. Lastly, she was having episodes, that I called tantrums, but intuitively I felt weren't tantrums, but I wasn't sure what to call them. They were extreme emotional distress that seemingly popped up without warning and lasted over 30 minutes. I felt so distressed about not knowing how to help her. Her pediatrician placed a referral for both a speech therapist and occupational therapist evaluation.

I didn't have autism on my radar until around two years old. When her MCHAT screening results prompted a referral to a developmental pediatrician. At that point, I felt like it was all I could think about. I desperately wanted answers for which I thought would bring support and comfort. My husband, however, was not ready to talk diagnosis. The word Autism became a source of conflict in our home. My husband instinctively met R where she was and didn't care if she did things differently- He wasn't going to let a diagnosis change the way he saw R. I remember feeling like I could see it so clearly now, her lack of response to name, minimal eye contact, repetitive play- I grieved what I didn't know. I called my sister crying from my closet because I thought my daughter was Autistic- all I'd ever heard about Autism was " red flags" " disorder" and " disability". I feared a life for my daughter that I didn't even understand. My husband and I compromised and agreed to pursue speech and occupational therapy because it would only help, not hurt R, with the condition that diagnosis only be considered if needed after she turned three.

The meeting with the developmental pediatrician ended up not being so helpful- because of R's inconsistencies with sleep- she fell asleep for the appointment and we could not wake her. He conducted parent interviews and recommended ABA therapy based on the presence of traits we discussed. We started the therapy because we wanted to do what was best to help support R, after all, we were told ABA was evidence-based and the gold-standard treatment. After learning more about the techniques used and what the Autistic community said about ABA we decided to stop therapy after two sessions.

In my downtime, I scoured social media to learn all I could about Autism. I came across other families sharing on social media and felt such relief to see other families thriving, and their children growing, and happy. I started following various speech and occupational therapists to learn more and eventually came across the word neurodiversity. I knew it described my daughter perfectly, different, not deficient. I had waves of grief but eventually came to learn about Autism through a neurodiversity-affirming lens. I came to see my daughter for exactly who she was, differences and all, not who I thought or expected her to be, and I celebrated her. I listened to podcasts about Autism, Neurodiversity, gestalt language processing, and sensory integration any chance I could. I was determined to learn all I could to provide her with as much support as I could at home without a formal diagnosis.

Between two and three years old my husband and I went through some transformative learning experiences with regard to ourselves, our belief systems, and parenting. With feedback from our early intervention SLP and OT, and our private practice, NLA Trained SLP, we decided to pursue an official medical diagnosis. We have been on multiple waitlists since R was about two and a half years old. After she turned three, she met eligibility for accessible/ special education services under the disability Autism. We are currently still on a waitlist for medical diagnosis. In the meantime, we share our journey in learning and supporting R to help other families like ours.

186 views2 comments


Hi Daisy,

I'm so glad this post resonated with you. My goal is to create a post a week!


Daisy McVay
Daisy McVay
Jul 07, 2023

This sounds so very much like our little girl. Please keep posting as you can. You’ve already helped me so much.

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