Looking back there were signs that something was off shortly after my Son's 1st Birthday. Just about one month after his birthday we made a huge move from one state to another for my husband's job and we blamed a lot of his behaviors on the adjustment period but some behaviors never seemed to let up.
Some things got better but the one thing that really stuck was the intense fear of the vacuum. My husband would literally take him out on the patio while I vacuumed the house and even with the door between us he trembled and screamed like he feared for his life. It was awful, broke my heart every time and nothing we did seemed to comfort him. It got to a point that we could not even bring the vacuum into the same room with him without this intense reaction.
The next thing I noticed and I got the major brush off from Doctors on was he was not speaking. He barely said a handful of words by his 2nd birthday and he certainly was not putting two words together yet. I was so concerned I asked everyone I know if they knew kids that spoke as little as he did at that age and everyone tried to comfort me by saying things like "every kid is different" I took their word because that is what the Dr was telling me too. He finally did start to put more than one word together and he finally called me "Mama" when he was about two and a half. He still struggles with his speech and more importantly he often retreats inside himself and stops speaking and if he decided to communicate he only whines or grunts and points for the things he wants.
Sometime after he turned two we started to see this funny little quark about him that we thought was so cute and funny that we never saw it as a sign of anything. He started to have an interest in cars and his favorite thing to do with them was line them up like they were in a parking lot. And then we opened our pantry one day and noticed one of my husbands caned salsa cans were all lined up labels facing out and there were little packets of strawberry jam (like they have in diners) on top of each can with the labels facing the same way as well. We thought, "Oh boy, he is going to be OCD" but more in a joking manner. He did several other things around the house that were similar and there were several more times we opened our pantry to those sorts of surprises but we just saw it as a quark not really a concern.
The next red flag came when he was just over two and a half. I had a friend staying with me while I was recovering from my c-section with my second son to help out with my first. She is a preschool teacher so she had all sorts of fun projects for them to do together to keep him entertained. When she pulled out the sticker project we discovered another intense fear! He was almost as afraid of the stickers touching him as he was of the vacuum. It caught us both by surprise. She had never seen anything like it and I had never made an attempt to give him stickers before so I was shocked too. Of course this fear translates to band-aids as well. Six months ago he split his head open and I put a band-aid on it because it was bleeding a lot (not big enough for stitches but head wounds bleed a lot) and he cried for 45 minutes because he was too afraid to take it off himself and totally freaked about it being on him. I tried to reason with him, comfort him, everything in my power but I finally just took it off and he stopped crying almost immediately. Before we discovered this intense fear of sticky things we had noticed he had trouble with clothing tags and clothing in general but we lived in a warm climate and figured he just preferred to run around in his diaper or underwear.
The final red flag was the inability to discipline. For a long time I thought it was the terrible twos and then everyone told me three is even harder but I started to worry more and more because the it seemed to be getting worse the older he got, not better. Then of course you spend all your time blaming yourself...I am not disciplining correctly or consistently, I am too lenient in some areas and not lenient enough in other...blah, blah, blah...but in the back of my mind I knew I was pouring my heart into my kid and getting NO results, not even a little response.
I do want to mention that when all these issues came up I did mention them to my Pediatrician and I got the brush off every time. There was never any notes in his chart made about these issues and so with each visit it was looked at as an isolated issue and nothing was connected together and I think that is why I was given the brush off so many times.
My Unconventional Holy Intervention came in May of this year. We were seeing a new pediatrician for a well visit for my younger son and the older one was having one of "those" days. At first the Dr. looked at me like I was a bad parent and then when he observed that my discipline measure were having no effect he tried to calm my son down. It didn't work and then it suddenly was a problem with my child. I, of course, started to cry and the Dr. started to ask me several questions and gave me the confirmation that my gut was right all this time. There was something off and it was both a relief and also extremely scary at the same time.
Side note: We did not return to that pediatrician because he was extremely rude and had horrible bedside manner but I will forever be grateful for him being there at the right time to give me the confirmation I needed to move forward with this journey.