Autistic or just stubborn?
My 3.5 year old son developed normally, hit all the milestones he was supposed to. At 1 yr old he would say new words for a while, then move on to other new words, words like mama, dada, cracker, doggie, yes, no, etc. A little after that we could tell that he would 'sneak' walking, as in he would be crouched down in a separate part of the house, see we were watching, then sloooowly bring himself to the ground. It was as if he was making the decision NOT to walk until he had it down perfectly. At about 2 yrs old it was like he 'decided' to stop progressing verbally. Every once in a while, when he wasn't paying attention, he would say short sentences like 'I love you' or 'I want that', etc. Then we'd make a big deal out of it and he'd act like he was 'caught.' When he turned 3 yrs old and still was behind in his language, based on past behavior I thought he must be deciding to wait until he can do it perfectly, like with his walking.
His favorite thing in the world is playing with the alphabet, ie singing it, saying it, writing it in order, putting his alphabet blocks in order. He can even write certain words he learned from Blue's Clues, like 'read' and 'Joe'. Sometimes he puts his cars and blocks in a row but that doesn't really raise a red flag to me. He will follow instructions very well when he wants to (his teachers are thrilled that he loves to help clean). He will play with other children (going down the same slide, etc) but doesn't care to interact with them, but he's never been interested in kids his age, always older ones. He often points, pulls us to where he wants to go or where something is that he wants. He will grunt, whine, shake his head 'no' and say 'yeah' and wave and say 'bye.' He makes eye contact only when he has to or wants to (playing a tickle game he'll look at me, but being disciplined he looks away), when he was a baby this wasn't an issue. We are still working with him with potty training - at home he shows little signs of telling us he needs to go, but at daycare he'll grab a teacher and pull them to the restroom.
Facing pressure from his daycare - who say they have no other warning signs other than lack of language abilities - to get him tested. Now that we've got him tested and I've read the results I'm racked with worry. They say in all but some of his writing skills he is behind in nearly everything - but the tester admitted that because he won't talk it's difficult to accurately judge where he's really at ability wise. He recognizes colors, shapes, knows his alphabet, says his alphabet (albeit sometimes hard to understand), has counted up to 14...but he didn't do many of these things in front of the tester because he's wary of new faces. Over this past summer, right before the testing, he was at home with his father and no one else, with sporatic trips to visit older cousins. Then he went back into daycare and it's like a switch flipped: he whines almost all the time, loses his temper in an instant, will throw a tantrum when he almost never did before and hits himself in the head when he's frustrated. The sudden change is what has me fearing an autism spectrum diagnosis.
But...after mentally cataloging his short history I'm just not sure. Do I have a 3.5 yr old with a language handicap who is going through the terrible threes? Or do I have something deeper to worry about?