Pssst. Hey you. Yeah, that's right. Come over here.
I have a secret. You'll want to know it, trust me.
I think your son might have autism. You should check it out.
And this is where I wake up from my dream before the guy in question punches me out or otherwise inflicts extreme physical violence.
Having read a lot on autism and spoken to many clinicians, I have a little autism detector in my brain I can't turn off. I can't help myself... I screen every child I run into. I'm no psychologist and do not pretend to be able to diagnose autism, but there have been a few times where it is so obvious to me it's like the kid spray painted "I HAVE AUTISM" on the wall.
For example, let's take today. I was at a playgroup with Tyler. I saw a Dad with his 2.5 yr old son. I said hello to the son. He was not interested in looking at me or responding to me at all, even when I was quite annoyingly persistent. While he was verbal, his speech was limited to one word phrases and the articulation was unclear so he obviously had a speech delay. He had no interest in the other children despite repeated attempts by his Dad to get him involved. He played very independently - using many toys appropriately, but was very quiet and generally ignored any attempts by his Dad to join him in his activities. At one point, he decided opening and closing the door was quite fun and when his Dad removed him from this perseveration, become quite upset and told his Dad "No". He joined the rest of the kids for bubbles but was very focused on the bubbles and again ignored the children.
I said to the Dad, "Wow, your son plays so independently." He replied, somewhat embarrassed, "yeah, we are trying to socialize him but he's not getting a lot of opportunity." I left it at that... perhaps I would have had more of an "in" with Alanna there. Perhaps I weirded him out by trying to engage his son so much.
To me this kid was likely on the spectrum. He may not have full blown autistic disorder but he definitely had red flags for ASD. But I couldn't tell this first time Dad, could I? I debated it. I really did. But in the end it wasn't my business and I know so many parents struggle with denial.
How would you react if a stranger said, "Excuse me but I think your child may have autism. You should get him evaluated." Assuming you even knew what autism was, you might be very angry with this stranger. Perhaps someday you would be thankful, but at that moment you'd be angry.
Perhaps I am just chicken. I worry that this child will not be identified until he is four if he doesn't attend pre-school. But it really isn't my business, is it?