Toe Walking and Other Oddities
My daughter, Myriam is a toe walker.
She walks with the grace of a prima ballerina.
She spins on her tippy toes for long minutes, never tiring, never dizzy.
My daughter, Myriam is a toe walker–that doesn’t look you in the eye.
It’s been a year since my daughter was diagnosed autistic. We’d known that something wasn’t quite right for much longer; nearly from the beginning. Even as a baby she was so… stoic. She was never really interested in being held or cuddled. That fact was devastating to a first time mother who would sit and look longingly at this astonishingly beautiful baby girl, and wonder why she just didn’t want me.
My daughter was late getting diagnosed; she was nearly four before we began getting all of the testing done. That was primarily due to the fact that shortly after my daughter’s first birthday I gave birth to my sons. Yes, thirteen months after the birth of our daughter we were blessed with twin boys! So during those months when the symptoms of autism should have been apparent we were just trying to survive on two hours of sleep a night.
If you haven’t noticed there’s a lot of guilt, on my part, for not seeing the signs and getting her help sooner. Please also note in my daughter Myriam’s case, she still met all of her developmental milestones at every pediatric visit. Well, except one. Myriam is a toe walker. That means that Myriam walks on her tip toes, like a ballerina. All children toe walk in the beginning but they stop around age two. Myriam is now almost five and we have to constantly remind her to walk with “heels down”. The toe walker question is on every developmental questionnaire I filled out but I’ve found that in our case, most pediatricians don’t understand its significance as related to autism. When the first psychiatrist asked us if Myriam was a toe walker the electrical shock that ran through my body was indescribable. That one question is what made her autism real to me.
My daughter also spins. I know now that it’s called stemming and that it means she is over or sometimes under stimulated. It’s a self regulating mechanism. It’s quite astonishing if you’ve never seen it before. I know all children spin, but not like my kid! She can spin in a circle for minutes on end, like ten to twenty; without falling and without getting dizzy. The child can literally spin for ten minutes and then immediately walk a straight line afterwards. It’s mind boggling.
My lovely little girl also speaks in catch phrases. The term is echolalia. She remembers everything she hears. E V E R Y T H I N G! Good and bad she remembers it all. And she repeats it incessantly. Sometimes it’s appropriate, like the grocery list, milk, eggs, butter and jam. Other times not so much. Myriam once quoted the phrase, “You can’t handle the truth,” from A Few Good Men repeatedly during our Pastor’s sermon.
The challenges of raising a child with autism abound! As does the humor. I know that God gives us not the children we want but the children we need. Myriam fills my life with wonder and with laughter. She’s beautiful and intelligent, she’s funny and sweet. Myriam is a challenge, a riddle an enigma disguised as a toe walker.
My lovely little girl is prima ballerina, up on her toes.