But in working as a volunteer expert on AllExperts.com, I've seen another side of it. This question is a good example - a mother of a sociable 2 year old who uses a few single words, and she thinks he might be autistic. Autistic! He's not even language delayed, and his language is the only area she's really concerned about. I've gotten several questions like that - parents worried that their 15 month olds aren't talking yet or their 2 year old don't talk very much, and they immediately jump to worrying about autism. I even had someone ask me if her 2 month old was autistic!
I started out thinking that if parents think their children are different, they probably are. Now, I understand exactly why so many doctors dismiss parents' concerns - because they really are overreacting! What is going on here? Clearly, something is wrong about parents scrutinizing tiny children so intensely for signs of something wrong!
This doesn't happen with gifted children, by the way. I get plenty of parents asking me if their children are gifted, because I'm an expert in giftedness as well as autism. Most of these parents are more towards the extreme of being uncertain about obviously gifted kids, such as a kid who was reciting the alphabet at 18 months. It's only when they think it's something bad that they overinterpret minor variations - when it's something good, they need to be told about the most obvious examples. I bet there are far more gifted kids whose parents don't think they're gifted than the other way around. The exact opposite is true for autism.