I think it's fair to say that everybody is freaked out about autism. Diagnoses are way up, and no one knows why (beyond that we're getting a lot better at diagnosing), and though the spectrum is wide and includes a great many highly functional people, and though early diagnosis and therefore early intervention is likely to produce significant improvement in most cases, it's a hell of a scary thing to face.
Nobody has a real diagnosis, but it's my opinion that Andy and a few of his relatives show some distinctly Aspie traits, and since I think autism spectrum disorders are probably genetic (at least, predisposition to them is), I'm more vigilant than I would otherwise be about ASD signs in Ben. So I brought it up when I had him at the pediatrician for his nine-month check-up this week.
The pediatrician said the things to look for (because the absence of them could be a warning sign) are babbling (check), maintaining eye contact (check), playing peek-a-boo (check), and clapping -- at which point, he snapped to attention and started clapping and grinning at her. It's not the clapping itself, apparently, but the interactive, social-feedback-y nature of how we encourage clapping that's relevant to ASD detection.
So the kid's in the clear for now, which is a relief, except that I know that autism can show up late and present as regression in kids who until that point showed no signs. Comforting, right? I do try not to worry about it, which isn't that hard, because I'm not really the worrying kind. And I know that we're intelligent, loving, capable people who'll do our best for him, and our best will be pretty damned good. But it's out there, hovering, like the polio of this generation, and I can't help sometimes shivering in its shadow.