Raising kids is a daunting task! But you've got questions and fears about their development and wonder what to do. Has your child missed some major developmental milestones like talking and walking? Or perhaps your 18 - 24 month old was on track, but now he's losing some of his once celebrated abilities. One thing is clear: you should seek support. Sometimes even the thought that your child might have Autism is so stunning that you go into complete denial. This is a natural reaction. You go into a protective mindset. But please be brave and get a professional consultation for your child. There is hope for change, especially when your child receives early intervention.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be hard to understand at first. For some clarification, a "spectrum" is like a continuum connecting Point A to Point B. To pair this with Autism, it is understood as a group of behaviors that are seen together. So your child might have a certain behavior on the Autism Spectrum, but it may display occasionally or only mildly. Whereas in another child with ASD, the same symptom may display consistently and very intensely. They both have the same symptom, but are displayed differently. Hence the word spectrum helps us understand that just like a rainbow has intense colors and softer hues, so does each child with ASD. They are each unique with a similar group of behaviors. Also, you may hear a parent say that their child is a "high functioning" child with Autism (or low functioning). Often we see skills and abilities that are scattered from low to high and everything in between.
Although our son Sean had a diagnosis of Brain Injury as an infant, he later also displayed some autistic behaviors, as the professionals clarified for us. But he was never given the ASD diagnosis. He was, however, given diagnoses such as ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. This was a confusing season.
When Sean was in high school, I came across an article that described brain injury. I sat completely stunned after I finished reading the list. Out of the 30 descriptions of brain injury, about 26 of them described Sean. Now I finally had a precise understanding of Sean's developmental delays, cognitive disabilities and his behavioral differences. Now it all made sense! I couldn't believe that for the prior fifteen years we had been steered off course! So please mom, dad, grandparent or other family member - get your child in for a consultation and diagnosis. With the proper diagnosis, therapy can begin and your child will start making progress!
Some warning signs for ASD that you might notice:
Not responding to their name by age 12 months
Delay in speech milestones
Not pointing at objects
Avoiding eye contact
Repeating words or phrases over and over
Inflexible with routines
May flap their hands, rock their bodies or spin in circles (self-stimulation or "stimming")
Moody, cries often
Very picky eaters often ending in tears
Parallel plays past milestone or prefers to play alone
Does not pretend play
Doesn't read facial cues or body language of others
Does not understand personal space boundaries
May want to strip naked (often a sensory issue)
Other symptoms might include:
Unusual eating and sleeping habits
Lack of fear or more fear than normal
Sensory issues like over-stimulated by sound or movement, tags on clothes
Hyperactive or Impulsive
Short attention span
I will be talking about therapies in next week's blog. On my Resource page I have added several new resources concerning Autism. One is Speech and Language Development Center (SLDC), located in Buena Park, CA. Sean attended Grades Four through Eight there. This is an amazing school with Speech Pathologists, Counselors, PT and OT therapists right on campus. Also, Dr. Jerry Lindquist (Psychologist, Neurophychologist and Occupational Therapist) specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of children on the Autism Spectrum (see Resource page).
Explore the internet for places that diagnose Autism in your area. They are located all over the country. Autism Speaks, The Autism Society and TACA (Talk About Curing Autism) are excellent starting points for gaining knowledge for solutions and treatments of Autism (see Resource page). Dear family member, I pray God will light your path and comfort your heart as you journey toward the solutions for your child. God's light always brings hope!