If you have met one child with Autism, then you have met one child with Autism.
Autism is different for each person who has the disability with varying degrees of abilities and challenges. It is not the same for my daughter as it is for your nephew…your granddaughter…your son.
Are there early signs? Yes. However, it is important to note that not all children who demonstrate “signs” will necessarily be diagnosed on the Autism spectrum.
That said, here are some of the signs that were true for my Maggie…
- Does not respond to their name by 12 months
- Does not point at objects to show interest (i.e. point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
- Does not play “pretend” games (i.e. pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
- Avoids eye contact and wants to be alone
- Has trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Has delayed speech and language skills
- Repeats words or phrases over and over
- Gives unrelated answers to questions
- Gets upset by minor changes
- Has obsessive interests
- Flaps their hands, rocks their body or spins in circles
- Has unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
I can tell you that the most telling warning sign for me was “mother’s intuition.” If you are suspecting that something isn’t right, speak with your child’s doctor. Trust your instincts … don’t let anyone tell you that you are “paranoid.” Best case scenario? You are wrong. But, what if you weren’t?
Early intervention services help children from birth to 36 months learn important skills. Services can include therapy to help the child talk, walk, and interact with others. Therefore, it is important to talk with your child’s doctor as soon as possible if you think your child has an ASD or other developmental problem.
The following is an excerpt from my story “A Mother’s Wandering Mind of Wonder” from the anthology Martinis and Motherhood – Tales of Wonder, Woe and WTF?!
Mother’s instinct whispered to me that she wasn’t “typically perfect” according to milestone marker standards – you know, the ones listed on the questionnaire at the pediatrician’s office. I felt like neon signs were blinding me everywhere I looked – in every parenting book I picked up and each magazine article I read, which all seemed to be preaching “your child should be doing this and that by such and such an age.” I had such a heavy heart wondering knowing – without officially knowing – that that she wasn’t “typically perfect.” Except, she was better than that. She was imperfectly perfect.
Maggie toe walked. She sat in the “W” position. She did not make much eye contact. She had low muscle tone and sensory issues. Her speech was delayed. If it was on the “be on the lookout for this” checklist, she ticked all the boxes. At the tender age of 18 months, my baby was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, an autism spectrum disorder.
At 18 months, Maggie would get on a mini-bus that picked her up in front of our home and brought her to a developmental preschool where she would receive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. Once home, there would only be a short period of rest before in-home special education, speech, and occupational therapists would occupy the rest of her day.
The basics…what is Autism?
- Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of three
- Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities
- Autism is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls. Its prevalence is not affected by race, region, or socio-economic status. Since autism was first diagnosed in the U.S., the incidence has climbed to an alarming 1 in 68 children in the U.S.
- There is currently no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development.
What does Autism mean to me?
- Autism means my daughter will say the funniest things you will ever hear, but not necessarily on purpose.
- Autism means my daughter will never remember your name … no matter how many times you meet her. It also means that she will remember something that happened on a random day seven years ago when it was rainy, and mommy was wearing a yellow shirt.
- Autism means that we have about 106 pairs of cotton, black leggings. That is all Maggie will wear. No jeans. No skirts. No dresses. Cotton, stretchy leggings. Every day.
- Autism means that we cannot sing “Happy Birthday” because the loud singing bothers Maggie’s ears.
- Autism means researching noise canceling earphones that Maggie can use on the school bus because the slightest raised volume “freaks her out.”
- Autism means my daughter has challenges. Social challenges. Intellectual challenges. Life challenges.
- Autism does not define my daughter. It is a part of her life that contributes to her wholeness.
During Autism Awareness Month — and every day of the year — I implore you to practice acceptance of all children with differences. Life lessons begin at home. Lead by example and teach your children to practice kindness.
And please remember, kids are kids – disability or not – they all want to be invited the birthday party. Just saying.
And, of course, when there is a cause…there is a fundraiser. Walk with us during the Autism Speaks Walk at Jones Beach —Field 5 — on Sunday, Oct. 02, 2016. Join our team, make a pledge or just come walk with us….who doesn’t love a day on the Jones Beach Boardwalk? I hope to see you there. #TeamMaggieSunshine Click Here For More Info
Want to learn more? Check out Autism Speaks.