Hi Mums of Preschoolers/Kinder-Aged Kids:
I have posted a related notes on the various kids & toddlers boards have shared the information below in various forms on EB. I am trying to raise awareness of the early warning signs of autism, especially since it can be so valuable for kids to get support and early intervention even before they start school. My inspiration for this cause is my now 7-year-old daughter, who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Like a lot of parents, autism wasn't something I thought had to be on my radar screen. What little I did know about autism was based on generalizations and misconceptions ("Kids who make eye contact can't have autism,"
). I had a lot of worries about DD's development -- nothing blazing but a lot of niggling concerns when I compared her to other kids in our circle of friends.
What I didn't realize at the time is that ASD comes in so many different forms. It's called a spectrum
because the blend of symptoms, and the degree to which they affect a person, can vary quite dramatically. What people with ASD share are (varying degrees of): (1) difficulties in social interaction
, (2) difficulties with communication
, (3) restricted/repetitive interests and behaviors
. Very often, they show some sensory sensitivities
Looking back, we actually had plenty of early warning signs with our daughter even when she was very young. But at the same time I had these niggling concerns, I was surrounded by well meaning friends, family & even some medical professionals assuring me that she was just "quirky," "gifted," and "developing at her own speed." Nobody encouraged me to explore my concerns further, and to be honest, I was afraid to explore my concerns! Had it not been for two good friends who had the guts to encourage me to seek specialist support, we might still be struggling to make sense out of our daughter's behavior and quirks.
If you click on the link in my signature, you will understand why I am so passionate about raising awareness amongst my fellow parents.
ASD WARNING SIGNSVery Early Flags:
As I shared in the other thread, there are some very early warning signs for ASD that tend to show up by the time a child is two (or even earlier): http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/forums/ind...howtopic=909129
Sometimes, it's still hard to catch ASDs in those very early years, and it's only when a kid gets to day care/preschool or primary school -- and is around other children constantly -- that the differences really become apparent.Common Characteristics in Preschool Children With ASD
With some children, the red flags might not become entirely obvious until they reach preschool (or even school age), when suddenly the developmental gap between them and their peers becomes more pronounced. Some of the more common characteristics of ASD in preschoolers include (note: list is simply representative, not exhaustive. Also, a child with ASD may not display all of the signs on this list -- mine certainly didn't!):
* Unusual responses to other people. A child may show no desire to be cuddled, have a strong preference for familiar people and may appear to treat people as objects rather than a source of comfort.
* The child tends not to look directly at other people in a social way. This is sometimes referred to as a lack of eye contact.
* There may be constant crying or there may be an unusual absence of crying.
* The child often has marked repetitive movements, such as hand-shaking or flapping, prolonged rocking or spinning of objects.
* Many children develop an obsessive interest in certain toys or objects while ignoring other things.
* The child may have extreme resistance to change in routines and/or their environment.
* The child may appear to avoid social situations, preferring to be alone.
* There is limited development of play activities, particularly imaginative play.
* The child may have sleeping problems.
* Food problems. The child can be resistant to solid foods or may not accept a variety of foods in their diet.
* There may be an absence of speech, or unusual speech patterns such as repeating words and phrases (echolalia), failure to use 'I', 'me', and 'you', or reversal of these pronouns.
* There are often difficulties with toilet training.
* The child generally does not point to or share observations or experiences with others.
*The child may be extremely distressed by certain noises and/or busy public places such as shopping centers. WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS
I am by no means an expert, but I have done a crash course (5 years running now) in ASD management via my daughter! I also have so many friends -- both in real life and from EB -- who are raising children with ASD. Not one of them has said "I wish I had waited to seek help when I first started having concerns." If anything, the universal feeling seems to be: If you have concerns, do something about them!
And from a practical perspective, so much of the meaningful support (e.g. federal and state funding for early intervention) is targeted at kids who haven't yet started school. Getting a warranted diagnosis before your child starts school could mean the difference between receiving thousands of dollars of early intervention support and not (it sucks that so much is age-tested, but that is the reality right now).
If you have concerns about your child's development, here are some practical things you can do:
* Start jotting down/track the traits and behaviors that concern you.
* At the same time, ask your GP or MCHN for a referral to a qualified professional who can probe these concerns further. A very good place to start is with a developmental paed
, not a regular paed. A good developmental paed can help you determine whether your child is simply a late bloomer, a highly spirited/quirky/introverted kid, or a child with actual developmental issues (ASD or otherwise). Warning:
waiting lists (public and private) for developmental paeds are notoriously long, yet another reason to act sooner rather than later!
* Empower yourself with information. There are some outstanding resources out there for ASD, including these two great web sites:http://raisingchildren.net.au/children_wit...sm_landing.htmlhttp://www.autismawareness.com.au/
(includes state-by-state directory of professionals who are well versed in ASD)
* Start exploring the options for getting support for your child's needs. It is a misnomer that you need an official diagnosis to start early intervention. For instance, if your child is struggling with speech, you can seek the support of a speech therapist whether or not your child has a diagnosis of ASD.
* Get support from others who understand what you are going through. There's no reason to feel alone. My friends on the Special Needs/Disabilities board are always helpful (offering advice, recommendations to good doctors/therapists, etc.) & sympathetic. If you don't want to share your concerns on a totally public forum, you should feel free to PM a member (including me).
Thank you for taking the time to read this!
This post has been edited by baddmammajamma: 07/01/2013, 11:34 AM