| What I'd Like The (EB) World To Know About Autism/ASD
, In honor of Autism Awareness Month
01/04/2011, 06:13 AM
Joined: 10-February 08
Thanks to all who kept this thread active for Autism Awareness Day. To ensure that as many parents as possible see this important information during Autism Awareness Month, please help us keep the dialogue going with a comment, question, or a bump. Thanks! Dear Fellow EBers:
Saturday, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day and the month of April is Autism Awareness Month. Last year, in recognition of that event, I and some of the other mothers of kids with ASD started a general awareness thread on the WDYT board.
We ended up getting a lot of great questions from other parents, and it stimulated a very healthy and respectful discussion about what is now the most common developmental disorder in Australia. Most importantly, because of that thread and other related information shared on EB, dozens of parents have recognized the signs of ASD in their own children and have been able to get them properly assessed, diagnosed, and on the path to support. So who says EB is all cat fights and youse all are b*tches?!
But despite all of the ASD talk on EB, there are still a lot of myths and misconceptions floating around. Some of them are mildly irritating (“All kids with autism are good at math.” “All kids with autism have savant skills.”) while others are totally inaccurate (“Every second kid is being diagnosed with autism these days,” “If you miss the window of early intervention, there’s no hope.”) And some are just plain hurtful – like the false belief that violent behaviour is a cornerstone of autism or that autism can be “cured” by better parental discipline.
There is so much that I want each of you to know about autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but I will limit myself right now to my top priority – helping parents understand the warning signs. I hope others will join in with their own thoughts and questions.
With deepest thanks,
***Understanding and Recognizing The Warning Signs of ASD
When I first started worrying that something was “different” about my daughter, lots of things entered my mind, but autism wasn't one of them. My knowledge of autism was pretty much confined to stereotypes -- all people with autism are either trapped in their own worlds or reciting baseball trivia like Rainman. My daughter was nothing like that! How could she have an autism spectrum disorder?!
What I didn't realize at the time is that ASD comes in so many different shades. It's called a spectrum precisely because the blend of symptoms, and the degree to which they affect a person, can vary dramatically. What people with ASD share are: (1) difficulties in social interaction
, (2) difficulties with communication
, (3) restricted/repetitive interests and behaviors
. Very often, they show some sensory sensitivities
This is one of the best, easy-to-digest summaries I’ve seen on describing the spectrum (thanks, ZombieMum
!) If you read nothing else on this thread, please take a look at this:http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/pu...newsletter2.pdf
Looking back, it's clear now that my daughter actually displayed several early warning flags of ASD as a baby and toddler -- I just didn't appreciate the link. At the same time I had these niggling concerns about her development, I was surrounded by well-intentioned friends, family, and even some front line medical professionals assuring me that she was just "quirky," "gifted," and "marching to the beat of her own drummer." Had I known the red flags of autism, I would have placed more urgency on seeking the opinion of a specialist.
For those of you reading this who might see your own child or a child you love in these descriptions, I hope this note will provide a gentle prompt to get those concerns checked out. Getting a developmental screen with a GP or MCNH is a good first step. They might then refer you on to a specialist (e.g. developmental paed, child psychologist) to do further assessments.
RED FLAGS FOR ASDEarly Warning Signs (Baby-Toddler)
Below are some of the early warning signs – usually seen in the first two years – of ASD. Some children will have many of these early warning signs, whereas others might have only a few. Also, any loss of social or language skills during this period is cause for concern.Social
The child:* doesn’t consistently respond to her name
* doesn’t smile at caregivers* doesn’t use gestures independently – for example, she doesn’t wave bye-bye without being told to, or without copying someone else who is waving
* doesn’t show interest in other children
* doesn’t enjoy or engage in games such as peekaboo or patty cake. Communication
The child:* doesn’t use gestures – for example, she doesn’t raise her arms when she wants to be picked up or reach out to something that she wants
* doesn’t use eye contact to get someone’s attention or communicate – for example, she doesn’t look at a parent and then look at a snack to indicate she wants the snack
* doesn’t point to show people things, to share an experience or to request or indicate that she wants something – for example, when she’s being read to, she doesn’t point to pictures in books and look back to show the reader
* doesn’t engage in pretend play – for example, she doesn’t feed her baby doll
* doesn’t sound like she’s having a conversation with you when she babbles
* doesn’t understand simple one-step instructions – for example, ‘Give the block to me’ or ‘Show me the dog’. Behavior
The child:* has an intense interest in certain objects and becomes ‘stuck’ on particular toys or objects
* focuses narrowly on objects and activities such as turning the wheels of a toy car or lining up objects
* is easily upset by change and must follow routines – for example, sleeping, feeding or leaving the house must be done in the same way every time
* repeats body movements or has unusual body movements such as back-arching, hand-flapping and walking on toes. Sensory
The child:* is extremely sensitive to sensory experiences – for example, she is easily upset by certain sounds, or will only eat foods with a certain texture
*seeks sensory stimulation – for example, she likes deep pressure, seeks vibrating objects like the washing machine, or flutters fingers to the side of her eyes to watch the light flicker. Signs of possible ASD in Preschoolers:
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 sure 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. Signs of possible ASD in school-aged children
It is not uncommon for ASD to go undetected until school age, especially with kids who have higher functioning forms of ASD. And ASD can be masked by giftedness. Here are some of the more common ways that ASD might present itself in a school aged child (again, list is representative, not exhaustive and not every child with ASD will show every sign):Communication problems
The child may:• have had unusual language development when they were younger (used language that is different to that used by other children their age);
• sound unusual when they speak;
• repeat words or phrases that they have heard rather than responding to them;
• refer to themselves as “you,” “she” or “he” after the age of three;
• use unusual words for their age; or
• use only limited language or talk freely only about things that interest them.Social difficulties
The child may:• not be interested in playing with other children;
• try inappropriately to join in with other children’s play (for example, your child might seem aggressive);
• behave in a way that other people find difficult to understand (for example, they may not do as they are told);
• be easily overwhelmed by being around other people;
• not relate normally to adults (for example, they may be too intense or not have any relationship at all); or
• not like people coming into their personal space or being hurried.Difficulties with interest, activities, and behaviors
The child may:• struggle to take part in pretend play with other children or play in which they need to cooperate or take turns;
• have difficulties in large open spaces (for example, they may stay round the edges of the playground);
• find it hard to cope with changes or situations that aren’t routine, even ones that other children enjoy (for instance, school trips or the teacher being away).Other factors:
The child may:• have unusual skills (for example, have a very good memory or be gifted in math or music); or
• not like the sound, taste, smell, touch of certain things. WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS
If you have concerns about your own child's development – be it for ASD or some other issue – I urge you to seek professional guidance. Again, your MCHN/ECH or GP can provide a developmental screen -- with specialist support most commonly delivered by developmental paeds (or child psychologists or psychiatrists).
There are some terrific resources to help guide parents in their journey. Two particularly valuable ones in Australia are: http://raisingchildren.net.au/children_wit...sm_landing.html http://www.autismawareness.com.au/
(includes a directory of ASD-oriented professionals) Thanks for helping me spread the word! OK, who’s next?
This post has been edited by baddmammajamma: 22/04/2011, 08:29 PM
01/04/2011, 06:52 AM
Joined: 24-May 08
Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain
What I'd like EB to know about autism:
It's not the end of the world, it doesnt mean that your child is incapable, or that they are insufficient. My brother was diagnosed at 4 years old, and it was tough, my parents had to fight every step of the way to get him support and assistance. He's now 28 years old, and while he still has to deal with the ASD everyday and lives at home with mum for support, he holds down a full-time job, he has a huge network of friends, he has a better social life than I do! I know my brother is towards the high-functioning end of ASD, but my mum and dad never thought he'd be able to get a job, or have a real life.
It's not always as bad as it seems. You can get through it.
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