Given new life to our thread from 2012. To ensure that as many parents as possible see this important information during Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month, please help us keep the dialogue going with a comment, question, or a bump. Thanks! Dear Fellow EBers:
April 2nd is the U.N declared World Autism Awareness Day and the month of April is Autism Acceptance Month, a movement generated by the autistic community. Over the last three years, in recognition of these events, I and some of the other mothers of kids with ASD started an ASD thread on the WDYT board.
We ended up getting a lot of great questions from other parents, and it sparked a very healthy and respectful discussion about a set of conditions that are increasingly common in Australia and around the world.
Very signficantly, because of that thread and other related information shared on EB, many parents here 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. This is living proof that EB is far more than flouncing skirts and high schoolish cat fights!
There are SO many things I'd like to say about ASD and so many myths I'd like to dispel. But I am going to confine myself in this initial post to my personal passion: helping other parents recognize the red flags for ASD & understanding what steps to take to get help.
I've done a one-time blog to capture this information and share a bit of our family's personal journey on the autism spectrum (thanks to those of you who have shared it with your friends on Facebook).
Out of sheer exhaustion, I am going to steal an excerpt from it to summarize what I would like the EB World to know about ASD: the very basics of ASD and key early warning signs.
Please feel free to join in with questions, comments, your own experiences...whatever keeps the conversation going! (No bacon memes, please).
With big thanks,
***RED FLAGS FOR ASD IN CHILDRENEarly Warning Signs In Babies/Toddlers:
Below are some of the most common 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.
◦ 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 peek-a-boo or patty cake. Communications
◦ doesn’t use gestures to get needs met – 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
◦ 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
◦ 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.
UC San Diego's Autism Center for Excellence has one of the very best summaries I have ever seen re kids in the 12-24 month range:http://www.autism-center.ucsd.edu/treating...ages/signs.aspxSigns 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.
In addition to the signs above, here are some of the more common ways ASD might manifest itself in a preschool-aged child. Please note that this list is simply representative, not exhaustive, and that children with ASD won’t necessarily show every sign.
◦ The child generally does not point to or share observations or experiences with others.
◦ 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 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.
◦ 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 may appear to avoid social situations, preferring to be alone.
◦ There is limited development of play activities, particularly imaginative play.
◦ 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 have sleeping problems.
◦ The child may be resistant to solid foods or may not accept a variety of foods in their diet.
◦ There are often difficulties with toilet training.
◦ 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 entirely uncommon for ASD to go undetected until school age, especially with kids who are “higher functioning” (including those with Asperger’s Syndrome). ASD can also be masked by giftedness, as it initially was in our daughter, or blurred by other conditions, like ADHD. 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):
The child may:
◦ not be interested in playing with other children;
◦ try inappropriately to join in with other children’s play (for example, the 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; or
◦ not like people coming into their personal space or being hurried.Communications
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. Behavior
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).
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.
An Extra Twist: ASD In Girls
Adding an extra wrinkle to the warning signs above is the tendency of girls with ASD to present differently than boys, even if the underlying symptoms are still similar. Sue Larkey, an ASD educator in Australia, has written a terrific summary of the key ways in which ASD tends to “look” different in girls than in boys (again, bearing in mind that these are generalizations):
Ten Ways Girls with an ASD differ to Boys with an ASD1. Their special interests are usually animals, music, art, literature.
2. They often have a very good imagination, which includes imaginary friends, games, being animals or taking on persona of other girls.
3. They often see speech therapists for their speech and may be diagnosed with specific language disorders however there is something different about this girl no one can quite put their finger on.
4. They often play with older children or much younger children. This play is sometimes unusual for example ‘Mums and Dads’ but she will want to play the same role and game every time. She usually wants to be the pet or baby, whereas most girls want to be the Mum or Dad.
5. They often have hyperlexia – the ability to read but comprehension does not always match their reading skills. They are often the class book worm or write stories but they write the same story over and over changing a few characters. Many have a special interest in literature.
6. They have unusual sensory processing, like the boys, however bigger fluctuations often going from one extreme to the other.
7. They get anxious like boys, however their anxiety is rarely physical or disruptive. In fact many have great copying mechanisms at school however the family see a very different child at home where the anxiety can explode.
8. Often their difficulties with social skills are called ‘shy’, ‘quiet’, ‘solitary’.
9. They often like to organize and arrange objects. I watched one little girl spend hours seemingly playing “My Little Ponies” however on closer examination she was just arranging and re-arranging the horses over and over.
10. The main difference is there are MANY more undiagnosed girls/women than boys/men. Currently we only diagnose 1 girl to 7 boys. In the future it is thought by many psychologists the ratio could be more like 5 to 7 as we become more aware of this group.
There is a growing body of research on and support for girls & women on the spectrum, as well as professionals who are specializing in this space.Yet Another Twist: Gifted + ASD (“Twice Exceptional/2e”)
Giftedness and ASD are not mutually exclusive — they can and do exist together in some individuals! In fact, giftedness can mask some symptoms of ASD, and ASD can hide some indicators of giftedness. The common term for someone who is gifted and has learning differences or learning disabilities is “twice exceptional” (2e). It is important to remember that IQ/cognitive testing provides only one slice of a child’s developmental profile and by itself cannot rule in or rule out ASD. A comprehensive assessment by a qualified specialist — ideally someone who has rich experience with twice exceptional profiles and will use gold standard assessment tools — is the best way to determine if a child has something “more than giftedness” in play.WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE CONCERNS
If you or your MCHN/GP have concerns that your child might have ASD, the next step should be getting an assessment by a specialist. Please ask for a referral to a good developmental
paediatrician and/or child psychiatrist or child psychologist
who focuses on ASD/related issues.
As my daughter's developmental paed is fond of saying. "No child was ever harmed by an assessment or early intervention, but plenty of children could benefit from receiving timely support."
The mums on the Special Needs/Disabilities board have a wealth of knowledge on ASD-savvy professionals, navigating the often confusing assessment process, and are able to provide emotional support to fellow parents who are in that scary place of wondering "Is there something wrong?" Please feel free to lean on us for support or information!
Thanks for reading this far & helping keep this very important topic alive. OK, who's next?
This post has been edited by baddmammajamma: 07/04/2013, 07:27 PM