We are so lucky. We are so very infinitely lucky. My little spidermonkey’s pediatrician asked the right questions, did the right assessments and we found out very early that there was a cause for concern. He has had speech and CBRS(play) therapy since he was 18 months old. Just from my limited knowledge of physiology and the human brain, I knew that the sooner we worked with him, the more favorable the outcome. Just from a common sense standpoint, it is easy to see how quickly little ones adapt and learn versus older children. What I am finding out now is that early intervention may be the key to whether or not autism truly is a lifelong diagnosis.
An article published in the American Psychological Association suggests that catching autism in the toddler years can give therapists a chance to essentially rewire and reshape an autistic mind’s tendencies. It is like catching a ball mid-flight and setting it back on the right path. Once the ball has gone too far, and the brain is no longer changing at the same rapid rate, the opportunity is missed…permanently. Once a child is school-age, therapies change from moulding to one of adaptation. What this means as a parent? Have your child tested. Period. Do not make excuses, do not turn a blind eye, do not think that they will “catch up”. If you suspect that something isn’t quite right, don’t be ashamed or afraid to say something. I am saying this because I have had several friends admit that they know mothers who are waiting on their children to “outgrow” signs of autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all 18 & 24 month old children be screened for autism. Here are some common concerns to look for based on an average 18-24 month old child with autism:
- Does not respond to his/her name.
- Cannot explain what he/she wants.
- Has language skills or speech that is delayed.
- Doesn’t follow directions.
- At times, seems to be deaf.
- Seems to hear sometimes, but not others.
- Doesn’t point or wave bye-bye.
- Used to say a few words or babble, but now he/she doesn’t.
- Throws intense or violent tantrums.
- Has odd movements or patterns.
- Is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional.
- Doesn’t know how to play with toys.
- Doesn’t smile when smiled at.
- Has poor eye contact with others.
- Gets “stuck” on things over and over and can’t move on to other things.
- Seems to prefer to play alone.
- Gets things for him/herself only.
- Seems to be in his/her own world.
- Seems to tune people out.
- Is not interested in other children.
- Walks on his/her toes.
- Shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants).
- Spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order.
My little guy did not display all of these signs at 18 months. Some signs did not show then showed up later on. Some of these symptoms, he has overcome. I nearly cried the day he began feeding me his Cheerios. He now has great eye contact and responds to his name. His journey has been proof positive to me that, with continued hard work, I can…and will help him over come every single bullet point on this list that currently applies.
Do not put off knowing. I understand how scary it is, but having an accurate diagnosis is so very important and so very powerful in getting our little superheroes the help they need and deserve. The waiting game is a losing choice no matter which way the ball falls. Talk to your pediatrician about any concerns you might have. Be brutally honest and accurate with yourself and your pediatrician when completing the M-CHAT autism screening. If your child is neurotypical, you will have gained the relief of knowing. If you’ve been blessed with a superhero, put on your matching cape. It’s time to get to work.