Autism Awareness - Guest Post

I have a guest poster today! Heather from Acting Balanced has written a wonderful post about her family's experience with Autism. April is Autism Awareness Month, and this is my way of helping to raise awareness. Please also visit Heather at her 'home', Acting Balanced.

Acting Balanced Autism Awareness Month

As a mom, I like to hope that I'm tuned into what is going on with my children, especially when they're with me almost 24/7, so when, at 15 months my older son wasn't yet regularly calling me mama, or saying much of anything at all, I sent an email to a friend of mine whose son has Autism and asked the question... Does this sound like Autism? hoping that she'd say nope, but what she did say was "You have great mommy instincts, if you think there is something going on that isn't quite right, you're probably right, it might be autism or it might be something else, but you are a great mommy and you've noticed something different in your son, so talk to his pediatrician"

It wasn't just the language issue, although that was a big part of it, wasn't the only thing that made me suspicious of Autism - when I was doing online research, I found a list of symptoms and started checking some of them off (Source):
  • The child does not respond to his/her name.
  • The child cannot explain what he/she wants.
  • Language skills or speech are delayed.
  • The child doesn't follow directions.
  • At times, the child seems to be deaf.
  • The child seems to hear sometimes, but not others.
  • The child doesn't point or wave bye-bye.
  • The child used to say a few words or babble, but now he/she doesn't.
  • The child throws intense or violent tantrums.
  • The child has odd movement patterns.
  • The child is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional.
  • The child doesn't know how to play with toys.
  • The child doesn't smile when smiled at.
  • The child has poor eye contact.
  • The child gets "stuck" on things over and over and can't move on to other things.
  • The child seems to prefer to play alone.
  • The child gets things for him/herself only.
  • The child is very independent for his/her age.
  • The child does things "early" compared to other children.
  • The child seems to be in his/her "own world."
  • The child seems to tune people out.
  • The child is not interested in other children.
  • The child walks on his/her toes.
  • The child shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants.)
  • Child spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order.
Liam was always my loner, preferring not to engage with us very often and only engaging when we were singing or holding him in certain ways. I would take him to play dates where he would ignore the other children and fixate on a toy or activity, and he wouldn't respond to his name regularly.

My pediatrician listened to my story and set me up with early intervention services, but at 18 months, Liam only qualified for speech therapy on their tests, so we went with a diagnosis of speech delay, but Autism was in the back of my mind, especially as his speech wasn't improving with weekly sessions, and I was even noticing regression in his receptive listening skills.

We finally took matters into our own hands and privately sought out a developmental psychologist to do our Autism testing. I remember being nervous, hoping both that she'd tell me that I was crazy on one hand and that we'd get an Autism diagnosis on the other. I know it might sound crazy to want the diagnosis, but it opens up more doors than it closes and it helps us as parents and caregivers to build skills and understand how Liam thinks and feels and interprets the world around him.

While I don't wish Autism on anyone, I do hope that if you have or know a child who displays these signs and symptoms that you also know that there is a world of hope and love out there in the Autism Spectrum Disorder community and the opportunity to get beyond the diagnosis to the little boy or girl you love is in there too!

Liam is now four and a half and attends a full day Partially Integrated Preschool with a fabulous teacher, who guest posted on my blog, www.actingbalanced.com, along with a number of other parents and experts as part of Autism Awareness Month. I would love to have you stop by and check out their stories.

Heather is a never-stay-at-home mom of three children, a teenager, a preschooler and an infant. She's a Canadian from Toronto living in Charleston, SC with her husband and kids and she started her blog, www.actingbalanced.com as a way to keep friends and family in the loop about her life. Acting Balanced has taken on a life of its own and is now an outlet for Heather to share her family with a wider audience, as well as product reviews, giveaways and more!


Anne said...

Love your words "that you also know that there is a world of hope and love out there in the Autism Spectrum Disorder community and the opportunity to get beyond the diagnosis to the little boy or girl you love is in there too!" That is so beautiful and inspirational. Thanks for sharing your story!

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Excellent post. Thank you for sharing this important information.

FatAngryBlog said...

Excellent post! Especially the "used to say a few words or babble, but now he/she doesn't" as that was my biggest indication that something had seriously changed with my son (although our family DR "pooh-poohed" me about it).

Early diagnosis is paramount to doing the most that we can with and for our children.

My son was diagnosed by the time he was 2.5 yrs old and I think it made a world of difference to him.

April said...

I think that Autism Awareness needs to get as much attention as possible...WELL DONE!

Helene said...

This is such a wonderful post, filled with great information. Who knows how many parents you may have helped by sharing this!