Autism and Special Needs
Tools that teach you to Succeed
|Does my child have autism?|
"Why doesn’t my child do that?" You think to yourself as you watch the other kids play together at the birthday party.
Your stomach twists into a knot and you try and dismiss it. You’ve already discussed your fears with your pediatrician. Children reach milestones at different times and he believes your child is fine. But you’re a Mom. Something is wrong! You can feel it in your gut!
You get on-line, looking for reassurance that your child is fine. The more you read the more confused you get. In some ways, your child appears to be developing typically. But in others he’s totally off base. As you search the strange behaviors your child sometimes exhibits, the word suddenly pops out at you….. AUTISM.
The blood drains from your face and you feel like you’re about to faint. The pit of your stomach feels like lead. "It can't be autism" you think to yourself. "He’s far too smart. Besides, don't people with autism rock in a corner all day?"
Frantically, you begin searching on-line for the word "autism". Other words keep appearing like "pdd-nos", "Asperger syndrome" and "hyperlexia." This is overwhelming. "A simple definition, that's what I need," you tell yourself.
And you find one. In fact, you find hundreds and they all say the same thing. Terms like "stereotyped or idiosyncratic language" and "persistent preoccupation with parts of objects."
You stare blankly at the screen. What on earth does all this mean? Tears begin to roll down your cheeks. "I just want to know if my child is OK. Why can't there be a simple definition? Why isn't there something that will tell me right away if my child has autism?"
Every child is unique but we'll do our best to help. The following descriptions portray some COMMON behaviors in children on the spectrum. It’s unlikely that your child will display all of these. However, if you're concerned enough to be reading this and you can relate to some of the descriptions below, I recommend you get an evaluation right away!
Your child at play
Your child has an unusual method of play. Toys are played with in the same way and there is very little imaginative play. Your child might repeatedly make his train go around the track and then crash into a tree. Any suggestions to alter this are usually rejected. Even though your house might resemble a mini Toys ‘R Us, it strikes you as odd that your child prefers spinning the stroller wheels to all his toys. You might also find that he spends large amounts of time lining things up. Cars go next to each other, side by side. Crayons are lined up together, sometimes in size order. Stuffed animals are arranged in a row. Disturbing any of his arrangements can cause extreme distress and your child will insist on fixing it.
Your child is happily playing with his train. While a typical child will constantly turn around to see what you think, your child is interested in his toy, not your reaction. Typical children constantly bring you things, point to things and show you things. Children on the autism spectrum might bring you a toy because they want you to wind it up constantly, but they’re not interested in what you think about it. They are simply getting their needs met so they can continue their game.
Children with autism typically have delayed speech. They might not be verbal at all, saying very few words and making sounds. Some children might have a lot of words but not use them in a typical manner. You might find your child "echoing" words that you say. He might repeat lines from movies over and over. He might label objects but not string words together. For example he might say words like "juice" but not "I want juice." Your child might understand exactly what you are saying but isn’t able to express what he wants. He might drag you to the fridge if he’s thirsty rather than ask you for juice. He may get pronouns mixed up and when asked a question like "Are you hungry?" might respond by saying "You’re hungry" rather than "Yes, I'm hungry."
Your child pays attention to sounds
While most people don't pay attention to the number of airplanes that fly over their house every day, your child might notice every one of them. He is either fascinated by the noise or he blocks his ears because it's too loud. You’ve also noticed that he has selective hearing. He often doesn’t seem to hear his name or look up when you call him, but softly mentioning his favorite DVD has him running from the next room.
Strange body movements
Your child has some strange body movements. You can't figure out if this is cute or concerning. Your child might flap his hands when he's excited. He might walk on his tip toes. You might have caught him staring at his fingers or flicking them in front of his eyes. He might have some other movements. He doesn't do this all the time but its frequent enough to keep you wondering if it's normal.
While all children have temper tantrums your child definitely seems to go overboard. The smallest thing can set him off. In attempt to console him, you find yourself scurrying around in frenzy while you offer him juice, food or his favorite toy. Despite all efforts your child does not calm down easily and you begin to dread these moments. You become fearful of going out and do everything in your power to prevent the storm before it hits.
Your child might be clumsy but you are amazed at how fast he is and the ability he has to climb. You turn around for a moment and suddenly notice that your child has got to the top of the fridge. "How did he do that?" And why didn’t he just ask for the banana he saw up there? On the flip side, your child might have delayed physical skills. "Why can't he jump? Or skip? Or walk up the stairs foot over foot? Why is he so poor on the playground?" you wonder to yourself.
"My child is the world’s fussiest eater!" This is a common sentiment of parents on the autism spectrum. Your child might not agree to try anything new. Almost everything is distasteful except the five foods he eats. He might like only crunchy food or only soft food. Just because he likes chicken nuggets at home, doesn’t mean he likes them in a restaurant. If the recipe varies even slightly, your child will notice immediately and go hungry instead.
Attention to detail
Does your child notice the tiniest of things? A crack in the wall or a piece of lint on the sofa might grab his attention. When looking at a book, he might be drawn to the small butterfly on the corner of the page, rather than the main character the rest of the world seems to focus on.
Letters, numbers and memory
"My child must be a genius" you think to yourself as you smile. He is so good with letters and numbers. He knows the whole alphabet and you didn’t even teach him. He amazes you with his ability to count backwards and forwards. You also might notice that he has an incredible memory. He jogs your memory about things you have long forgotten. He remembers books and DVD's by heart after listening to them or reading them once.
Self help skills
Typical children beam with joy at your delight when they button their pants. Children with autism often don't share the same social motivation. The struggle to zip up their coat or put on their shoes simply outweighs the pride in your face. If motivation isn’t the issue, fine motor skills might be the problem. Many children with autism have delays in this area. Pouring juice, turning handles and manipulating small items may be very challenging for children on the autism spectrum.
Attachment to objects
While the child next door likes to hold on to her stuffed teddy bear, your child might prefer his Lego block or his red plastic circle. Typical children can easily be coerced to leave their favorite toy behind, but it's a different story for the spectrum child. He's not easily convinced. He seems to feel comforted by having something in one hand or both hands when you leave the house.
Your child doesn't sit still for a minute. You marvel how other parents enjoy themselves at a family restaurant. Your child won’t eat anything, won't stay in his chair and is likely to behave very badly resulting in lots of "naughty mommy looks" from other customers. The mall is just as bad. If you leave your child's hand for a second, he's off in a flash. And it's no better at home. While you would like to plop down on the sofa, you're too busy chasing your child around the house to make sure he's not in any danger.
Your child might be absolutely obsessed with things. He might be fascinated by fans, switching the lights on and off, letters and numbers or dinosaurs. Whatever it is, your child could happily spend every minute on his interest if given the chance. He won't be coerced to play with these things your way. He likes to do the same things with them all the time.
Eye contact and referencing
Since children with autism might look directly at family members but have poor eye contact with others, it's a good idea to ask a teacher or friend if your child makes eye contact with them. You’ve read about social referencing but what does that mean? Try pointing to something behind your child and see if he turns around to look. Gasp at something in the opposite direction. Does your child want to know what sparked your reaction? Typical children will be curious or even afraid if they think something might have alarmed you.
Children with autism often respond to normal events in strange ways. Spilling his juice might cause him to fall to the floor absolutely devastated. Someone sneezing might cause him to laugh hysterically. Loud noises might have him block his ears and cry. He might not seem to understand obvious danger and you’re afraid he’ll get hurt. When it comes to discipline, nothing you've read ever applies. You wonder if your child even understands the word "No." He seems to find it funny or not get it all. You spend a lot of time puzzled over your child’s behavior and reactions.
Sameness and repetition
Children with autism like things to be constant. He wants to drive the same route to Grandma's house and can get very upset if you change course. He might eat cereal for breakfast every morning and be very reluctant to change this. He likes his routines and does not welcome change or appreciate surprises. You could face a major meltdown by saying "OK. Let's go!" You’re far better off giving some notice such as "In five minutes we’re going to the store."
Your child is sensitive to textures. Tags inside clothes are unbearable. Even seams in socks can bother him. Sometimes he likes to touch different textures. Running his hand down the wallpaper or feeling your silky shirt intrigues him. Sometimes he recoils when touched. Alternatively he might crave being hugged and squeezed and he might pile bean bags and pillows on top of himself.
If your child has just been diagnosed with autism, keep in mind that he is the same person today as he was yesterday. Learning that your child has a disability is devastating to parents. The good news about autism is that there is great hope. Your child will grow and progress. The best thing you can do is provide unconditional love and support. Read more articles and information on http://www.nlconcepts.com and you will be inspired and enthusiastic about the great things your child may achieve.
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