Most parents notice signs or differences in their child around age 2. The timeline to noticing differences or having concerns about your child’s development and getting a diagnosis can take up to 3 years. So, parents have years of trying to find therapists, work with schools and determine what works for their child. It can be a tiring, frustrating and come to Jesus period of time. For me, I found out who I was and what I would tolerate as a parent. I was never a “fighter” about issues or confrontations. I always wanted to make peace and make compromises. Maybe I was really just very passive aggressive about life. Well, that had to change in order to care for my son. I spend hours reading and researching about therapies that help children with autism and sensory processing disorder. I didn’t read a lot of books about the subjects but instead read articles and reached out to other parents and professionals for their direction and experience. This was really because I didn’t have the time to read book after book. However, I did read 10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm. When I read this book as part of a book study my son had yet to be diagnosed. What I realized was that in at least 7 of the 10 chapters I had a viewpoint that I could use to explain what the chapter was talking about! I realized that maybe what I thought was SPD (sensory processing disorder) was in fact autism.
So, here are some resources that can be used to evaluate possible symptoms of autism from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website.
Possible “Red Flags”
A person with ASD might:
- Not respond to their name by 12 months of age
- Not point at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
- Not play “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
- Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
- Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Have delayed speech and language skills
- Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Give unrelated answers to questions
- Get upset by minor changes
- Have obsessive interests
- Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
- Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
These are very general and not necessarily age specific to a child that would be 2 years old. So, when reading this you may not check off the entire list. But look at these other symptoms listed by the CDC.
Some people with ASD have other symptoms. These might include:
- Hyperactivity (very active)
- Impulsivity (acting without thinking)
- Short attention span
- Causing self injury
- Temper tantrums
- Unusual eating and sleeping habits
- Unusual mood or emotional reactions
- Lack of fear or more fear than expected
- Unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel
NOW, this may start to speak to you about your son. If you are saying “Well, he’s just all boy!” you may want to look at this list and say, “yes, yes, sometimes, yes, yes, he does that, not really, etc… When you start to see that your child has many possible other symptoms then start going category by category and checking those descriptions. Now, remember that there are different levels of ASD (1,2,3). So, your child can be talking and have good communication but struggle with social skills or has unusual behaviors.
Autism Speaks also has an excellent graphic about other medical conditions relating or intertwined with autism. Sometimes, there is another disorder or disease that is more severe that is the primary concern and diagnosis. Autism Speaks Symptoms
Autism Speaks is a great resource for early intervention because they explain what autism can look like in babies and young toddlers. It is worded and described differently from the CDC. Definitely worth reading both and seeing what is more helpful to you.
Once you think your child is on the spectrum and you need to start getting help, go first to your pediatrician. A great pediatrician will help you navigate referrals and possibly give professional references to a developmental pediatrician, early intervention coalition in your county or state for free screenings, speech therapist, occupational therapist and ABA therapist. Get the ball rolling because the wait lists are very long and the waiting game will begin.