Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020! As promised this blog is a follow up to’ “It’s officially; The A word”. If you haven’t read it please be sure to check it out.
Have you ever saw a child having a meltdown in public or hitting their parent and automatically started to judge? Have you ever thought a child was “too old” to behave in a certain way? Have you ever thought a parent was “allowing” a child to misbehave? Remember that kid in school that you thought was strange? I honestly can say, I’m guilty of all of the above! I now realize I was completely oblivious to signs of developmental disorders and quick to make judgment.
What is Autism
Autism spectrum disorder or ASD; is a developmental disorder that impacts a persons social interactions, emotional skills and ability to communicate.
Parents, caregivers and educators may notice a child isn’t meeting development milestones or meeting milestones and then regressing. This was a sign that concerned me with Riley. He could say “Hello”, “Good”; then suddenly he wasn’t saying it.
According to MedlinePlus.com, developmental milestones are behaviors and physical skills. Infants and children are expected to demonstrate specific skills at specific age ranges.
Examples of milestones are rolling over, sitting up without assistance, babbling, walking, talking, running, first tooth and there are many more. Typically your pediatrician will provide a checklist for your child’s age range. For more information on milestones contact your pediatrician. Medical websites are also great resources. Such as MedlinePlus.gov, CDC.gov, Pediatrics.aappublications.org, webmd.com,pathways.org
The difficulty with milestones is that all children meet milestones in their own time. Some children meet milestones earlier than expected and some later. However, if you’re concerned don’t just brush it off. Make your child’s doctor aware. The earlier the child gets the support they need the better the long term outcome.
One milestone Riley missed was not pointing at objects. My son Legend is 1 1/2 and points at everything and says the name of the object or asks what it is. Especially as cars go past or airplanes fly over. At 1 1/2 Riley would be indifferent to things like this. Even if we pointed and said look, Riley would continue looking in the opposite direction. This went completely over my head. In fact I only was aware Riley wasn’t pointing when asked during his first evaluation.
Some kids with ASD are unable to play pretend. Like pretending to feed a doll or stuffed animal. This is also difficult to point out. I thought Riley was playing pretend when reciting scenes from his favorite cartoon. However he was actually scripting.
Scripting is defined as reciting lines from movies, commercials etc. Riley still scripts. When asked a question he may reply with an unrelated line from a cartoon. This is actually an attempt to communicate. For example, if I ask Riley about his day at school he may respond with a line he has memorized from his favorite cartoon.
Riley also repeats the question instead of answering it. This is a common sign of ASD known as Echolalia . Echolalia is repeating noises or phrases.
Another sign is intolerance to certain smells, taste, textures, sights and sounds. My oldest daughter use to love to play with slime. However, Riley would have a mini meltdown if slime touched him. A couple years ago we took the kids to The El Capitan Theatre in downtown LA. Prior to the movie starting there was a live performance of Disney Characters signing and dancing. The music was loud, there was a light show, confetti and streams. It was really exciting and fun. However, for Riley it was too much. We were on the balcony and I was terrified he was going to fall or jump off. He just wanted to get away. Even after things had calmed down and the movie started Riley was in full meltdown mode. We left early and I remember telling my husband, “Being easily over stimulated is a sign of autism”. My husband tried to ease my mind by saying Riley was tired.
He’s in his own world.
Relating to others and or showing interest in others is a challenge with ASD. People with ASD may seem to be in their own world. In fact I would say Riley is in his own world all of the time. So much that I started to secretly get concerned. It may seem as if the child is ignoring you or even has a hearing problem. Also, when people look Riley in his eyes and talk to him sometimes it seems like he is staring through them. Like they’re invisible to him. People will often just figure he doesn’t want to be better bothered. However, that is far from the truth. People with ASD want and try to communicate. It’s just a challenge.
You can help!
People with ASD need patience, understanding and empathy. Not sympathy; their brains are not broken but function in a different way. ASD is not an indicator of a persons IQ. Like all of us people with ASD have strengths and weaknesses . You can help by treating everyone with respect and dignity. Not matter physical, mental, development or any other kind of disability people are people. No person is less, no person is more. We are all humans trying to figure out this thing called life. Be kind, don’t judge, help when you can, laugh and love life!
My favorite resources
All autism talk
Adventures in autism
By your side