Was Your Child Just Diagnosed With Autism Loving Advice From One Mother To Another
Upon getting her son’s autism diagnosis, Ms. Meyers set out to “cure” him: neglecting her marriage, her other child, and her own well-being.
Moms get deluged with tips from doctors, therapists, and teachers about helping their child with autism. What they most need to hear, though, is: “Don’t forget they you matter, too. Take good care of yourself.”
What Are Patterns Of Behavior With Autism
Children with ASD also act in ways that seem unusual or have interests that arenât typical, including:
- Repetitive behaviors like hand-flapping, rocking, jumping, or twirling
- Constant moving and âhyperâ behavior
- Fixations on certain activities or objects
- Specific routines or rituals
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, light, and sound
- Not taking part in âmake-believeâ play or imitating othersâ behaviors
- Fussy eating habits
How Parents Can Spot The Warning Signs
As a parent, youre in the best position to spot the earliest warning signs of autism. You know your child better than anyone and observe behaviors and quirks that a pediatrician, in a quick fifteen-minute visit, might not have the chance to see. Your childs pediatrician can be a valuable partner, but dont discount the importance of your own observations and experience. The key is to educate yourself so you know whats typical and whats not.
Monitor your childs development. Autism involves a variety of developmental delays, so keeping a close eye on whenor ifyour child is hitting the key social, emotional, and cognitive milestones is an effective way to spot the problem early on. While developmental delays dont automatically point to autism, they may indicate a heightened risk.
Take action if youre concerned. Every child develops at a different pace, so you dont need to panic if your child is a little late to talk or walk. When it comes to healthy development, theres a wide range of typical. But if your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or you suspect a problem, share your concerns with your childs doctor immediately. Dont wait.
Regression of any kind is a serious autism warning sign
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Kids Are Getting Diagnosed Sooner
There’s no laboratory or medical test for detecting autism, so doctors must rely on behavioral signs. In the past, many were reluctant to label a child as autistic until symptoms became obvious. “The average age for diagnosis had been about 3.5, with many children diagnosed much later,” says Amy Wetherby, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. But that’s changing.
One reason is that pediatricians are becoming more aware of autism. At the same time, autism specialists are better at identifying early telltale signs such as a lack of babbling or pointing. “Most children with autism will show some signs of developmental disruption by their first birthday,” says Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., an autism researcher at Baltimore’s Kennedy Krieger Institute.
And while no one is yet diagnosing autism in children that young, doctors can now make a reliable assessment by 24 months when a child’s brain is still rapidly developing. “If we can intervene while a child’s brain is very immature, it will be much easier to help change her behavior,” Dr. Wetherby says.
What Is A Spectrum Disorder
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that people can experience a wide range of symptoms and of varying severities. For example, a person with autism who is towards the high functioning range of the spectrum will have a good grasp of language, but a person towards the low functioning range of the spectrum may not speak at all.
As such, it is important to note that a person with autism spectrum disorder will not display all symptoms and symptoms will vary in severity. However, a person with ASD will display several of these behaviors and signs.
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Know Support Groups Aren’t For Everyone
After my son was diagnosed, I received the same piece of advice: Join a support group for parents who have youngsters with autism. Everybody seemed utterly convinced that this was a panacea, giving me a ready-made community of moms who were experiencing the same feelings, challenges, and heartaches as I was. However, because autism is a spectrum disorder that affects some kids mildly, others severely, and others somewhere in between, there was little commonality in the support group I joined. Instead of finding it comforting, it actually made me feel more distressed and isolated.
Sitting there week after week, more weight and worry were being added to my load. Mothers told heart-wrenching stories about their kids rocking back and forth for hours, banging their heads violently against walls, and pulling out their hair. They talked about their marriages collapsing because of the stress, their finances draining because of the expensive therapies, and their futures in jeopardy because their kids would never be able to live independently.
Because my son was high functioning, I couldnt relate to their situations. In fact, my problems seemed inconsequential in comparison so I felt uncomfortable sharing them. Being part of this support group only increased my feelings of separateness.
How Is Autism Diagnosed
Doctors check babies and little kids for signs of autism at every checkup. A parent may think that something is wrong and tell the doctor. Maybe the child is old enough to speak but doesn’t. Or a kid doesn’t seem interested in people or plays in unusual ways.
When a doctor thinks a kid might have autism, he or she will work with a team of experts to see if it is autism or something else.
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Find Someone To Talk To
To start with, there are a few professionals you can talk to about your child:
- Your GP.
- Your health visitor .
- The special education needs coordinator at school or nursery.
- Other professionals your child is working with. This may include any emotional and mental health support workers or a play therapist.
Old Peta Campaign Linking Milk To Autism Has People Outraged
An old People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign is making its way around the internet again, almost 10 years after it was originally launched. In 2008, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network fought and won to have a PETA billboard taken down that linked drinking milk caused autism. In addition to the billboard, the campaign, titled Got Autism, also featured an article on PETAs website, which still exists to this day.
According to PETA, Anyone who wants to alleviate the effects of autism should try giving cows milk the boot and switch to healthy vegan alternatives instead. The organizations claims were based on two incredibly small studies, that looked at 20 and 36 children respectively. Since then, multiple studies have found the evidence linking casein-free and gluten-free diets as a treatment for autism to be limited and weak.
The campaign appears to be brought back to peoples attention by Jack Monroe, an autistic British food writer who tweeted on Thursday asking the controversial organization to remove Monroes recipes from its site.
The campaigns resurfacing marks the third time people have protested the nearly decade-old campaign. The campaign made headlines again in 2014, but was not removed despite media attention.
Update: A spokesperson for PETA told The Mighty:
The Mighty reached out to Jack Monroe and PETA and has yet to hear back.
Read more stories like this on The Mighty:
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First Off Take A Deep Breath
A diagnosis of autism doesnt change who your child is or what they can accomplish. Research has grown exponentially over the past few decades, and there are always new treatment ideas and strategies being studied at colleges and research institutes across the country. Researchers have developed effective programs to help children with autism develop their communication, social skills, academics, motor skills, and vocational training so they can live long, healthy, productive lives. All of this starts with you, and the sooner it starts, the better.
Set Up A Reinforcement Plan To Reinforce Appropriate Alternative Behaviors
Now you have an idea of where, when and how long the disruptive behaviors are occurring, and a list of functional behaviors that your daughter already performs. The next step is to set up a plan to provide lots of reinforcement for those functional behaviors. For example, whenever the daughter performs the functional behaviors such as Sit Quietly, Holds Head Up, Quiet Mouth, Says Appropriate Words/Sounds, reinforce her for those behaviors. Make every effort not to reinforce her for screaming instead, look away until she demonstrates a split second of Quiet Mouth, Appropriate Word/Sound or Head Up, then immediately reinforce those appropriate behaviors.
I recommend TAGteach to autism parents for their consideration as a great way to mark and reinforce behaviors. See links below for more information. Get a tagger and some items that your child really likes. Every time she does one of those great behaviors, tag and hand over a treat or token.
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How To Test A Child For Autism
You may ask your childs healthcare provider to periodically check your child for signs of autism with a developmental screening test. A screening test alone will not result in a diagnosis but can indicate if your child should see a specialist. A developmental pediatrician, child psychologist or psychiatrist, pediatric neurologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or other specialist can conduct a formal developmental evaluation.
Challenging Behaviors In Autism
People with autism spectrum disorder may exhibit behaviors which put themselves at risk, cause difficulties for people around them or which are not socially acceptable.
Around 50 percent of people with autism engage in behavior that can cause themselves harm when they feel frustrated, overwhelmed or unwell. Such behaviors can include:
- Banging their head on walls or other objects
- Hitting themselves, e.g. hitting their head with their hands
- Poking themselves in the eye
- Pulling their hair
- Biting themselves
- Smearing feces
A person with autism who feels frustrated, overwhelmed or feeling unwell may also display physically aggressive behavior. This can include:
- Throwing objects
- Hitting, slapping or biting other people
- Pulling other peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s hair
Some people with autism eat objects that are not edible, or keep the objects in their mouth, a behavior known as pica. It is the most common eating disorder found in people with autism spectrum disorder. People may eat anything, including dirt or soap.
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How Early Can I Test My Child For Autism
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during regular well-child visits at 9, 18, and 24 months. Screening specifically for autism begins at the 18-month visit. A diagnosis by a specialist can be considered very reliable once the child is 2 years of age.
What To Do When You Think Your Child May Have Autism
Each child has his/her own story which unfolds in an intimate juncture and impacts their life well before an autism diagnosis is given.
How do you prepare for a journey that takes a left turn when straight is the only paved road and your head is drowning in more questions than answers?
My son hit most of his developmental milestones approximately within the target age, so although he did show slight delays in language there were no significant red flags. Since walking age, he showed repetitive behaviors such as flapping his arms and tensing when he was excited. However, I had not yet made the connection to autism.
Then around the age of two, taking him out in public became increasingly difficult. Strangers and familiar faces would yield terrorizing screams. His social anxiety became so extreme that I dreaded taking him out of the house.
As quickly as his behaviors manifested, they also grew in intensity. At that point, I knew something wasnt right.
What steps do you take when your child begins exhibiting behaviors characteristic of autism spectrum disorder?
Here are helpful tips to approach this overwhelming question. These three steps are taken from what I have learned along the way as an autism parent.
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Who Tells/where To Tell
Certainly circumstances vary from family to family. If your child is asking questions dont put off answering them. You should be forthcoming and not suggest talking about it later. Not providing an answer could increase the childs anxiety and make the topic and information more mysterious.
For many families, using a knowledgeable professional to begin the disclosure process instead of a family member or a friend of the family might be the best option. Having a professional involved, at least in the beginning stages of disclosure, leaves the role of support and comfort to the family and those closest to the child. For someone with an autism spectrum disorder, it can be especially hard to seek comfort from someone who gives you news that can be troubling and confusing. Having a professional whose role is clearly to discuss information about the childs diagnosis and how the disability is affecting his/herlife can make it easier for family members to be seen by the child as supportive. The professional discussing information with the child about his/her disability can also help the parents understand the childs reaction and provide suggestions for supporting their child. Having a professional involved also allows the use of a location outside of the family home for beginning this process.
Can A Child Outgrow Aspergers
If the symptoms are very mild and the concerns are addressed through treatment, your childs symptoms may not be noticeable as they grow older and mature, says John Carosso, PsyD, a child psychologist and certified school psychologist at Community Psychiatric Centers at the Autism Center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
As a child develops work-arounds and learns skills through social skills training, the deficits she has can be less noticeable and disruptive, says Eric Hollander, MD, director of the Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Many children learn strategies that can help them, like having a note taker in school. And with these strategies and skill gains, a child can be part of mainstream education.
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Autism In Young Children
Signs of autism in young children include:
- not responding to their name
- avoiding eye contact
- not smiling when you smile at them
- getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound
- repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body
- not talking as much as other children
- repeating the same phrases
Signs of autism in older children include:
- not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling
- finding it hard to say how they feel
- liking a strict daily routine and getting very upset if it changes
- having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
- getting very upset if you ask them to do something
- finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own
- taking things very literally for example, they may not understand phrases like “break a leg”
Are Online Autism Tests Accurate
Online tests are not diagnostic tools. However, they may help a person determine whether they should speak to a doctor or specialist regarding ASD.
Tests from reputable, official organizations are only screening tools. They cannot provide a person with an official ASD diagnosis.
For example, the M-CHAT is a widely-used online screening tool. It can help parents and caregivers identify whether their child might have ASD, but it cannot provide a definitive diagnosis.
However, in certain cases, online tests may assist specialists in diagnosing ASD, but only as part of a more comprehensive assessment process.
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Aspergers Test For Kids
This computer adaptive online Adolescents quiz for children and adolescent teems has a list of 50 multiple choice type questions to evaluate a child against Aspergers syndrome symptoms. All questions are mandatory. You may take either take this test on behalf of your child or let your child take it independently.
Dont Be Afraid To Try Something New
Horse therapy, social skills groups, swim lessons, music, art there may not be a strong research base for all of these programs, but if your child is happy and successful in them, keep it up! Not every therapy has to be about data and progress recreation and leisure may be just as important to a well-rounded childs development.
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Interacting With A Child Who Has Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder. It affects how children interact and communicate with others. The disorder is called a spectrum disorder because children can be anywhere on the autism spectrum.
Children with ASD start to show symptoms at an early age. The symptoms continue during childhood and adulthood. Healthcare providers dont know why some children develop ASD. It may be a combination of genes they are born with and something in their environment that triggers those genes.
Children with ASD have trouble relating to other people. They have trouble making eye contact. They often withdraw into themselves. They may seem uninterested in relating to family members.
But some children with ASD may love to keep talking with family members, friends, and even strangers about a topic they are obsessed with. The problem is that they may talk about it too long. Or they may talk only about that one subject. This can push other people away.
If you are a parent or grandparent of a child with ASD, it can be heartbreaking if you feel like you just can’t connect with him or her. But learning more about these disorders and what has helped others can help you and your relationship.