As many of you know, I'm the mom of two autistic kids. While I've been blessed that they are high-functioning, it has been and continues to be something we struggle with. It can be exhausting.
The last statistics I had read about the prevelance of autism spectrum disorders placed the number at 1 in every 100 kids. That's staggering. Could you imagine the outcry from the gay community if this was AIDS we were talking about? But yet the Washington DC voices remain silent.
I got the idea for this post after reading an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PLEASE READ IT) about this boy and his service dog. It's a heartwarming story on a frigid day here in 'da burgh (and the ousting of the Stillers; but that's another story). Thinking of my own kids and what we may have overlooked initially, I decided to look for a checklist of common autistic symptoms.
While the following things DO NOT necessarily mean that autism is definitely the diagnosis (only a professional who deals with the disorder can make that diagnosis), they are common indicators. And, no, not all autistic people are savants like Rain Man. Just saying...
- Sustained odd play -- While kids are imagination geniuses, playing with objects inappropriately for extended periods of time could be a sign of a problem.
- Uneven gross/fine motor skills -- Usually the skills swing one way or the other. Their skills are either extremely good or extremely poor. Rarely is there middle ground.
- Not responsive to verbal cues -- Your child may not be ignoring you. We used to scream Noah's name for a response to no avail. After having a battery of hearing tests run (all normal), we now realize that this is a sign of autism.
- Little or no eye contact -- We still have issues with this, especially with Cheyenne.
- Insistance on sameness of routine -- Ever try to change an autistic person's routine?? Not a pretty sight. Usually a meltdown ensues.
- Tantrums for no apparent reason -- In the mind of an autistic, the smallest change or thing out of place can result in a full-blown hissy fit. We may not see the significance, but to them it is a catastrophe.
- Speech delays/absence -- Noah didn't talk until he was about 4. While there are other causes for speech delays, this is almost a classic sign of the disorder. Echolalia (parroting lines from movies or repeating what has been said to them) is also very common.
- A reluctance for social interaction -- This is the toughest to handle as a parent. When your child resists your hugs, it hurts. Trust me, it can be overcome. Not easy, but it can be done.
- Spins or lines up objects -- This is all about sensory stimulation. Heaven knows why, but it is.
Autistic people are capable of making great strides. Don't give up hope. There's lots of it. :-)