Monday, January 4, 2010

Is Your Child Autistic?

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.
Like I said, one or two of these symptoms are not necessarily proof of autism. If five or more fit, please seek the advice of a professional.

Autistic people are capable of making great strides. Don't give up hope. There's lots of it. :-)


Anonymous said...

Geez Denise, I really feel for you. I know a few folks who have kids with varying degrees of autism. While being a parent to any child is exhausting, Sainthood is not a stretch for those who have children with this disorder. My question is this: How do you find time to raise three kids, two with autism, be a wife and all that entails, and still turn out a fine blog? And don't you work part time? Phewwwww!

I truly wish you nothing but goodness to you, dear, especially under such circumstances... and let's vote those DC bums out come November. ;)

blackandgoldfan said...

William: I do work part-time. And I wonder some days how I do it. I guess it's become almost second nature. The fact that the kids are high-functioning also helps.

My blog has kinda taken a back seat lately, and I hate that it has. Thanks for the kind words!

I'm so lucky to have friends in the blogosphere like you. And if you hear that I didn't vote in November, you'll know that I'm dead.

Amusing Bunni said...

You have your hands full, Denise. I don't know how you do it. You are such a great person, and very patient. Thanks for posting this to raise awareness.
You are a great mom and I know you will be rewarded.

blackandgoldfan said...

Bunni: I've already been rewarded. They're my angels!!!

Ran said...

Lucky kids, yours, having parents such as you! God chose a great home for them.

Yeah, family is front-burner.

Thanks for the data on autism.

I have a daughter with my ADD... and then some. Times when all her mom and I can do is to close our eyes, catch a breath and count to ten. Then our daughter brings home her test scores. "Wow! Yer a mutant, kiddo!"

Her challenges are also God's gifts, yes? Friend of mine many years ago said that God gave some people disabilities and challenges simply as a way to make us equal.

blackandgoldfan said...

Ran: God knows the parents who are going to love and care for these kids and sees fit to place them there. That's my belief, anyhow. Someone said to me after Noah's diagnosis that God gives special kids special parents. That gave me a lot of comfort.

I understand exactly where you and your wife are coming from. It can be so extremely exhausting and frustrating while very rewarding at the same time.

Yes, your daughter's challenges are gifts from God as are my kids'. What they may lack in some areas, they make up in unconditional love and the ability to forgive the mistakes we parents sometimes make. I'll take that any day!

May God continue to bless your entire family!!! All my love and prayers!

The Right Guy said...

I am late to the game here. I too have two kids(out of 5) in the autistic spectrum. It's been quite an experience and I will say the support you get will vary wildly depending on where you live. Some states are absolutely terrible and it can take years to get services for your child, which means as a parent you better be prepared to do what it takes to get help, even at your own expense.

in our own case, our first child had some of the symptoms, but the most pronounced was delayed speech. He didn't say a word until he was 4 years old, and he had been in special preschool for months at that point. We went to a neurologist that was a psychiatrist as well and specialized in pervasive developmental disorders such as autism. Once we had an official diagnosis, it made getting services easier. He's now 14 years old, and doing fine, but he's quite the character. Our youngest, a 4 year old girl has similar speech delays, although he problems are not the same as my son's. Still, she's been in a preschool program for over a year now and she's making progress.

I am not sure one out of a one hundred is correct, as the ratio seems to be getting lower every year. I have to wonder if it isn't a situation of similar symptoms of different origins, and we really don't know enough to differentiate what is really going on. I can say in my own case that I can look at both my family and my wife's family and we see people that probably would have been diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum had the knowledge existed. Some of these people were born nearly a hundred years ago, and I will say in my own circumstance, that there probably is a genetic component. All I can see is early detection and diagnosis will get you on the path to getting the services needed, no matter how you get it done.

Anyway, thanks for the pot Denise.