Is my son just being a typical baby or am I seeing early signs of Autism?
Normally I just follow what my son wants to do throughout the day around the things that I have to do. For the past four or five days my partner has been taking my son out to the back garden every evening when he finishes work and we plant seeds and tidy the garden and stuff. My son is seventeen months old. Last night he was going hysterical and we couldn't figure it out, my partner decided that he'd take him into the garden again... instant silence. I suddenly realized that it's becoming like a routine and the second my partner walks through the door my son thinks it's garden time. any idea?
It's great that you are so observant about your child. I think if you suspect something may be wrong, get your son evaluated. Most states have a program for testing for developmental/educational problems before age 3. First ask your pediatrician about your concerns as it is best if the pedicatrician makes the referral for you. BUt if you feel the pediatrciain is dismissing these concerns lightly (or taking too much of a wait-and-see approach), then ask for the info of your state's program and contact them yourselves (yes you can do this, and you shouldn't have a hard time - it's not too beaurocratic, at least not where I am).
Now, it's quite possible your son might be OK, and if that's the case, that's all to the better. But I worked with a woman whose son was eventually diagnosed with autism maybe around age 3 or 4. And she said after the diagnosis, the ONE thing she wished people had said to her when she'd experssed concern about her son, was 'Get him evaluated!'. Instead, other parents had told her 'oh, he'll be Ok, he's just following his own developmental schedule'. She said ultimately that the worst thing she did was to listen to that (unqualified) opinion. Early diagnosis is incredibly helpful for getting the therapy techniques the child needs.
Many parents tend to be in denial about anything they are seeing (my son was referred for evaluation and developmental intervention by the pediatrician at 1yr of age but I didn't realize anything was wrong!) So, while I don't want to scare you, I think that getting a specialized opinion is necessary, and I mean beyond that of your family doctor or pediatrician.
And like I said earlier, what you are seeing may not necessarily be autism... yet on the other hand it might be. If the *only* symptom he has is the rigidity to routine, that may be normal. On the other hand, there are plenty of autism symptoms that aren't picked up as actual symptoms by parents because they don't seem like a big deal (e.g. staring at lights or fans), so this is why involving a professional (at the very least, your pediatrician) so you can get a determination either way. Hope this helps and I really don't mean to scare you... just saying to take the steps to get a professional to decide one way or another.
Thankyou Giselle, you know, I've been looking at sites and hubs about autism and I think you're right, maybe it would be best to get an evaluation done. I've suspected for some time that I may have aspergers misdiagnosed as anxiety disorder, once I discovered it can be passed down I noticed stuff about my son. Something you wrote made my blood run cold... From the first day of his life my son has had an obsession with lights. First it was just the standard lamp in the corner, then glowsticks and fairy lights and fibre optics... I must admit I bought him several types of light as he likes them so much. I never saw it down as a symptom of Autism! He hits his head on the floor or cupboard doors when he's upset and frustrated, kicks, hits and bites me... He gets told off for physical attacks on me... I just thought this was odd behaviour at the age of 17 months. My friend has a brother who is autistic... He does the same when he's upset or angry, whacks his head off things. I myself when I'm distressed get the urge to slam my head in a cupboard door... I don't but I find it so hard to ignore the urge. The more I thought about it and watched him, the more I saw Autism and the more I worry. I keep wondering how it'll affect him as he grows up, and I find myself panicking at the thought of charts and routines... Routine freaks me out, but he seems to have made a routine of his own and forces me to stick to it or he screams like someone is trying to kill him.
I agree with Giselle that any time you are concerned about your child it's best to ask your child's pediatrician - better to be safe than sorry!
That being said, your child is at an age where kids really like routine, so the fact that he wanted, and felt comforted by, the routine of going to the garden every night isn't necessarily cause for concern. Plus, it could just be something he really enjoys!
I've read that at the "halves" (ages 1 and a half, 2 and a half, 3 and a half, etc) kids tend to go through stages where they're a little more emotionally needy and insecure because they are typically the times when the child's physical growth and mental growth are the most out of sync (meaning they're learning to do things physically before they've figured them out emotionally - like, I can walk/run away from my parents, but emotionally I'm not sure I'm ready for that independence yet - does that make sense?). It's those times that the more stability/consistency your child has in his life, the better he will feel. If you want to vary away from doing the garden EVERY night, you could try doing a routine of doing something outside - a little walk, a trip to a park, and yes, the garden, every evening. Talk to him during the day (if possible) about how you're going to have outside time after dinner so he knows to expect it. Then when the time comes, some nights it can be garden time but other nights something else, which gives you some variety when you want it but still some consistency and routine for your son!
But again, never hesitate to ask your child's doctor's opinions on things - trust your intuition and just check.
You can always get him evaluated. I have a stepdaughter on the autistic spectrum and a son who has some symptoms of Asperger's. A younger cousin of mine is severely autistic. Although I would advise consulting an expert if you are deeply concerned, be aware that professionals very often misdiagnose children at young ages. In my experience the true red flag that something might be wrong is if your child is not hitting his milestones within any reasonable amount of time. If he is hitting his milestones, than this may be normal for a child his age of just 17 months. At that age, children are just starting to associate specific people with events and actions. They don't know how to properly express themselves yet either. My normal and healthy 17-month-old daughter thought a knock at the door meant her grandma was here. If this were me, I would not worry. But if it would give you peace of mind to have him evaluated, you should do that.
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