Autism: Is My Child Autistic?
My husband and I have had an issue with our son for a while now. He is a bright 4 year old little boy but there is a few things we have been concerned about, especially since I've been reading up on Autism lately. For a long time, I wasn't really concerned about these things because some of them I figured might have been just normal for a child his age but some of these things continue and now I'm just not sure. He is due to go for his yearly check-up in a few months but I'm not even sure I want to wait that long. So far I've had the "let's wait and see approach" but as I said, some things haven't changed.. in fact, this past few weeks things seem to be getting worse. I battled with myself about reaching out like this in a hub but I finally have decided what could it hurt? I have met so many knowledgeable people here on HubPages and there are so many others out there who may truly be able to relate so why not reach out. I know that opinions by other people do not substitute having him evaluated by a health care professional but right now I'm just looking for some feedback by other parents, professionals maybe that have dealt with autistic children. I'm pretty sure if you are knowledgeable about the subject, there are certain things to look for and it doesn't hurt to see who may run across this hub and lend some helpful advice. So here is the list of my concerns:
I remember at his 2 year check up bring it up to the doc that he wasn't talking very much. She said she wasn't concerned, that some kids start later than others. I remember at one point, probably between 2 and 3 years, he wasn't putting sentences together as well as other children his age. So when we went to his 3 year check-up, she said that he was a bit behind and thought he needed a little help so put him in speech therapy. So that helped quite a bit and so his speech has greatly improved. He is still not up to par but he is much better. Other people can understand what he is saying now for the most part and so I'm happy about that though he still has some catching up to do.
I struggled with whether or not to add this here because I really do think all kids are different on this but perhaps it's a common thread in children with autism as a group so I didn't want to leave it out. He is actually doing 100% better. One thing about it that bothers me is that we still have to remind him to go or else he has had accidents. So we still have to remind him lots of times but he will go #1 but he has yet to go #2. I'm not sure whether to be bothered by it since this seems to be the issue with so many other kids out there.
Struggles with Eating
My son is a very, very picky eater but I figured maybe he would grow out of that but he still hasn't. For a good while, he would gag on things if we talked him into eating something he wasn't too sure about. I mean, it was a mess. He would throw up everything so we stopped trying to make him eat things he obviously didn't want. To me, it seemed he had a super sensitive gag reflex. It's not that he won't eat, but he will only eat certain things like macaroni and cheese, oatmeal, whatever it is that he likes at the time, that is all he will want for days. I worry that he's not getting a balanced diet sometimes so we've added carnation instant breakfast and he drinks that every morning and I try to get him to eat as much protein as I can during the day. I try to sneak it in somehow. He is just so picky about things-not just food, it's gotten to the point where I sometimes wonder if he doesn't' have some kind of OCD. We brought this up to his doc at his 4 year check-up and she said that some kids do have a sensitive gag reflex and try not to worry, that kids will eat when they get hungry. Now, when we try and give him a food that he doesn't really want he will at least tell us "it makes me gag on it" My husband and I were talking, wondering if now he is just not using that an excuse to not make him eat. I'm just not sure what to think of it all.
Unusual Play Things
For the most part, Devin hasn't had much interest in kids toys. There are a few that he likes... he loves puzzles right now and he has always been crazy about trains. What is peculiar is that he tends to get interested in other objects and he just stays fixated on them. Its like with the eating, he will find one thing he likes and be obsessed with it for weeks! Here are a few of his interests:
Trains- This one isn't so unusual but it's his obsession with them that gets me. His first real toy love was trains. He loves them.. He would have me draw them for him. Everything he has becomes trains- for example, we have some of those big leggo blocks. He lines them up like trains. He never built things with the leggos, just lines them up like trains. Also, when I give him crayons, he would rather line up the crayons like trains. He has colored with them before but he seems more interested in lining them up like a train than using them to color.
Vacuum cleaners used to big a really big deal for him.. he loved them and looked for them everywhere.. funny thing now, he's actually afraid of them if he hears one now. He used to not be that way but now he says they are too loud. If I'm vacuuming he will run into his room.
Ceiling fans- He became interested in ceiling fans and its all we heard about for weeks. We found a video with ceiling fans on youtube and he wanted to watch it over and over. Then it was fans. We had a small fan that was broke, so my husband cut the cord off of it and Devin carried that little fan around with him for weeks.
Satellite dishes- Somehow he got interested in satellite dishes so my grandma had an old satellite dish at her house they had taken off. One of those small ones. My husband cleaned it up and gave it to Devin and he was in hog heaven.
Signs- Right now he's into signs and as we go down the road he's asking what does that sign say? What does that sign say? He wanted me to print him off some pictures of signs so I did that. Everything is all about signs lately. I love that he is inquisitive, but it's that he is almost obsessive about it.
Don't get me wrong.. maybe there isn't anything peculiar about this.. it's not so much the objects he likes, it's more about his fixation on them that bothers me. He just seems to zone in on one thing and is very closed minded about anything else. Even now, with Halloween on the way, I try to get him to pick out Halloween coloring sheets to print for him to color but he is not interested. He wants pictures of signs... It's still all about signs right now.
He Gets in a Zone
Speaking of zones and playing.. sometimes he will get up and start running around, making sound effects like gritting his teeth and making sound affects and noises with his mouth. Its kind of hard to explain but anyway, it's like he gets into this zone and doesn't hear us when we tell him to settle down. He will do it for a good 15 minutes sometimes until he either just stops on his own or finally my husband puts him in time out. He also likes to lay on the floor and spin around and make noises too. We thought it was peculiar that he just seems to be zoned out and not listening to anything we are saying. A few times my husband would have to stop him and try and make him look at his eyes to connect and tell him to stop but he would not make eye contact with him. He would just keep on flailing, making the noises and turning his ahead away. He has actually gotten better about this but he still does it. For a long time when he would do this, it would drive me insane because of the loud, repetitive noises he would make and the gritting of the teeth... but since I've learned about "stimming" in autism, I can't help but wonder if that is not what he is doing when he does this.
I have noticed that he will do this after he watches an episode of Thomas or if I get up to do dishes or something or if I get a phone call sometimes he will do it. For a while I thought well, he's pretending to be a train (with the running around and noises) but he would never say he was being a train when I asked him and since sometimes he does it if I'm on the phone, I wondered if maybe he was trying to get attention. Whatever he's doing, he really gets into it and it's hard to make him stop.
One more thing I've noticed that he does that is bothersome is if he gets very upset and overwhelmed about something, he will take his hands and hit them on each side of his head-imagine taking your hands and putting them on your head like if you were covering your ears- he does it like that but he will hit the sides of his head with his hands. (I hope this is making sense) He doesn't do it hard or seem to be hurting himself, it is just peculiar to see as I have not noticed other kids doing that... but then again, I'm not around any children his age so it's hard to make a comparison. The thing is he only does it when he is very upset.
Doesn't do well with change.. control issues about things
Now, I know that all kids are like this to a degree.. they want schedules and for things to be the same everyday and Devin is no exception but he really does not take changes very well-he will usually have a meltdown. He wants things exactly how they have always been. When my husbands schedule at work changes, it's hard for Devin to get adapted. He has a hard time with it because he expects certain things to happen at certain times. When we go to visit my family out of town, he has a really hard time with it because it's not his bed, in his room, etc.. At home, if I am picking up his blocks, trains etc.. he gets really really frustrated, tells me no and tries to take the toys from me. If I try to open the blinds he will throw a fit and say no, he says its too bright. I find this odd because he used to love to have the blinds open in his room because he enjoyed looking out. Just yesterday, he had a meltdown because my husband shut the bathroom door. He has always had a thing with wanting the doors either opened or closed. He just seems unusual to me that he is so particular about things like doors being shut and blinds being closed and other things similar to that. In my mind I'm thinking, do other 4 year olds have as much concern and control issues about things like that?
Thank you for Reading
That's about it with my list of concerns.. I keep thinking maybe I'm letting these things bother me when I shouldn't but I just don't know... Hopefully I'll be able to connect with others about this to shed some light on it. Recently, I was reading a list of symptoms of autism and it bothered me that I had seen some of those symptoms in my son but the thing is I know a kid can have symptoms like this sometimes and be completely normal- I mean I'm sure all kids do these things at one time or another..That's the thing... what is normal and what isn't? That's what I'm trying to figure out. If anyone reads this and can relate.. I would love to get some feedback about it. I don't want anything to be wrong..maybe I'm just being unnecessarily worrisome...I do have a tendency to be that way. I just love him so much and if there is something wrong, I want to know what to do so I can better help him. I really do look forward to your comments and feedback on this. Thank you so much for reading.
Just wanted to let everyone know who may be following this hub that I had contacted an Autism Consultant here in the town we live and she returned my call right before Thanksgiving and she was super sweet and helpful and referred me to a lady here in my town who works for the school district who is a PHD and who assesses children for any learning disabilities plus deals in other problems such as Autism, etc. I called this lady and she also was super sweet, very helpful AND encouraging :) She immediately made an appointment for us to come in the next week to give my son an assessment in the areas of speech, etc and also said we would make another appointment to come in at a different time to get him an Autism assessment. I was so happy that we were going to be able to get in so quickly! This was last week.
So, today was his appointment and we just got back. We met with the lady who I spoke with over the phone and also with a lady to assess his speech abilities. We filled out lots of paperwork, answered questions and the speech lady talked to my son and both ladies just observed him while he played and interacted. We were there probably for a little over an hour and it was a great experience and we both feel really relieved that we are on the right track to getting him the help he needs. We now have an appointment to go back on Dec. 19th to have him do the assessment for Autism. We were given papers to fill out with questions.. one is for Autism and the other is for Aspergers and we will turn those in to her when we come back for the assessment/screening. Both these ladies are genuinely interested in helping and said they would get him as much help as possible for any disability or diagnosis that may be found and that there were programs and things we could do to get him ready to start kindergarten. I can't tell you how much lighter I feel right now since I know we are on the right track to getting him the help he needs :)
I will definitely keep updating this hub to let you know how things progress. Thank you to all of you who commented on this hub and for all of your concern.. it means a lot to have so much support :)
This morning we took him back to the school for his Autism/Asperger's assessment. There were three ladies present and two observed while one of the ladies interacted with him. Everything went well and afterwards they indicated that they observed particular behaviors that were indicative of a Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nothing was said in particular, though Aspergers was mentioned a lot. We are waiting for them to call us back (later today) with an appointment to bring him back in as soon as the holidays are over to discuss the diagnosis and and also what the plan will be to help him. They were very reassuring and said that there are programs and different ways to help. She said someone will come to our home to work with all of us, basically show us how to help him and teach us ways to manage his behaviors. She also mentioned getting him into school as soon as possible which I think will be really great for him. That's about it for now.. will continue keeping you posted!
This morning we met back at the school to get the assessment results and plan of action. We walked in and there were like 11 ladies in this room! I was surprised yet impressed that everyone was pulling together like this for one little boy. It gives me A LOT of confidence in our school system here. We were told that they have concluded from the assessment that he indeed does have Autism. I felt sad but at the same time relieved that others had seen the same thing I had seen and that he will now get the help he needs. That is all I wanted. Also, they said his speech and language is not up to par,which I already knew so he will now be getting help for that. First thing, they want him in school so we are enrolling him in Pre-K and he will be starting ASAP-this week for sure. Under normal circumstances, there are a limited number of spots of Pre-K but because of his disabilities, early intervention is vital. I personally feel like school will be a tremendous help for him. I want him to be as ready as possible for Kindergarten. As for help with the Autism in particular, someone is going to come to our home and teach us how to better help Devin with every day living and certain behaviors. I am hoping there is some other help that may be available and I will be looking into it.
I sincerely thank everyone who has commented and followed this hub. It was in large part because of this hub and the suggestions and feedback I received that pushed me to take action instead of just waiting. You all had a part in that and I'm very grateful.