Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How Did You Know JD Had Autism?

I've had a lot of people ask how I knew that JD had autism, especially since he was diagnosed at such a young age. I think a lot of it had to do with intuition, but there were a few big things that stood out. I didn't know at the time that it was necessarily autism, but looking back I can see it clearly. I remember starting getting a feeling when JD was around 16 months old that something wasn't right, but to tell the truth I was midway through my third pregnancy at the time and it was all I could do just to make it through the day with two little ones so I didn't act on it. When JD was diagnosed it was based on a few main problems:

  • Communication delay - he could only say five words by the time he was two. He didn't gesture either. He wouldn't point to something he wanted or bring you something or even hold his arms up when he wanted to be picked up.

  • He lacked something called joint attention, meaning that if you pointed at something and said JD look! He would look at my finger, not the object I was pointing to. He couldn't connect that I wanted him to look at something in the distance.

  • He couldn't understand simple directions, so if I said JD bring me the book he had no idea what I was talking about.

  • He didn't really play, he stimmed. At the time I didn't know what stimming was, but I knew when he played with his toys (normally trains) they always had to be at eye level and he would bring his face real close and stare at the wheels while he moved them back and forth. It wasn't imaginary play.

  • He had HUGE tantrums (and still does) when things don't go as planned or he can't communicate something he wants or needs. I'm not talking the normal whining/crying tantrum, I'm talking full body throw yourself on the floor screaming hitting biting hysterics that would go on for 20 minutes or until we figured out what was wrong.

  • He never really interacted with anyone in the family and was much happier playing with his trains. He never liked to cuddle and if you held him he always had to be held facing out. Loud noises really bothered him and he would be totally overwhelmed if we did anything in crowds.

  • He didn't walk until he was 20 months old and even then he preferred to crawl.

My advice for parents is if you ever have that feeling that something just "isn't right" - bring it up to your doctor and don't let them brush you off. What I've learned is that they may be experts in pediatric medicine, but I'm an expert on my son.

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