Autism - Detection Can Sometimes Be Difficult
by Cheryl Dorfman
Before I had a child, I knew nothing about autism. I was vaguely aware that kids with autism didn’t speak much and didn’t interact with people much. After I had my daughter I was acutely aware that more and more kids were being diagnosed with autism. I remember my daughter giving me smiles, great eye contact, and saying “hi” at the obscenely young age of 6 months, and thinking, “Whew, we dodged that bullet!” However, behavior issues started cropping up as early as 9 months. My daughter would cry when things did not go the way she wanted. I remember her crying hysterically when the birds we were admiring on our deck would fly away, when she didn’t want them to fly away. At the time, I remember thinking that was a sign that she was smart.
As she grew older, these crying fits would increase. Anything that didn’t go her way would cause her to cry. Leaving a play date or party, would almost certainly cause her to cry. The older she became, the more intense her tantrums would be.
When she was about 20 months old, her language really took off! All of a sudden, she was exploding language. I was trying to keep track of every word she was saying, but after reaching 150 words in 3 days’ time, I stopped and concluded she had a full vocabulary. She also started saying pretty complex sentences. She was also so smart. She was good at memorizing things and had already mastered colors, body parts, shapes, etc. She was able to spell her name before her third birthday!
Still, the terrible twos really applied to her. She had multiple tantrums each day. She really loved using the word, “No!” I thought this was typical behavior for a two year old. I enrolled her in preschool during this time for a couple of days a week. She absolutely loved school and would tantrum everyday when it was time to go home.
After she turned 3, she didn’t start playing interactively with the other kids as they were all doing. She was still doing her own thing. This mostly involved playing in the sandbox and crying if any child got near her, thinking they were coming after one of the sand toys she was playing with. It was at this age that I felt something was off with her. I kept asking her teachers and school director for their input, but they told me she was fine, just really smart, and that she’d catch up really soon with her social interactions. I believed this for about a year, but I kept thinking something was wrong.
When my daughter was around 4 ½ years old, I finally started doing my own research and opening up my mind a bit to the possibility of autism. It turns out that autism covers a very broad spectrum that can include smart, verbal kids. After discovering this, I had her assessed and found out that she did, indeed have high functioning autism/Asperger’s.
After getting the diagnosis, we started her on different therapies including occupational (to improve her gross and fine motor skills), speech (to improve her conversational skills), and play. We have seen vast improvements in her behavior. She is now much more social and doesn’t tantrum constantly when things do not go her way. She is now six years old. She’s almost finished with kindergarten and had a very good school year. She was in a class with typical kids and has made friends. I’m very hopeful for her future!
To learn more about our antics, please check out my blog at Little Bit Quirky Blogspot My blog is a finalist for Scholastic “Parent and Child” magazine’s top parent blog on special needs issues!
Thank you for sharing your valuable insight as a parent of a child with Autism. It goes to show that often parents know best.
Recognizing your child's needs early can make a huge impact on their success in school.
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