Our Path to Diagnosis - trust your instincts... #AUTISM #ASD

I remember the first time I 'voiced' my concerns about Liam being different enough in his development to ask questions.... I was online with a friend whose son was about 4 years older than Liam and had Autism... and I asked her what the signs and symptoms were because I suspected that Liam had delays... he was 15 months old and we'd just come from his doctor's appointment where the pedi had listened to my concerns about Liam but suggested that some kids just needed a bit more time to talk, since he was meeting his other milestones...

I knew in my gut that something about Liam was special - maybe it was Autism and maybe it wasn't but when she shared these signs and symptoms to look for, I was convinced that I needed to watch him more closely and learn more so that when I went into his 18 months appointment I could be more prepared.

The signs and symptoms she shared with me were:

  • Makes little eye contact (e.g. look at you when being fed). 
  • Doesn't smile when smiled at. 
  • Doesn't respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice. 
  • Doesn’t follow objects visually. 
  • Doesn't point or wave goodbye or use other gestures to communicate. 
  • Doesn’t follow the gesture when you point things out. 
  • Doesn’t make noises to get your attention. 
  • Doesn’t initiate or respond to cuddling. 
  • Doesn’t imitate your movements and facial expressions. 
  • Doesn’t reach out to be picked up. 
  • Doesn’t play with other people or share interest and enjoyment. 
  • Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests.
We also talked about 'stimming' or self stimulation... which was a big red flag for me:

  • Hand flapping 
  • back and forth 
  • Spinning in a circle 
  • Finger flicking 
  • Head banging 
  • Staring at lights 
  • Moving fingers in front of the eyes 
  • Scratching 
  • Lining up toys 
  • Spinning objects 
  • Wheel spinning 
  • Watching moving objects 
  • Flicking light switches on and off
  • Repeating words or noises

It was funny, at 19 months Liam passed the babynet screening for everything except Language... so he started Speech Therapy... and for a while I was lulled into thinking it was just a speech delay... then one day I went back to the list because as he matured I was seeing more and more self-stimming gestures and no language progress... and so at  26 months we had him formally evaluated for Autism... and I worried for days that the same thing would happen - he'd pass (just barely) the evaluation and we'd be stuck with the same service issues... fortunately, the more thorough private assessment we had done gave us the diagnosis that opened up a new world for us - more therapies, more clarity of purpose for those therapies and a definite handle on WHY Liam had certain behaviors and actions...

For me, the diagnosis was not a surprise - my instincts had told me almost a year before that we were headed in that direction... and in my case, it was a relief because I could now fight for more training, service and direction than we had been getting... so if your instinct says that your child might have an issue, talk with your pediatrician, find your resources and trust your gut!