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The [A] Word: Look for the [S]igns

One of the most important things you need to understand about fighting Autism is that it needs to be diagnosed as early as possible. Early diagnosis means early treatment; development of social skills; development of speech; creating a life and environment for them in which they can grow, not be restricted.

Red Flags

Not responding to their name by 12 months of age;

Not pointing at objects to show interest or curiosity;

Difficulty in establishing eye contact;

Not participating in ‘family time’; and want to be alone

Getting agitated in loud situations or in crowds;

Having trouble accepting change in their environment;

Having trouble expressing hunger, thirst, pain;

Have extreme reactions, to music, smell, food, colours, or the way their clothes feel;

Impulsive;

Impassive;

Short attention span;

Temper tantrums;

Or has flat or no facial expressions in different situations;

Delayed speech and language skills;

Repetition of actions or sounds over and over again;

Obsessive behaviour with one toy, or object, for long periods of time;

Hand movement, rocking of body, high energy and other self-stimulatory behaviours;

Or no energy at all, some kids are completely closed off;

I remember my cousins being so curious when they were infants, so interested in everything going on in the world and the people around them. Chris was interested in things around him but it was smalle10173765_10152395220290030_5414277748163382939_nr things like he didn’t look at us when we spoke to him, he didn’t want to play with me he’d rather play with my things by himself, he would throw tantrums when he was thirsty but couldn’t tell us or point to what he wanted.  For example, a child might be able to read long words but not be able to tell you what sound a “b” makes. When he grew up these things changed because of the early treatment he received. There was a year when we couldn’t hug or kiss him without him getting mad; there was a year of repeating the sound “ooh” every night before bed until i said it the right way, and most of the time i didn’t.

 

Repetition is huge with Autism. Actions, words, sounds, motions which can involve a toy, their body, an object, a person. These action are repeated over and over again. For instance, Chris likes to run up and down a room, when he’s happy and repeatedly flapping their arms, shake his head or make certain sounds. I’ve mentioned before how he likes to play with whipped cream and white flat-beans for hours; its the sounds, the feeling, the safety of repetition that draws him in; these activities are known as self-stimulation or “stimming.”

By their first 12 months a toddler will interact with people around them, by looking people in the eye, copying words or simple gestures like clapping and waving. You would expect to play peek-a-boo with them or interest them in playmobil toys; me and Chris played hide and seek sometimes, but it was mostly the case of me hiding and him finding me, or not knowing what had happened and getting on with a game by himself. We played peek-a-boo but he mostly looked at me like i was insane, there were times when he enjoyed it though. That’s another thing about Autism, they might close themselves off and then there’s this moment where you get to glimpse into their world, or they give you a look, a smile they have never given you before, and its beautiful.

Each person with ASD has a different set of social and communication skills; some speak, some don’t, some can but only some words, some can but cannot pronounce letters, some can write essays, some go to university. Don’t assume that Autism doesn’t speak, don’t assume that Autism doesn’t want friends, don’t assume that Autism doesn’t like handshakes.

People with ASD might have odd sleeping habits. They also might have moods swings or unpredictable emotional reactions. For instance, they might laugh or cry at unusual times or show no emotional response at times you would expect one. In addition, they might not be afraid of dangerous things, and they could be fearful of harmless objects or events.

Remember that Autism is a spectrum disorder, a child, or adult, will not have all the symptoms, or they might. That’s the thing about Autism, it keeps you on your feet; for the rest of your life.

Don’t be scared, don’t sweep it under the carpet.

Learn about it, educate yourself about Autism – get it diagnosed.

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Thinking about the things you don’t think about: a) The Sock Wars

I’ve been talking to parents of non-autistic kids and it suddenly made me really aware of how differently we see every day things. Like getting dressed for school, putting on socks/shoes, brushing teeth, fixing up hair, shaving, haircuts etc. This is going to be about the things you do while thinking of your day, your plan, a conversation. This is going to be about the things you do automatically, the small compromises you make when your shoes are a bit uncomfortable, the haircut you get while you chat away to your stylist, the minute amount of effort you put in washing your face in the morning. I want to make people aware of how different our lives are, why our worries may seem unusual. I want to let other parents know that they’re not alone.

The first post will be on socks.

Chris loves walking around barefoot, to the point where half of my dads day would be spent on running after him to put his socks back on or to wear shoes. He would wear them and then take them off almost immediately, run to us and give us hugs and kisses, just in case we got mad. There were shoes, slippers, socks everywhere. In an ironic twist of events now he wears shoes, slippers, flip flops around the house all the time. It used to take about half an hour to an hour getting him ready for school in the morning. The hour usually came as a result of what i remember as the ‘sock wars’. photo (1)

Following on from the sensory sensitivity posts, socks were our biggest struggle. Somehow, even though he can dress himself and do everything by himself, socks were the only thing he would not put on; we had to do it. They need to be put on perfectly, if not you start again. If you touch the wrong spot, or accidentally stroke his ankle, toe at any point you have to start again. If you tickle him or give him an inadvertent ‘Lets go’ pat, you start again. If you don’t start at the right end, if both sides aren’t moving up at the same pace, if its too high or too low, you start again, you start again, you start again. No loose ends, no marks, no holes otherwise you start again. Even if its not visible, is it a new pair? Are you sure they’re a pair? Start again, just in case. Then come the shoes. Something’s not right; is it the shoes or the socks? Take everything off and start again.

It’s quite funny thinking about it now, mostly because I haven’t been part of that ritual for years, but I cannot describe the stress that develops from putting on socks. Bottom line was if he’s uncomfortable everything has to start again. There was no compromise, no slight adjustment and just go along with it. If it happened during the day, at the school, the supermarket they’d come off.

Sensory sensitivity can be a real time consumer. I’d say don’t get frustrated about it but that would make me a hypocrite. Me and my dad would just give up after the tenth time. My only advice is keep at it, you’ll get it right at some point. It’s not their fault, and it sure isn’t your fault. You know how sometimes your socks might be inside out, or might not match? That doesn’t happen in our house. Even if we wore sock the wrong way, he would make us take the off and put them on the right way.

Five paragraphs on putting your socks on – how many lines would it take you?

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Listen.

Sensory sensitivity

Carly’s Café – Experience Autism Through Carly’s Eyes

This video gives you a glimpse into sensory sensitivity.906209_1403665576540888_2039932750_o

This does not happen to every person with Autism, no two children/adults on the spectrum have the same behaviour/sensitivity. But when you see them get frustrated in a noisy place, this might be why. When we yell, or when the tone of our voice changes even slightly – whether its sad, happy or angry – Christos knows, he picks up on it immediately. He knows when we use milk or goat milk; he knows when his tea is a different brand; he knows when his spaghetti is gluten-free; he wants certain songs to be on louder, others to be lower; he likes certain texture in clothing; a certain flavour in food. He wants to be himself; that’s all our kids want.

This is just a glimpse into the world of a fraction of people that live with Autism; don’t generalise, don’t put Autism in a box.

Don’t give into stereotyping.

Don’t intensify the stigma.

Don’t feed the monkeys.

Educate yourselves and create your own unique box.