You hear about these disorders, the buzz words, the catchy symptoms that go along with them, this “Spectrum;” and you think, “This is my child…but am I sure?” For the most part you sort of knew what Autism was, but recently started to think, “These descriptions are sounding a little familiar.” Then you think to your child, “They always seem a little quiet, but then again those fits of anger…? He is sometimes not so quick to engage with a hello, a glance of the eye or even a hug, and come to think of it…as a baby – a kiss, a cuddle or that high pitched “hi baby!” never really gleamed much of a reaction.” Or how about the comments and words you may hear your child repeat over and over, or that routine that is carved out for each part of the day. Is my 6 year old really this organized and really this in tune with structure???
I simplify these statements and, again, Autism lies on a Spectrum, so many toddlers/children will present with a varying degree of symptomology. My point is, you know something is not right – you feel it – you know your child best; “That blanket that they cling to in times of emotional duress at 8 years old just does not fit. What is this?!” Is it Autism, are they shy, maybe just rigid and slightly anxious, slow to develop (as we hear so often) or just really into their own thing? Again, you are asking yourselves these questions – so start asking others. Advocate for your child. As a Social Worker, I take my biggest cues and gain the most insight from parents.
Start with your pediatrician, always good to have a chat about what you are seeing. You may hear; “Oh he is just slow to develop – he will catch up in no time.” As a parent, I think you can tell if it’s more than just a little bit of a developmental lag. There are diagnostic criteria in the DSM-IV to diagnose Autism; however a developmental/behavioral pediatrician, child/adolescent psychiatrist, licensed psychologist and/or a nuero-psychologist can make the diagnosis of Autism. As well as provide you with some moving forward recommendations and courses of treatment (be it behavioral, nutritional, medicinal etc). There are also tools and screening materials used to help professionals and parents in clarifying the diagnosis. Nuero-psychologists can add an extra piece in diagnosing the disorder in that they provide a comprehensive assessment of not just overall functioning and development – but brain development and functioning, inclusive of language, motor skill, memory/processing and cognitive ability.
If you are in question, talk with your child’s pediatrician – rule the diagnosis in or out so that you and your child can move on. Get answers – you deserve them! More importantly, if your child is Autistic, it is much easier to obtain services once that diagnosis is made.