When I decided to start-up a blog, I knew that I didn’t want to make it all about being an autism parent. I want to be current, topical, informative and varied. However, next Monday (2nd February), Jessica has her Ados assessment. Having already completed the first part of this assessment two weeks ago at home with the children’s Disability Nurse, where I answered a series of questions regarding family history, Jessicas development and behaviours, the Ados assessment will give a very clear and final indication if Jessica will in fact receive a diagnosis, or not. It’s taken us literally four years from Jessicas first appointment in february 2011 at age 2 years 3 months, to now, age 6 years and 2 months to get to this point. However, this has been by choice as we discussed with Jessica’s consultant at each appointment, how we were still very wary of Jessicas autism traits, but would wait a little bit longer to see how she progresses before deciding whether to go ahead with a formal assessment or not. I should also point out that Jessica is not in need of a diagnosis as such, as she has all the help already in place. But I feel that a diagnosis will answer questions in the future as Jessica grows and maybe herself feels a little different from her peers. I want to explain to her why she may find it hard to interact, or why she may be experiencing sensory overload for example
Anyway, I shall list what we noticed that brought Jessicas struggles to our attention, and also Jessicas autism traits
1) Sensitive to sound – Jessica would cover her ears quite often, particularly when we were out. If an aeroplane went overhead, the sound would mean nothing to me, but would be loud enough to make Jessica cover her ears whilst looking up to the sky. There was also one particular episode of ‘In the Night Garden’, in which Upsy Daisy would shout her name in a high pitched voice. This would make Jessica cover her ears and cry. We didn’t really think anything of both of these behaviour or actions at the time, but looking back they were a definite red flag.
2) Lack of interest in those around her – Jessica not only had very little interest in toys, but she also showed no interest in wanting to intereact with us, other family members, or other children around her. Emily will draw a picture and been keen to show me, or initiate singing nursery rhymes. Jessica did non of this, and she had no interest at all in Emily once she was born. Again, this isn’t something which prompted me to speak to a health visitor, as I was completely unaware of autism at the time.
3) No speech – This was the red flag for us. By the age of 3, Jessica had still not spoken a single word. I had worried about this from before the age of two, but kept telling myself give her time, she’s just a late developer, it will come. I had mentioned it previously to the health visitor, but I just kept giving it time and reading storys on the internet about children who were late talkers and telling myself it was nothing to worry about.
4) Lining things up – not a red flag, but an autism trait. Jessica would line toys up rather than play with them. Cars, blocks, lego, pens, pencils.
5) No interest in toys – as I mentioned earlier, Jessica showed zero interest in playing with any of her toys. When presented with a toy, she would play with it in the wrong way. For example she wouldn’t pretend to wash up or prepare tea in a toy kitchen, but line the cutlery or food items up, or draw all over it.
6) No use of social imagination – Again, regarding toys, Jessica showed no attempt or understanding of pretend play. No dressing up as a doctor or nurses, or being mum to a baby doll.
7) Need for routine. As Jessica grew older, we noticed how governed we were by doing things in a particular order, or to a certain routine. Jessica has gone through phases of wearing the same clothes each day, same pyjamas each night, even refusing to wait until they were dry after washing to wear them. Jessica comes in from school every night, pulls the bobble from her hair and drops it on the floor, goes upstairs and changes out of her uniform, and there is nothing which would get her to break this routine even for one night. I’ve told her I have a surprise for her in the living room to see if she would be intrigued enough to wait to change out of her uniform, but that didn’t entice her.
8) Repeating words, sentences or phrases over and over again. As Jessica began to use speech at around age 5, she would repeat words or sentences again and again. She would find, and still does find particular sentences or words funny enough to say again and again and laugh. Jessia went throught a period of Echolalio, when she would repeat back everything said to her. Rather than give a reply to ‘Hello Jessica, how are you’, she would respond by echoing the sentence back to you.
9) Short attention span – one of the biggest struggles in Jessias earlier days of speech therapy, was figuring out how to get Jessica to hold her attention in an activity long enough. She still flits from activity to activity althouh her attention has improved.
And last of all
10) Hyperactivity – Jessica is on the move from waking up at 6am to going to bed at 7pm. She is full of energy and never sits still or even sits down whilst at home. From doing handstands on the sofa against the wall, to jumping on her bed and running up and down the stairs. She even walks around the room whilst eating her tea.
So there you have it. The red flags of autism and the traits which go with them