Autism is not a sentence
Ages 1 to 3 years period is the most important for a family with an autistic child. The toddler shows the first mental development disorder’s signs, and the parents learn to interact with a special child. It is not easy to accept the beloved child’s autism, but, as practice shows, it is not a sentence. There are special teaching methods, specialized kindergartens, schools, and development groups for autistic children which are aimed at a child’s adaptation in society and helping parents to cope with the problem.
The majority of children with ASD, who got therapy intervention in early childhood, become full-fledged society members – they can get an education, job, and have a family. Timely therapy and active parents’ participation in the child’s development is the most important thing in early intervention.
How can parents understand that something is wrong with a kid?
Autism is a brain disorder, as a result of which the child has a deficit in social and emotional skills. Not a single physician has managed to solve the mystery of autism, the causes remain unknown. Most doctors agree that this disorder is congenital and depends on several factors: genetic mutations, chromosomal abnormalities, and the environment. Dig into complex terms is a waste of time and effort for an ordinary parent because the disorder’s reasons do not affect the course and prognosis. But there is a list of factors increasing the chances to give birth to a child with the disorder:
- parents’ age: autism is more expected in a ‘late’ child than in a young couple’s kid;
- the family already has relatives or children with the disorder;
- serious mother’s illness during the pregnancy and overweight;
- cerebral paralysis.
There is no single method or special tests for autism diagnostics. Doctors evaluate the external social detachment and isolation signs in combination with other manifestations – narrow interests and stereotyped behavior. Parents notice the behavior ‘oddities’, child’s strange reactions to the world, and people around because the 1-3 years of age period is exactly the time of the social skills formation.
But the mental development disorder does not manifest itself suddenly – attentive parents notice the ‘dissimilarities’ or child’s features even in infancy:
- does not look into eyes;
- does not show joy when mom picks up;
- does not respond to his name, there is no revitalization complex;
- cries as if without emotional coloring, monotonously, does not bubble like other children;
- shows interest in bright toys and objects rarely;
- moves a little;
- does not ask for hands.
If there are no relatives or children with ASD in the family, then unfamiliar with the disorder adults ‘write off’ everything on their own infant’s developmental norms ignorance or wait until the kid ‘outgrow’. But the problem presence cannot be ignored after the first year of a child’s life.
Autism signs in toddlers ages 1 to 3 years: what parents observe
- the child does not look into the eyes during contact, and it seems as if he does not hear the speaker when communicating;
- distracted glance and scanty facial expressions;
- a kind of ‘getting stuck’ in specific processes: he can monotonously knock on the ground with a stick or pull on a part of a toy;
- the vocabulary is limited to individual words that do not connect into a sentence if he spoke;
- avoids contact, does not initiate the communication with others, and he often keeps silent or ‘communicates’ by shouting with adults;
- touch is perceived nervously, therefore bathing and changing clothes often lead to hysteria;
- the child spoke, but the speech was lost;
- echolalia is often observed – the repetition of words and sentences after other people, so it is impossible to build dialogue or get an answer to a question;
- the child often behaves hysterically, demonstrates aggression and auto-aggression;
- does not express emotions and feelings, compassion and pity for others are alien to him;
- does not seek to imitate the adult’s actions – brushing teeth with dad or combing hair like mom; demonstrates field behavior;
- the child does not demonstrate to adults the activity’s result;
- abstract thinking is not developed: child cannot imagine, for example, a large puddle and jump over during the game;
- the child shows selectivity in meals, clothing, activities, games, and he categorically refuses or shouts when something new appears or someone offers to try;
- cannot stand the changes and the abrupt case end – taking the child away from the walk is often associated with hysteria;
- reacts to certain sounds sharply, but can admire and be delighted with a certain melody or sounds (bell, bird song, etc.);
- does not feel and does not understand the danger, therefore he easily runs out onto the roadway or lies down on the road.
If a child ages 1 to 3 years has similar actions or there are several behavior signs, you need to contact a doctor and examine the child. But only a doctor can diagnose or, conversely, refute the mental development disorder because autism signs can manifest itself in other features. Parents should remember that.
Director of the ‘Child with a future’ kindergarten for children with special needs Natalia Struchek believes that it is better to overdo than to miss something important in a child’s development:
“Attentive parents can already notice ‘strange way’ of a child’s development after the first year of life.
If the baby is the first and there is no one to compare within a family the parents attribute it to ‘character’, but it lulls the vigilance. Besides, the maximum disorder’s manifestations are already visible at this age, but toddlers inactively communicate with their peers. But the disorder’s signs are noticeable good at home. The child should respond to the adult’s emotions correctly, distinguish between friends and foes clearly, use pointing gesture, and move on to independent decisions gradually – take, drag, repeat after mom up to 1,5 years old. Children with ASD do not have such elementary social activities. It is also important to pay attention to what, how, and with whom the child is playing. If the game is monotonous and the kid gets upset and hysterical after someone wedges in or moves objects, this is a reason to think seriously.
Passive vocabulary should be formed up to 1-year-old – it is a base of names that the toddler cannot pronounce yet, but he shows, brings, or turns towards the direction if you ask to show a dog, a spoon, or helicopter.
Accumulated knowledge must turn into an asset up to 2 years old, so you should not wait until 3 years, as sometimes is advised. It is possible to eliminate the delay before the accumulation of development nonlinearity at ages 1 to 3 years.”
Medicine: who, how, and when are diagnosing
Autism is a concept that encompasses a range of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Atypical autism with the late disorder onset (after 3 years of age) or some symptoms absence is among them. Asperger’s syndrome (onset after ages 6 to 7 years), Rett syndrome, and early childhood autism with symptoms appearance at ages 1 to 3 years are also in the list.
The diagnosis is made by a psychiatrist based on special studies in Ukraine. They include:
- questionnaires – the Child’s Autism Assessment Scale, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale, etc., which will indicate the disorder’s probability;
- ultrasound procedure and EEG to find brain dysfunctions;
- examinations and conclusions by narrow-profile specialists – a neurologist, a psychologist, an otolaryngologist, genetics, etc.
There is no specific time frame when parents should run to the doctor urgently. However, it is impossible to delay for years or expect a miracle like ‘will resolve itself’. Children are diagnosed after 3 years of age in Ukraine, but the doctor can diagnose ‘autistic behavior’ earlier.
The sooner the child is diagnosed and the therapy begins, the more favorable the prognosis! Remember this.
Autism is often accompanied by other disorders:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder;
- unreasonable aggression or psychosis;
- gastrointestinal tract disorders;
- allergies, increased amounts of metals in the blood;
- weak immunity;
- sleep disorders.
A child with ASD should be monitored by a neurologist, nutritionist, immunologist, allergist, and strictly follow the doctor’s recommendations to minimize associated disorders.
How to “treat” a child with ASD ages 1 to 3 years
Parents need to remember that there is no cure for the disorder. Sometimes doctors prescribe pills to relieve nervous excitement (sedatives, antipsychotics) and treat the associated with autism disorders. But these are ‘pinpoint’ attacks on symptoms. The main “treatment” is therapy.
Autistic children’s therapy is aimed at psychological and social spheres – reducing anxiety, nervousness, and emotional discomfort. This period of a child’s life is suitable for starting the socialization and communication skills, emotional self-expression, and self-service formation. Therefore, the therapy of a child with ASD is defectologists’, speech therapists’, psychologists’, and other specialists’ integrated efforts.
Natalia Struchek recommends to be careful when choosing methods and developmental activities because there is no universal approach for autistic children:
“Many parents hope that if something liked and helped to neighbor’s boy, it would be suitable for their child too. This is not true. You should focus on your kid’s specific, look for, try, offer.”