Our Little Guy + Autism
I know I don't usually post too much about my family other than an occasional update but I wanted to answer some of the questions I received from you guys about my son. I briefly mentioned in this post about his probable Autism diagnosis and a few of you asked how we knew - what were the warning signs? What is daily life with Micah like? So I thought I'd just share our story and some of the steps we're taking for him. It might be kind of hard to put into words, but I will try my best!
Micah is our first child and so we missed some of the "red flags" early on just because we didn't know from experience how much a baby is supposed to interact. We didn't know if his social skills were delayed because he was just a late learner or if we weren't teaching him the right things. But here's what we did know... At one year, Micah didn't seem as far along as other babies his age. He didn't point, wave or blow kisses. He didn't say any words, imitate gestures or copy sounds. Sometimes we wondered if he had hearing problems because he didn't always respond to his name. He didn't give a whole lot of eye contact but instead would get fixated on objects around him. On the flip side, he had a lot of personality - he smiled, laughed, babbled, danced, and crawled just fine. So we figured the talking and gesturing would come later.
Around his 2nd birthday or maybe a little before that we started getting really concerned. He still didn't say any words other than "more" (which is more like a pitched sound with no consonants than actual word). He liked to play alone and would often wander off when we tried to get him to play with us. Even the way he played with toys was a little different - he'd rather spin the wheels on cars over and over instead of pushing them. He'd rather line up dishes/play food instead of pretending with them. He would have really big meltdowns whenever we were out of his normal routine like visiting family out of town. Still no words, no imitating and no following directions. He just didn't really seem to understand us, other than the basics like "no" or "more?"
I think it really hit me when I read that kids his age should understand 200+ words, say 50+ words and be following 2-step commands. When we had his 2 year checkup and I was filling out his chart for typical behavior (Ask your child to stand on one foot. Ask your child to hop over a toy. Ask your child to draw a line with a pen) I was so embarrassed because I couldn't ask him to do any of those things. Every answer on that chart was a "no" or a blank because he just didn't understand enough to follow directions. It was a miracle to even get him to stay in the waiting area! Every child is different, but it was clear that he was REALLY behind.
We started him in an early intervention program soon after that. They originally didn't think he was on the Autism spectrum because he was really vocal (babbling all the time) and he lit up around other kids, he loved to be tickled, hugged, chased etc. But the more the speech teachers worked with him, the more they started to realize it was not just a speech delay. He didn't seem to process things normally and the tiniest thing could send him into a full out meltdown.
We've been working with Micah and researching different things for almost 8 months now (I'll share what we're doing in another post) and although it's exciting to see his progress and improvement, there are also a lot of hard moments....
It's hard whenever I see another kid his age and am shocked by all that they are able to say/understand.
It's hard whenever we need to go over to anyone else's house or to a new place. It's usually overwhelming to him and it's stressful for us - we have to get him to understand where he can't go or what he cant touch like starting from scratch again. We can't just tell him.
It's hard when he falls apart over the sound of the vacuum, blender, or his baby sister's voice. We've come to expect full on violent, screaming fits over these everyday sounds.
It's hard when we have something we're so excited to show him and he doesn't understand, or worse ignores us completely.
It's hard when he won't eat ANYTHING we try to give him. Or when the texture of one of the few foods he actually eats starts to bother him and he spits it out.
It's hard when he can't tell us what's bothering him or what he wants.
It's hard to watch when he doesn't respond with joy to the attention of family, friends and strangers. We worry about whether they'll be offended or just stop trying to interact with him at all.
It's hard to not let guilt or worry overtake us - Are we doing it all wrong? Do we play with him enough? Do we use simple enough speech? Are we making things worse by putting him in unexpected situations?
It's hard wondering about his future. Will he get picked on and made fun of? Will he be able to go to school or have a girlfriend or even just say "I love you mommy?"
All of those things are what we deal with on a daily or weekly basis.
But for every challenge, there's something more to be thankful for.
I'm thankful that he has such a silly sweet personality. He is constantly giggling, laughing and making faces.
I'm thankful that he doesn't have sensory issues when it comes to being hugged and tickled. He loves cuddling and being close.
I'm thankful for the resources we've found so far and that he's now able to make eye contact, respond to his name and some directions.
I'm thankful that he is improving when it comes to play - he now imitates with toys and sounds and initiates social games.
I'm thankful for the few words he does say and that he can usually show me what he wants or lead me where he wants to go.
I'm thankful that he's healthy and active. He can physically do almost everything other children his age can do with only a few minor motor planning issues.
Sorry this has turned into a really long schpeal! Haha but I hope that gives you all an idea of what we're going through. If you're going through something similar, I'd love for you to contact me! It really does help to have people around who just "get it." Or if you have a child on the autism spectrum, I'd love to hear your story and how you got through the toddler years.
I'll share another post later of what we're doing to help Micah along and answer any of those methods/resource related questions you had.
Thanks for listening! xo Laurie