As parents, we want what is best for our children yet, at the same time, we have a certain pride and social norms that we live by which can make identifying signs of autism in our children quite uncomfortable.
There is no owners’ manual when it comes to being a parent, especially a parent of a child with special needs or mental challenges. It’s a very touchy topic that, with time, is becoming more acceptable to talk about. Nonetheless, it seems to be taboo to say to a family member or friend that you see signs of autism or developmental delay in his/her child or to recommend that the child get evaluated.
What are the signs of autism?
When our son was one year old, he had speech delay, fine motor delay, gross motor delay and a bunch of other identifying factors which were clear indicators that he was not going to have a typical developmental path. These were even more evident to see since he was a twin and not progressing along the same path as his sibling. Yet, it took direct and honest conversations with his Speech Pathologist, Occupational Therapist and Neurologist to open our eyes to the fact that our son was not going to grow out of his challenges. He was on the autism spectrum. Our son was not diagnosed until just before his fourth birthday.
Importance of early detection and intervention
My wife and I have learned that identifying signs of autism now can be done prior to six months of age and that early detection and intervention provides a greater chance for children to overcome challenges and delays that come with the diagnosis. It is super important to be open minded and err on the side of doing too much for them instead of not enough, especially when they are young. We only get one chance at this and if we, as parents, procrastinate or don’t take it seriously, the consequences can be grave.
How to test my child for Autism?
There are some simple tests that any of us can access such as the CARS and MCHAT, which will give an indication that further testing is necessary. As parents of children with special needs, we are the first line of defense and pretty much the first and only advocate that our children will ever have when it comes to their well-being and success. Somebody else is not going to do this for them. I encourage parents to be proactive rather than sit back and hope that our overburdened, underfunded and uncoordinated Government programs will take care of things for us.
As a mom or a dad, you know your child better than any doctor, teacher or clinician. If you feel that something is not right, then most likely something is not right. This is your chance to get to the bottom of it.
Please do not be afraid of a diagnosis as the diagnosis is the only way that your insurance company will pay for the necessary services that your child will require to be successful. Just think about going to a hospital and having a stomach ache. What is the first thing the ER does? They test you, blood test, urine test, reflex tests, ear test, nose tests, every test they can give you to get to the bottom of the problem. Doctors don’t give out medication without a diagnosis. Insurance companies don’t pay for services without a diagnosis. Your insurance company and good quality practitioners will not provide services to your child without a diagnosis either. This is the way our system works.
I wish all of you the best of luck in navigating and caring for your beautiful child with infinite potential to do amazing things and all I ask of you is that you be the advocate that he/she needs.