I would like to share with you some of the signs that were apparent in Zach that made me come to the conclusion he may have autism. These signs appeared gradually over time and at the age of two Zach was assessed, diagnosed with autism and later diagnosed with a learning disability. All children with autism have different traits and will express themselves in various ways and in no way am I suggesting that if your child shows any of these traits then they have autism, I simply would like to share our experiences and allow you to get to know our journey that little bit better.
- Repetitive movements: From the moment Zach was able to pick up an object (around 5 months) he would continuously flick it back and forth in front of his eyes, this could last hours on end if we allowed it and Zach would become very distressed when we would try to remove the object from him. Zach still flicks objects back and forth even now, although now I realise he is getting stimulation from this and enjoyment.
- Eating difficulties: Zach could not eat many foods without gagging and being sick, we always remained persistent and tried our best to ensure he was eating well but our attempts always failed. I will never forget the period of around 6 months when the only food I could feed him was cereal because anything else resulted in vomiting. Now I know that this was all down to Zach being highly sensory, the texture, smell and taste of certain foods were so over whelming for him and even now he has a very restricted diet despite all of our best efforts.
- Sensitive to noise: From birth Zach was extremely sensitive to noise, household appliances, too many people talking or even music would make him uncontrollably upset. As he got a bit older if he was out in his pram he would make me put a blanket over his head and face, I guess looking back on it this was his way of blocking out all of the noise and sights and this helped him to relax. Zach now uses ear defenders when we know he is going to be in a situation that there will be a lot of noise and I cannot recommend them highly enough.
- Obsessive behaviours: Zach became overly obsessed with certain television programmes, from around 4 months old he was obsessed with Lazytown and would become inconsolable when it was turned off. He would also become obsessive over certain toys and could not have the head facing the wrong way or the legs bent, I remember taping all of his figures legs and arms so that they couldn’t bend hoping to avoid the inevitable meltdown.
- Speech Delay: Speech did not come to Zach easily, the usual milestones of saying words such as “ma ma” were significantly delayed and when Zach began speaking he almost spoke in his own language, this continued up until around the age of 3. He would talk nearly all of the time, even to himself but it was nearly impossible to understand. Now after 3 years of speech and language therapy and through attending a special needs school Zach’s speech has improved immensely. I could not be more proud.
- Delayed gross and fine motor skills: At around the age of two Zach had not long learned how to walk and was still very unsteady on his feet. His fine motor skills were very delayed and Zach struggled with simple tasks such as building blocks on top of each other or holding a crayon to colour a picture. His little hands and feet never seemed to work how he wanted them too and understandably this caused a lot of frustration for him.
- Difficulty washing/ cutting nails/ cutting hair: All of these tasks were almost impossible for Zach to cope with, any one of them would send him into a meltdown like no other. Bath time was so upsetting for both him and us, he would scream from start to finish sometimes even to the point of throwing up. Having his hair or nails cut was literally terrifying for him and as a mother it was so difficult to know that I was putting him through so much upset but I had absolutely no choice, these things had to be done!
Being told your child has autism is totally over whelming and suddenly you feel like you don’t know what you are doing, but you soon realise that there is no manual given to parents on how to raise any child, and raising a child with autism is no different, you simply find what works for your little family and take each day as it comes. One thing is for sure, there is never an uneventful or boring day in this household and I wouldn’t change it for the world. 🙂