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Recognizing autism signs from a mom who knows

4 Dic 2013 – 06:41 PM EST

During the early years of my son Norrin’s life, I didn’t know what autism looked like. Looking back — knowing what I know now — all the autism signs were there; the lack of speech; the minimal eye contact; and his inability to point, clap, or wave.

I began worrying when Norrin was around eighteen months old. I remember expressing my concerns to my mother and husband. Everyone said the same thing: I was a new mom, boys develop slower than girls, and Norrin was fine. Even my pediatrician suggested I wait until Norrin’s second birthday.

By the time Norrin turned two, I knew that everything wasn’t “fine” and I needed to have Norrin evaluated by a specialist. I consulted with my pediatrician and he provided me with a number to call.

After a series of evaluations, Norrin was diagnosed with Autistic Disorder and Global Development Delay. Norrin was two years and three months old, but he had the cognitive level of a 14-month-old, and his language level was that of a seven-month-old. The diagnosis made Norrin eligible for Early Intervention services.

Through Early Intervention, Norrin received hours of therapy: applied behavior analysis (ABA), speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy.

The Center for Disease Controls defines autism as “a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” Since autism is a spectrum disorder, each individual with autism is unique. However, here are some autism signs to look for in a child:

  • Not responding to his name by 12 months of age 
  • Not pointing at objects to show interest by 14 months 
  • No “pretend” play skills by 18 months
  • Flapping hands, body rocking, or spinning in circles 
  • Avoiding eye contact

Easter Seals helps parents make the first five years count. The Ages & Stages Questionnaires (ASQ) is a screening tool provided free of charge, designed to help assess if a child’s development is progressing on schedule. This tool serves as a screening, not an official diagnosis, and the results will be emailed to you. The results can help you decide whether or not to follow up with your pediatrician. I wish this screening tool had existed when Norrin was younger; it could have prompted me to have Norrin evaluated sooner.

I always encourage parents to seek an evaluation as soon as they have any concerns about their child’s development. When it comes to your child, waiting should never be an option.

Whenever I see Norrin reach a milestone for the first time, I am filled with joy, because I know how hard he worked to meet that goal. I know that if it weren’t for Early Intervention, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

It’s been five years since Norrin’s diagnosis, and he has made so much progress. He still has challenges to overcome, but I’ve seen that with the appropriate services, he can thrive. Norrin has language, and he points, claps, and waves. He has a budding imagination, and he’s a whiz on his iPad.