#AutismAwareness For Parents
Basic things parents need to know:
You are your child’s best advocate. During your child’s well visit at the pediatrician it is now federal law that every child is screened at 18 months. Most doctors offices will give you a checklist to complete. Your doctor can only recognize the signs if you are honest and report accurately. Not all pediatricians understand Autism. Your pediatrician might not recognize the autism warning signs. YOU NEED TO KNOW THE WARNINGS SIGNS!
1. Fixation on particular objects (examples can include but are not limited to: watching wheels spin; incapable of putting a favorite toy down; fixation on an inappropriate object for the child’s chronological age or safety concern: ex: screwdriver; etc).
2. Repetitive or inflexible play: lining objects up, needing to complete a task before moving on to another, unable to play with any toy other than familiar one, etc.
3. Aversion to stimulating light or sound: most kids on the spectrum have overstimulated sensory systems. The buzz of the fluorescent lights in a building, the dog barking two streets over, the lawn mower starting outside are just few examples of hidden triggers that can upset these kids sensitive systems. Many of these children cannot settle their “internal noise” and external noise (that often goes unnoticed to many of us) may unhinge them.
4. Inability to respond to their name: this is not like a teenager ignoring their parents. This is a child who is so disengaged from the world they are in that they 1. Don’t know their own name, or 2. Do not have the comprehension to know that they are supposed to turn and look at a person when their name is called.
5. Social incompetence: as everything with children on the autism spectrum, this may vary by each individual. Children’s social competence is very often measured by their play skills. Autistic children will not want to play WITH others, but rather NEAR them. Engaging in social reciprocity means there is give and take within an interaction (my turn, your turn so to speak). PARALLEL PLAY is playing close in proximity to another child, but not really engaging with the child. Children on the autism spectrum will play very nicely with their own toys as long as its on their terms For example: in Johnny’s mind “I line up all my cars by my specific color coding system and if you even try to think about taking a car from my line, watch out because I will unleash such a tantrum on you!” Yes, there may be kids playing with cars near Johnny, but the typical kids are crashing them, saying “vroom” and imaginatively interacting using language with their play. Johnny isn’t interacting, he is engaging in his play and in spatial proximity to the other children. This is parallel play. This is a very immature play pattern that typical kids will grow out of by age 2-3.
6. Language skills: your child’s language development begins with infancy. They are constantly being exposed to new vocabulary, you model or label items within your child’s environment to give them the language skills they need in order to understand and eventually talk. Children on the autism spectrum may be delayed talkers, they may not understand directions (go get your shoes) because these are all language tasks.
7. Strange physical movements or vocalizations. Flapping hands, Staring at ones fingers and moving them in front of their face, high pitched screaming, unusual vocalizations (not meaningful words, strands of speech sounds that are repeated but do not represent a word or communication intent.
Jodi L. Everone, M.S., CCC-SLP