"How did you know; what signs did you look for?" Well for me, I noticed around 16 months of age when she stopped talking all of a sudden. Before that she was saying 3 word sentences. Then she stopped being affectionate with me; wouldn't make eye contact. She seemed to be in her own little world. She didn't play typically (she would line things up over and over again). I basically just saw her regress into a child that I didn't know anymore. I had taken Autism in university so I knew that's what it was. I had to fight to get her screened before she was two years old (no one believed me). They finally gave in and she was diagnosed right after she turned two. Looking back I now see other hints like she tiptoed walked, very content baby to be by herself, and arched out her back whenever I picked her up.
"Is this something she is born with?" The theory is yes. There is nothing proven that "causes" autism. Don't let all that vaccination hooey fool ya. Scientists recently discovered a lot about the autistic brain. It is hardwired differently in that parts of the brain that normally wouldn't be responsible for certain functions are. Kids tend to have larger brains than they peer groups, so their heads typically measure a little bigger. Also, they have found the genetic link for autism on Chromosome 11, more specifically SHANK. So they are finding that autism is more than likely a hereditary disorder. They have still a lot to learn about it; but they are definately working on it; which is great!
"What is your biggest challenge"? : Well my biggest challenge initially was accepting the diagnosis. I pretty much knew she was autistic though. I guess redefining our family dynamic - I all of a sudden had a special needs child and things were going to be a lot different for us. We try to function as best we can; but it can be hard at times. I would say Kierra's biggest challenge is communication. She lost all her speech suddenly around 17 months of age. It is hard to know what your child wants or needs when she can't tell you. I can tell you with absolute certainty that she's much happier now that she has ways to communicate with us. So we just take one day at a time.
"What is your daughter's prognosis?": Her diagnosis was mild to moderate on the spectrum. She is pretty high-functioning in that she can do a lot of things with minimal distress. Her biggest problem is lack of communication which we have been working extensively on. She learned the PECS system in less than 3 months (the entire process) and is starting to say words and answer yes and no verbally. We aren't sure what her future prognosis is; it's too early to say. This fall she will be mainstreamed into a typical classroom setting for Kindergarten (and no you weren't too bold asking me that :) ).
Well for those of you that may have not known, April is "Autism Awareness Month". I'll be honest, before I had a child diagnosed with Autism, I didn't even know such a month existed. It's amazing the things you learn when you are actually faced with it you know?
For background: I have almost 5 year old twins, and one was diagnosed with Autism just shortly after she turned two years old. I knew by the time she was 16 months something was really wrong. At this time, she is mostly non-verbal (she lost pre-acquired speech), but she is starting to talk again.
Anyways, I have had a few people ask to talk to me about autism. I want to tell everyone up-front I totally don't mind when people ask me questions. I think it's a great chance for people to learn and clear up misconceptions they may have had. I don't call it ignorance: I call it misinformed. As any disorder; there are stereotypes that often mask the reality of the situation.
So, I am opening my doors here and will take any question any of you may have about autism. This just doesn't go for the month of April. But since this is the month dedicated to autism education; I encourage any of you that would like to ask me something to ask away!!! And if you have a loved one with autism, please feel free to share your experiences too!!