*UPDATE 2018* This post has become one of my most popular posts that I have shared on my blog. I remember when I read this article called, “The Top 9 Signs That Your Infant May Have Autism” and I thought about the many parents that are wondering about if their baby’s developmental delays are due to Autism. They are searching for answers or reassurance. We all want the most for our children and do not want to see them struggle. If by me sharing some memories and observations about when Johnny was a baby helps in any way I am happy to do so. If there is one thing I have learned in this parenting journey is early intervention to assist children reaching developmental milestones is very important and leads to successful outcomes. That being said, I can only share my hindsight regarding Johnny as a baby and what I know now about Autism. Other parents of Autistic children might have different recollections but that is the nature of Autism spectrum.
**Here is the source article:
1.) Lack of smiling:
Does your child smile back at you when you give her a warm, joyful smile? Does your child smile on her own? By the age of six months, your infant should be giving you big smiles or happy expressions.
Johnny was always my smiley little guy who was always smiling back at us and smiling at other people. I recently double checked out family pictures and confirmed what I remembered that he was very joyful and loved interacting with people. He was our social butterfly.
2.) Rare Imitation of Social Cues
Does your child imitate the sounds and movements of others? Does he share expressions back and forth? Infrequent imitation of sounds, smiles, laughter, and facial expressions by 9 months of age can be an early indicator of autism
When Johnny was a baby he would stare at our our faces so intently and get very excited when he’d get a reaction from us after he did something. He’d get so excited and try to copy something we were doing. That being said when watching videos and knowing what we know re: stimming he was flapping hands and using little rattles and baby toys as early fidgets to self calm.
3.) Delay In Babbling & Cooing
Is your child making “baby talk” and babbling or cooing? Does she do it frequently? Your baby should typically reach this milestone by 12 months.
Johnny was always making lots of sounds and babbling away. By 3 months he would say “Goo” very loudly all the time and laugh. By six months he said “Dada” for the first time and loved saying it a lot and then 2 months later he said “Mama”. By 10 months he would say “Da-dum” very loudly all the time and try to sing “Da-dum” into a song he was humming like “Mary had a little lamb”. He could not say the words to the song but he could hum the tune very clearly and loudly so others would remark on it when we were grocery shopping. Interestingly the part of the brain where speech comes from is different from where singing comes from. But singing words helps the tongue and jaw get used to doing the words for speech. Sadly Johnny became nonverbal by 2 years old. By 6 he really began to speak and by 10 years old he speaks so much I have to teach him how to interrupt conversations nicely.
4.) Unresponsiveness To Name
Is your baby increasingly unresponsive to his or her name from 6 to 12 months of age? Parents who see this in their child are often concerned it may be hearing loss and are unaware it can be a sign of autism. If you see this behavior in your child, be sure to monitor the signs and consult a doctor.
When Johnny was a baby he always turned and looked at us when we said his name. It wasn’t until he was 2-1/2 that we noticed that he wouldn’t look or would turn his body away from someone who was trying to interact with him. He was not ignoring us but having trouble concentrating on one thing. The world became too hard to filter out. It became very hard for him and made worse when everyone would try and get his attention.
5.) Poor Eye Contact
Does your child make limited eye contact with you and other loved ones? Does he follow objects visually? Severe lack of eye contact as the baby grows can be an early indicator, as it is a form of communication and comprehension.
Johnny always had lots of eye contact. He was a little flirt and to this day is a flirt who likes to interact with people. The problem I have with this is the suggestion of lack of comprehension due to no or little eye contact. This is not assuming competence and is disregarding the other possibility that maybe the child is taking in too many visuals and needs to turn away to process. Peoples faces are not blank to slates to my son but full of interesting stuff to look at so he says its hard sometimes to keep turning and looking the person in the face. I think the focus needs to be to teach a child to “show people you are listening” by turning your body towards the person and acknowledging them and try looking in the eye if you can. Communication between people usually involves lots of eye contact and is the socially accepted way. I just disagree that connections can only be made this way.
6.) Infrequently Seeking Attention
Does your son initiate cuddling or make noises to get your attention? Does he reach up toward you to be picked up? Disinterest in seeking a loved one’s attention or bonding is a sign your baby may eventually have difficulty relating to others, which can be a struggle for those on the spectrum as they grow up.
As a baby he loved to cuddle and he would always reach to us. He always craved touch and we know he’s a sensory seeker who prefers to be the receiver then the giver. It was when he was 2-1/2 we noticed he began to withdraw and this was unsettling, he seemed depressed. We know now that sensory wise and socially he was struggling a lot and the idea that “he is a boy this is normal” is wrong. Boys need hugs too and if a professional tries to convince you otherwise raise the red flag.
7.) Lack Of Gesturing
Does your son gesture at objects or people to communicate? Does he wave goodbye, point, or reach for things? This is a milestone that is typically reached by 9 or 10 months old.
Johnny never waved hello or good bye as a baby, toddler, preschooler and in this early years at school. We had to do a lot of prompting as well as him watching his peers wave. At six he still was struggling with it. I feel like it’s a gross motor thing and he feels uncomfortable doing it. He would grunt, point at and come over and grab my arm and use it as a tool to to help him but no waving. The problem is kids would wave and make big efforts to say hello or bye and they wouldn’t know what to do when he did nothing . It became so awkward. So I am happy to report that after many years at 10-1/2 Johnny can wave. Just don’t ask him to say bye or good bye. He prefers to say “see you later” because bye feels so final.
8.) Repetitive Behaviours
Does your child engage in repetitive behaviors such as stiffening his arms, hands, or legs? Does he display unusual body movements like rotating his hands on his wrists? Does he sit or stand in uncommon postures?
Yes, stimming is a form of self regulation but we all do this but its more subtle in most adults. Some people chew gum, toe tap, tap their fingers, rock a little in their chair but in my opinion in Autism it’s very pronounced. I personally believe that society should just get used to it and not be bothered if a person stims and just wait a minute until they are done and ready to engage. Johnny has flapped since he was baby. But Johnny has also played with baby toys in his bouncy chair and play gym over and over again way more then other babies we have known. He has also stood on his tippy toes up until he was 5.
9.) Delayed Motor Development
Has your daughter experienced significant delays in motor development milestones, such as rolling over, pushing herself up, and crawling?
Besides being behind in learning to talk, Johnny definitely had gross motor delays and should have had OT visits to the house when was a baby to help him meet his milestones. Instead I had a family doctor and lots of friends and family suggest that “boys can take longer don’t worry he will do it when he is ready.” Now I know that when any type of delay is noticed that its okay to seek help because little ones adapt so easily and quickly. This is how you help your child have positive outcomes. Please ignore any family Doctor or Pedtrician that tells you to wait. Please trust your instincts. Boys do not take longer.
The big thing I noticed that was really different from Johnny and his little sister and other children is how much he enjoyed his mobile in his crib, the exersaucer and his play mat. He figured out at 3 months how to make the play mat make sounds, light up and play music with the kick of a foot and quickly explored every single sensory aspect and cause and effect toy on it. The mobile played music and swirled and he would easily figure out the buttons as a little baby and could watch if for a long time instead of going to sleep. His bouncy chair had toys that hung above him and by 4 weeks he could grab the toys and hold them tight in his hand when he wasn’t suppose to have the pincer grasp yet. It was hard to get him out of his exersaucer because of all the fun cause and effect sensory play that it gave him. Where other little ones would tire out and want out he would laugh and giggle and want to show everyone what he could do. I didn’t know then that he was craving tons of sensory input and he loved the repetition of it all.
After thinking about all of these questions I think that for all parents we need to keep track of how are children are doing but when it comes to Autism its not so easy to identify. Most of the noticeable delays seem to begin showing up around 18 months and I would say that’s exactly what happened to Johnny. Instead of worrying about its Autism or not, my advice is to look at any individual delays and see how you can help your baby overcome each challenge individually.