(Part Two of a series)
Autism is a neurological disorder in a child’s brain that is normally diagnosed by the age of three.
There are warning signs, according to Kaitlyn Linsley, behavioral analyst for Easter Seals of Central Illinois. Some of those involve regression in language or communication.
“A lot of times you may see failure to make eye contact. A lot of toddlers when they look for something or ask for something they’ll make eye contact with you. A lot of times you’ll see kids with autism don’t do that or they’ll look over their shoulder or don’t look at you when you call their name,” Linsley said.
“You may see a lot of repetitive movements, which can be anything from clapping their hand to lining up cars the same way all the time,” Linsley said. “And there’s difficulty with change or routine or transition. (Those) are all some of the really common symptoms we see in younger children before diagnosis.”
Also, some children with autism are not able to cope with the sights, sounds, smells or touches around them.
“A lot of times everyone assumes there is some sort of cognitive or intellectual disability along with their autism and that is not necessarily true,” Linsley said.
Easter Seals Occupational Therapist Katie Pena says there is no “one size fits all” treatment.
“Every kid is very different,” Pena said. “We do direct outpatient therapy. We see little kids for early intervention in the home. We also do some aquatic-based therapy. And we do sensory-based feeding therapy.”
“Something mild where we’re just teaching the family ideas, they may just come for three months. We have other kids, as long as there’s a functional goal, a thing that we can work on that will improve their quality of life or how they can participate in getting dressed in the morning or paying attention to sitting and doing tasks, we sometimes may see kids for years if there’s a goal that we can address,” Pena said.
Pena says the therapy or treatment for a child with autism also includes the parents.
“We really work at what is important to that family and focus on it. Having the parents involved is a big piece,” Pena said. “Some our our kids they don’t like touch, they may not like hugs. They may not talk. We want to be able to build that relationship where families can figure out how they can play with their kids. Even if it’s different, we want them to have that relationship and understanding.”
Pena says the main concerns voiced by parents whose child has received the autism diagnosis center around the unknown.
“Especially with a new diagnosis they have no idea. So, they often will ask, ‘Will my kid ever be able to live on their own, will they ever be able to have a job, will they ever be able to ride a bike?,’” Pena said. “Every kid is very different. Most kids, they meet those milestones, it’s just in their own time.”
Both Linsley and Pena say it takes a lot of patience and understanding on the part of the parents to help their child through autism. The same could be said for society, in general.
Wednesday in Part Three of our series, battling the stigma behind autism.
More information concerning autism can be found HERE.
More information concerning Easter Seals of Central Illinois and autism services available can be found HERE.