Autistic children don't look different and as such I had no idea my girl was autistic, I noticed she was displaying some characteristics that were strange but then again, being that she was the first fruit of my womb, I had no idea how toddlers were supposed to behave.
As a result, her behaviour didn't come as a surprise to me as it wasn't until she clocked two that I started noticing some anomalies in her behaviour as it had become very noticeable.
By age 2 she had started saying a few words perhaps much fewer than normal. One of the things that put me on alert however was her temper, she gets angry over little things like, if I collect a toy from her, she would throw a tantrum.
She would throw herself up against the floor and beginning hitting her head on it, when she's doing like this, trying to persuade her to stop is impossible until she's weak and tired and her cries become very weak.
The part that scared me the most was the head-hitting on the wall part, but I tried not to take it to heart as I've heard of how toddler tantrums are sometimes.
Getting her to focus was hard too, by that time she wasn't talking much and when you call her name she wouldn't answer, I saw this as a act of defiance but after many such occasions, I decided she probably had ear problem so I took her to my doctor who referred me to another specialist.
The mistake I made was never telling the doctor the other signs I noticed and that's because I never even knew what autism was as at then, they did an ear examination and found nothing, I didn't bother following up on the report.
But when she's frustrated and angry she kept behaving irrationally and she would make a couple of hand movements that I thought were gestures although she was never pointing to anything in particular. And by the time she was two years plus, I was already tired of her behaviour, if I don't touch her she wouldn't know she's being called, I'm always walking on egg shells around her 'cause I never know what'll make her throw herself on the floor and hit her head against the floor, so I made sure her day to day acts were routine so as to reduce her feeling of frustration.
When she's eating, it's always a mess, the major part of the food goes to waste while the remaining enters her mouth, and she can be doing something monotonous for a few minutes without getting bored. Another strange thing I noticed is that she would be staring at an object without taking her eyes off it for some minutes. This would usually make me wonder if she's in a trance or something.
She doesn't like to share her toys with her friends, she just ignores them as if they aren't there and plays alone, she doesn't make eye contact or change her facial expression (it's just fixed) and gesticulating to communicate with her is useless, coupled with her speech issue, I had to be dumping her at the daycare just so I don't have to deal with her at home, only God knows what they do to make her sleep over there but I never cared.
Preferring to throw tantrums than share her toys with friends, saying little words"eat, sleep, food", not understanding gesticulation especially the hearing problem gave me enough concern to visit the hospital, the series of test revealed my worst fears; my daughter was autistic! The good part is she still has the ability to pick up words, the bad part all other things I noticed are for real.
My advice to other parents is to look out for the signs of autism, sometimes things we think are normal may actually be a sign that your child has the condition.
According to the website Autism Speaks the following "red flags" may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, please don’t delay in asking your paediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age