Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The beginning of our path

When Stewie was around 20 months old, I noticed he had a language delay. His cousin, who is about two months older than Stewie, was much more advanced when it came to language. After 18 months old, we were still anticipating his needs and just following a schedule. Stewie didn't need to tell us he was hungry or thirsty because he was offered food and drink pretty regularly. If he got upset, we figured he was hungry, thirsty, tired, or needed to be changed. Stewie would label items, but not consistently and he would lose words. One of those words was light. He would point out the lights for a long time, then he gradually stopped doing it. He didn't use echolalia as much as he should have.

Just before he turned two, I took him in to get evaluated by our county's early childhood intervention services. They agreed that he had some major delays (more than 50% in the language area) and we qualified for services. For a year, we had a general teacher who came out to help round out his skills. Fortunately, he is not behind in motor development, so we focused on speech and play. At the beginning of the sessions, I was concerned that Stewie was too lenient in his behavior. By that, he would not get upset if someone (like his cousin) came up and took the toy he was playing with. In one way, it was nice because it prevented conflicts, but I was concerned that people would take advantage of his sweet nature. I don't know how much of his lack of reactions was due to his nature, his desire to fit in, or what. Now, at 3.5, he gets upset when his sister takes his prized possessions, and I think he has a normal reaction.

We had a speech therapist come out after a few months, in addition to the teacher. We saw progress from their visits. They also gave me tools to help encourage Stewie on our own. They are also the first two who suggested that Stewie may be autistic. A few months before his third birthday, we had him professional evaluated. Their diagnosis is that he is moderately autistic. We had another evaluation through the county, in which they took the professional evaluation into consideration. He qualified for preschool, which he started a week before his birthday.

Preschool has been good for him. He enjoys interacting with other children, and the school provides activities that we haven't or aren't able to. He gets the inner peer pressure, such as seeing other children who are potty trained and he decides he wants to be potty trained, too. His language skills have blossomed, too. In the past few months, we have noticed he's experienced a language explosion. He added a ton of words to his vocabulary, and he's speaking in 3-4 word sentences. They are not random sentences, but ones we practice with him. He's starting to ask for more things, such as things he wants. It's wonderful to hear him ask "more water please" and he's very polite with his requests, for the most part. I'm not sure who taught him "get up," but when we refuse to budge, or we give him a hint, he usually asks again by saying "get up, please" and we comply with his request. He still has trouble with syntax, but it's not a huge issue.

It's awesome to hear him ask for food, drinks, or other things. He has started substituting words in sentences, such as saying "I love motorcycles" instead of "I love (Mom, Dad, Rylie)." His favorite requests are going to the park to play, playing birds (on my phone), or playing with his toys. He has his routines, things which he asks for either every day, or in certain situations. Every time we go to the car, he wants to go to the park. When we are near our local grocery store chain, he wants to go inside and ride the mechanical horses they have. He has also started practicing echolalia, and for the most part, that's great. Now we have to start watching our language. He is much more willing to repeat new words and short sentences, where in the past he would clam up (especially if we were around other people). We have to prompt him less often than we did in the past, too. He still enjoys pointing out things he knows the words to. Strangers are starting to understand those words, and he enjoys that.

So there it is... a jumble of how we started on our path of the diagnosis of autism.

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