I’ve been avoiding writing this post for a few weeks now. Some of it is good news, some, not so great. Really, its mix of good news and some relief all mashed up together.
A couple of weeks ago I finally took the peanut to our family Dr. to get a referral so that we could have his hearing checked. We needed to rule out any hearing problems as being a cause of his speech delay. The good news is that his hearing is perfectly fine, which I had suspected all along. The not so great news is that we are now on to the next stage, which is a referral to a pediatric physical therapist so that he can be assessed for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
I’ve always known this was going to be the logical conclusion for us if his language development didn’t improve, but it’s a whole other thing when this whole new life is staring us in the face.
I don’t think he has ASD, although I’m not a professional, so honestly, what do I know?
What I DO know is that he has many characteristics of children with ASD, if somewhat milder than what is described via Dr. Google.
He has a sensitivity to light – that is to say, he screams whenever the sun shines directly into his eyes.
He generally, although not always, avoids eye contact.
He also shows real distress to some touch sensations – he’s extremely sensitive to cold temps (although who isn’t these days with the crazy cold weather we’re having) and up until he was about a year and a half old he’d scream during bath time. Forget swimming, he hated the beach and water play areas, and disliked sand and anything sticky on his hands. As he has gotten older he has learned to love bath time, although he gets motion sickness whenever he’s taken into a pool which is bad news. But like I said, he now loves bath time and water-play in general, and although he still hates sticky things like glue on his hands, he loves playing with stickers so I think he’s getting used to it.
He seems to overreact past regular tantrums when seemingly normal things don’t go his way. For example, if the next show in the Netflix queue comes up and it’s not the show he wants to watch, epic screaming and woe-is-me distress until he gets what he wants. But honestly, I don’t know if he just uses the screaming tantrums because he doesn’t know how to use his words to ask for the show he wants, so he just screams and carries on until we scroll to the show he want’s and points and says “dat one”.
And that’s another thing, he has only started to point for things he wants in the last 6 or 8 months or so. Something he should have been doing since age 1 or 2, I’m told.
On the upside, he is a very cuddly bear and smiles all the time, which I’m told not all children with ASD do.
Honestly, and in speaking with my daycare provider who, like me, is no professional in ASD but has had some experience and training in caring for children with autism, neither of us think he has Autism, but all signs point to him very likely being at the mild end of the scale for ASD.
So, what does this all mean?
First, we continue with the speech language therapy, and thankfully the school system here will take over for his care when he starts school in September, integrating his therapy into his school life.
Next, we wait up to 6 months for his ASD assessment appointment to come up. Whatever the results are of that, we’ll hopefully get a plan put in place for how we can help him to continue to develop his speech and language skills.
For now, he does seem to be improving with his speech development, if not his language. For him, repetition seems to be the key. If we work on something with him long enough, he eventually learns situationaly appropriate words and phrases to use to communicate. For example, he knows to say “I want waffles” when he’s hungry in the morning. Or “I want apple”, I want banana”, “I want candy”, any sort of food that he likes for that matter. He’ll do these without any prompting now which is a big improvement. He can also ask for help if he needs assistance with something… he’ll say “I need help”… we’ll prompt him for more information by saying “with…” and he’ll complete the sentence with whatever he needs help with. And more recently “I need picture book” has become his newest request when he wants you to read him a book. Things like this, the little improvements in the everyday actions he takes to communicate, let me know that slowly, very slowly, he is improving his ability to communicate.
All that said, for most children his age, he should be able to have a regular conversation with you, but he’s just not there yet.
And for all the things he is behind on, physically he’s right on track. He is fully potty trained and can dress and undress himself on his own. He knows all of his shapes and letters, and can count to 30 without any assistance. He’s also good with colours, and very, very good at learning new songs. As a matter of fact, one of his more interesting ASD qualities is that if he watches a show enough times, he can recite the dialogue back verbatim. It’s pretty amazing. Of course, when he’s playing on his own using his “baby talk” you can tell that a lot of what he says to himself is what he is repeating from shows and movies he’s watched. “Good Job Pocoyo” is his current favourite phrase when he does something that he’s proud of.
There are many more things that he does that are on track physically for an almost 4-year-old. I can’t help thinking that there is so much more he could learn if his language skills would only catch up to the rest of him. In any case, we’re on the right track for getting him the help he’ll need going forward.