We were devastated, the characteristics of autism were all too obvious.
-Joshua was diagnosed with autism before his third birthday.
It was the worst day of our lives.
At the time, my husband and I knew little about autism; there really wasn't a whole lot of information available.
-Of course, a lot has changed since then. (Josh is nine now)
In many ways, that was good for us because we accepted Josh's challenges at face value and we learned about Autism along with him.
Since those early symptoms of autism, the past six years have been a continuous learning process. The learning has occurred on several levels: first, of course, was learning the definition of autism and the three main forms, then the different characteristics of autism, and of course the various autism treatments we would have to find out about.
-Second, we've tried to learn about the causes of autism as well as the autism signs and symptoms. Finally, we've learned a lot about where to go when we have questions and how to become involved in the autism community, which we're sorry to say seems to be increasing every day.
The Definition of Autism and Asperger Autism
-In 1943 Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital identified Autism. At the same time, Dr. Hans Asperger described a milder form of the autism, now known as Asperger Syndrome. (Also known as Aspergers Syndrome or Aspergers Disorder)
-Both are brain development disorders that are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communicative skills and impaired social abilities, and by repetitive behaviors. Although no significant delay is apparent in the development of language in Aspergers syndrome.
-The third form is Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) It is usually milder than Autism, has symptoms common with autism though lacks enough for more specific diagnosis.
Children and adults with autism may have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They may repeat certain characteristics of Autism and may be unwilling to change their daily activities.
-Many people with autism also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting. While autism is often labeled "adult autism" or "childhood autism," Autism Spectrum Disorders begin during early childhood (before age 3), and usually last throughout a person's life and vary in the degree of disability.
-Watch this truly inspiring video of a child with Autism.
One of the most difficult aspects of Josh's diagnosis was not knowing what to expect - what behaviors were autism and what behaviors were normal childhood behaviors. After all, kids do useful things -they're kids!
-The wonderful folks at the Autism Society taught us that a child with Autism may exhibit some or all of the following early symptoms or characteristics of Autism:
-Josh exhibited a number of these early signs of Autism, including losing skills he once had. He actually dropped words from his vocabulary and went from speaking full sentences to essentially not speaking to us at all.
Additional Characteristics for Autism include:
* These last 2 can be very dangerous for obvious reasons; If these characteristics for Autism are present, constant supervision is an absolute must!
Causes of Autism
That day Joshua was diagnosed; it really was the worst day of our lives. The word 'autism' comes with such a stigma and there is so little really known about the disease.
-I've never been so frightened for my little boy. We were angry and terrified and wanted to blame someone or something. We wanted a reason why he had autism and of course, we wanted a solution.
Many people link the onset of their child's signs of autism with immunizations. By now everyone's heard the Jenny McCarthy story, and how she believed her son Evan, acquired the characteristics of Autism from the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, commonly called the autism vaccine.
-See related flu and MMR vaccine video
The honest and unfortunate truth is that they just don't know what causes the autism signs and symptoms. The causes of Autism are still widely unknown and misunderstood.
-While there is tremendous controversy amongst parents, medical providers and the scientific community in general, the consensus is that the characteristics for autism are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
They also strongly urge parents to continue immunizations, as there still is no scientific data to indicate otherwise.
-This, of course, doesn't help parents like us who are desperately seeking a cure and someone or something to blame for our child's Autism.
Because the characteristics for autism are largely misunderstood, children are often mis-diagnosed with autism or parents may fear autism without getting the proper diagnosis.
-There is no medical test or autism test to diagnose autism; however early intervention is essential to get your child on the right path.
Typically, there is a two-pronged approach. Your regular pediatrician will do routine development screenings for early symptoms of Autism. If they suspect a problem, they'll likely refer you to an expert who will conduct a more comprehensive evaluation.
Once a child has received an autism diagnosis and parents have an understanding of the challenges they and their child will face, it's time to look at autism treatments.
-This is when autism can become overwhelming. Because there is no known singular cause, finding a cure for autism and treating autism becomes controversial, and people often take a scattershot approach - trying multiple autism treatments and hoping something will work.
Popular Autism Treatments Include:
-Drugs can't cure the autism signs and symptoms, but many with characteristics for autism suffer from multiple other problems such as seizures and depression.
-The drugs can be used to help with these problems in the form of anti anxiety, anti depression and anti convulsive medications.
-Holding therapy was recommended to us by friends who had some success with it, so we gave it a try. In holding therapy, it is what it sounds like; you try to make contact by holding your child face to face, making eye contact, talking and comforting them if they resist.
This was always one of my Joshua's biggest problems (mine really), his desire not to be hugged or cuddled. (a mom needs to hug her son, as much as he needs it.) -It still is, and it nearly broke our hearts.
The research we found on the Autism Diet led us to give that a try as well, and we have seen improvements in Josh's behavior, however he's far from cured. Each day presents something new and certainly some days are better than others.
We've found that connecting with other families with autistic children has been a godsend. We found both online and local support groups through our pediatrician and by searching online.
My husband and I can tell you from firsthand experience, if you think your child is showing characteristics for Autism, or Tourettes syndrome, or you suspect there's a problem of any kind, ask your pediatrician for a referral to see a developmental pediatrician or other specialist.
Please, don't wait for your pediatrician to notice complications.
-We're grateful we were finally able to get Joshua the help he needed, and we're optimistic he'll grow up to live a happy and productive life.
.... Oh, by the way - Josh did give me a big hug this morning!
-Please watch the short video below for a truly Inspirational story of another child's successful battle in dealing with Autism.
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