I'm sure this kind of post is quite common and probably something of an annoyance to many of you who are subjected to it ad nauseum. Be that as it may, I'm the scared father of a beautiful 18-month-old daughter who can't seem to concentrate on other aspects of his life until I get this out there.
Obviously I have concerns about my daughter as it pertains to autism/Aspergers/ADHD. Let me share some of the details so others can hopefully tell me if this sounds like their own experience.
First of all, my daughter has a speech delay that we have begun to address. She only uses approximately 4-5 words (most of them sparingly), including "bye"/"bye-bye", "hi", "uh-oh" and "no". She does say "Mom"/"Mamae" (Portuguese - bi-lingual household) but doesn't quite seem to grasp that it only pertains to mother. Sometimes it's used generally but we have heard "papai" (dad) on occasion as well. She likes to repeat "bye/bye-bye" throughout the day for no particular reason but seems to understand the context when it is appropriate, particularly when I leave the house or "hi" in the event that she meets someone new.
Gabi is challenged in other areas, particularly in communicating what she wants non-verbally. She NEVER points to things she wants although she will put her hands up and make a gripping gesture with her hands to demonstrate that she wants something but by no means will she pull us to something or ask for it/ask for more. She will attempt to stand up on objects or climb things to get what she wants herself. She will not ask for help to get anything. That has me quite worried. I should mention that she does point to things she finds interesting, although I'm not sure if she's pointing things out to us or merely pointing because she feels compelled to point at the object herself. She does babble constantly though. We can't make anything out of it, but she does make every effort to communicate in her own language.
Gabi often has explosive tantrums when something is taken from here but also when we want to change clothes, diapers, etc. She is a toe walker and often skips around on her toes but can walk flat-footed at times. She has an attention span that is extremely limited and she NEVER STOPS (extreme hyperactivity) except for brief moments to flip through the pages of a children's book or watch children's programs (that she can focus on intently) then it's off again. She will bring things over to us on occasion - normally books - but doesn't really seem tp put them under our noses as if to say, "look what I've got". She does not follow instructions very well at all and will rarely if ever come when she is asked to follow mom or dad. She does repeat things when she feels like it but only things like "wow". I generally have to pick her up to get her back into the car or house. She will not follow us with any regularity and will often turn and go the other direction (at the park for example). I think it is important to mention that she will follow our pointing (not so much our gaze but I haven't really focused so much on that) and look at the object we point at but will not attempt to repeat the word. She doesn't seem to understand when we say "where are the birds (pet birds), light, truck", etc. She does some arm flapping and jumping, but most of all, likes to rotate her head back and forth vigorously as if to say NO emphatically. That also has me concerned but our MD says it could still be considered normal self-stimulation at this age. She does have a preoccupation with picking up sticks and rocks when we're outside and always seems to have to have a twig or rock in her hand. That is something that has always concerned me and was a big tip-off.
Now for the stuff that has us perplexed. She is without a doubt the happiest baby we know. She loves to smile and laugh, smiles when smiled at, maintains EXCELLENT eye contact/looks to us to see that we are sharing her enjoyment, loves to give hugs and be hugged/tickled and absolutely loves to be around kids her age and everyone ranging up to adults. She initiates contact with children, often walking up to them and saying "hi" and waiting for them to begin playing with her. She does show some imaginative/pretend play (holds things up to her head as if they are a phone), will try and feed dolls and stuffed animals IF PROMPTED to do so, and seems to put a purse or bag over her shoulder and head towards the door while saying "bye".
Her sleep is usually interrupted twice nightly but she seems to go back to sleep quickly and wakes refreshed. She is advanced in physical terms. She walked early is in the far upper percentile in terms of height and weight. She has demonstrated intelligence by using a stick to get something off a table and uses boxes to get to things on a counter or table.
Overall, I would say she definitely displays more than a small number of autistic tendencies, but the smiling, eye contact and ability to engage other children has us perplexed. From what I have been reading (and what our doctor said was encouraging like the fact that she maintains eye contact, smiles, likes affection, etc.) is that these behaviors are atypical of children with autism. Can anyone speak to this seeming contradiction in diagnosing autism when the major symptoms (withdrawn, prefers to play alone, poor eye contact, etc.) are completely absent?
Sorry in advance for the long post, but I really needed to get this off my chest. Thanks so much,
Hi - Never apologize for wanting to ask a question about your child! That's what we are all here for.
I cannot help but wonder if a portion of the delay and temper issues that you are seeing are due to being in a bi-lingual household. What I mean by that is if Gabi does have some language delays, I would imagine that it would be even more perplexing and confusing for her to try to grasp the right words if she also has to try to separate out the two languages being spoken in the household. As I read your post I honestly am not sure what is causing what and if her frustration and tantrums are due to her language delay being further frustrated by being bewildered by the different languages being spoken. I am not suggesting that you only speak one language but suggesting that this may be an issue.
What I would suggest is that you take her for an evaluation through your school district for early intervention services. Alternatively you could ask your pediatrician for a referral for a speech therapist and have them do a thorough evaluation. If you got a S.T. with experience with bi-lingual families that would especially be helpful. I think that if your daughter got started with some intensive speech therapy given by a specialist in the dual languages, she would have a nice breakthrough with language and you would a lessening in her frustrating and temper.
My gut instinct is to focus on one language in the household for now and do a lot of labelling of objects that are in her environment. If you stick with one language and are consistently labelling objects for her, that also might help her bring in language. And when you think she wants something, you point to it and ask "do you want juice (or whatever). and then repeat the juice, and say here's the juice and use it in short sentences, but again, I think it will be a lot easier for her if only one language (assuming English) will be spoken. And then later as she emerges with language and you know more about if there are other issues, you can decide about the second language. Having gone through speech therapy for my son when he was little, I feel this would be the best approach, in my opinion.
There is a small window of time during childhood where children pick up multiple languages very easily. Hearing the rhythm of the language and the sounds is extremely important. At a certain age, people can't even learn some languages properly, like Chinese, because they haven't heard the sounds at the right age, and later can't tell the sounds apart.
My son laughed a lot, played well with other children, and talked a normal amount when he was younger. But, early on, he didn't. I had to talk to him, tell him "mommy can't read minds, you have to SAY what it is you want. If you tell me, I'll help you get it". This took a long time to get him to understand, with me constantly having to say "say the word, do you know the word for it?". He did finally "get it" and grew out of that stage. Up until about age 7-8, he appeared mostly normal. No red flags, other than how smart he was. Gradually, as he was exposed to more and more children, crowds at school, hurtful remarks, he withdrew more and more, until being around people was actually harmful to his well being.
Enjoy your daughter, delight in the things she does well, and help her with those where she struggles. Allot some time each day or week to "worry", then try to enjoy life. Talk to her a lot, and explain things. "You have to point to the things you want, and I'll help you get them". If she indeed does have a form of autism, there will be things she does not automatically know (that other kids do know), and your job will be to explain those things to her. Silly things, like "you have to stay with me at the park so you won't get lost. It would scare me if you were lost". "You have to hold my hand in the parking lot". Her babbling and saying the same things over and over are how babies learn language. They will sometimes say them different ways, just to hear what it sounds like.
The hyperactivity could be from sugar, caffeine, or red food coloring, or even being over-stimulated or tired. I get hyper when I'm overwhelmed.
You're already ahead of the game - willing to admit she may have autistic tendencies and work on activities to lessen the impact. That's about the best attitude a parent can have.
Hi there....my name is melanie and i have a little girl who is autistic.
First off i want to say that autism is such a big spectrum and that there is so many different traits that vary.
Your daughter sounds like she has some traits but if she is interacting with others,well that is just wonderful as it should be so much easier for you to break her out of her autism(if that is what she has).
The best advice i could give you is to get her into early intervention as soon as possible-the younger they are the easier it is to help reprogram them in how to play,interact,langage,learn ect.
My daughter always gave us eye contact but was so un-interactive with people-she never walked on her toes but was always so hyperactive-always so wound up-never calm-had the worst food sensitivities(which is very common with autism) and the biggest changes we got where with early intervention and seeing a biomedics doctor.We found out that she had so many digestive problems that most of the times my daughter was in so much pain and so foggy,almost like in a drugged state that is was impossible for her to learn or want to interact and when we addressed her problems (which was a long long hard road )we found a lot of her autism went away-she started to interact,play,laugh,follow instructions,ect.
My daughter is getting better everyday and she was extremly bad...to not even being aloud in the same room with her sometimes as she would get so upset and not want to be with anyone..to now lying on the lounge with me giving me cuddles..we have come a long long way-she was also like your daughter in the way she would never point or lead me to things she wanted but it gets better and you can help her but it takes alot of time,committment and love.
I wish you all the luck and hope you dont listen to too many doctors who tell you to not worry and that they will grow out of it...they wont,not without intervention and the longer they have you sitting around waiting,the worse your daughter gets-they usually withdrawl more and more into their own world-the more you miss out on presious time to fix them-the earlier you start working with them the better.
The last thing i would like to mention is that your little girl is very lucky to have a dad like you that seems to have started your journey already in helping her..your first step was this post...your parental instincts tell you that all is not right and remember that in future when dealing with doctors---you know her the best and you see her all the time-if you have concerns,there is usually a reason...the best of luck...from mell
I want to thank all of you for taking the time to respond to my post. I'm certain I'm finding this vastly more difficult than my wife or daughter. We have not received any official diagnosis yet, and as such, I am still unsure if Gabriella is in fact anywhere on the spectrum at all. I am probably somewhere on the more pessimistic side by nature (something I myself need to work on) but my wife, sister, brother-in-law and mother/father are all much less concerned than me, but I just can't help but think that something is not quite right. I guess it's the stark contrast between her two behaviors - one indicating some form of autism and the other indicating that she is a very happy, highly socialized child who prefers our company and the company of other children to her own.
My wife and daughter have both returned to Brazil for the next 6 weeks to visit family, and being alone is at once a relief so I can think about things impartially, and incredibly saddening to be apart from them for so long. Upon their return, we are going to have an official visit from an OT with the Denver School District who will likely assess her condition (if any) with a play screening. I have conducted something of an impromptu play screening myself according to the guidelines set forth in a video produced for pediatricians attempting to screen 18-month-olds during office visits. I found that Gabriella readily offers a spoon and bottle to a doll (complete with sucking and eating sounds) and will place a cell phone next to her head as if to speak with someone. She has been putting phones and phone like objects to her ear for quite some time. However, she will not, under any circumstance, understand how to "show me the light" by pointing overhead. That elicits a blank stare as if to say "what's a light?" I guess that's what has me so confused.
Anyway, I'm mostly afraid of knowing that my daughter might not live life to the fullest or reach her greatest potential. All of you are far more knowledgeable about such matters and have come to different conclusions, I'm sure. I'm scared of what this may mean to our marriage and already limited lives outside of caring for our daughter. That probably sounds selfish, but by no means are we unwilling to give it our all - on the contrary I would sacrifice everything for my family, but I just don't know what kind of improvements we can expect, or if Gabriella's condition may in fact worsen from now on. I would like to assume that if she is autistic, then it is mild given her tendencies for socialization/interaction, but who knows. Does any of you anticipate your children realizing such gains as to lead virtually normal lives? Thanks so much for your responses,
Hi - The gains from your daughter's age to the next decade can and will be dramatic!! You will surely see this, but I cannot emphacize enough the importance of early intervention in the form of speech therapy and possibly O.T.
Your daughter does not display classic signs of autism from what you describe in that she does participate in socialization and the company of others, has good eye contact and if she's on a trip to Brazil, is not resistent to change! My instinct is, if anything, she has a language delay possibly developmental and/or from the bi-lingual household. But evaluations and assessments seem to be on the horizon for her and that will certainly lead you in the direction that you need to be in the way of interventions.