Don't be afraid of the outcome, even if it's scary.
I have had so many people approach me and congratulate me on pushing for Bella's early diagnosis of autism. It really was a push by the way. I felt like I was running against the wind sometimes. No one ever said, "No she doesn't have autism"...but essentially that's what they thought. I completely understand not wanting to "diagnose" too early, giving the child extra time to develop. Here's my concern, now that I'm half way through my Master's in Special Education, I have written many papers on autism (and lived through 2.5 years of it thus far) and a few things resound in my head/heart every time...
1. GET YOUR CHILD DIAGNOSED EARLY
I don't care if you feel like you are just being a "worrier" because I cannot tell you how many times I've felt this or even been called it:) You are your child's number ONE advocate!
2. FIND A GOOD PEDIATRICIAN (who will REALLY listen to you)
They have to be on your side. If you really are wrong about something, at least they will take the time to talk through it with you and not just check you off the list:(
3. DIET REALLY DOES MATTER
In a recent forum with Pediatricians, Parents, School/Medical Professionals on Dr. OZ...it seemed that everyone had different opinions about most things but one thing they were all open to was the GLUTEN/CASEIN FREE DIET:) Here's my thing, no matter what, cutting out hard to digest/processed food is good for your kid. I've seen amazing results from the diet. In fact, the day I started it...Bella literally picked up a fork and spoon and started eating food off her plate (when before she would barely eat, let alone had EVER used a fork). She's had a few slip ups with the GFCF diet and within a few hours, she will have symptoms (including crazy diaper blow outs and insane tantrums). For now, we are sticking with this diet my friends:)
4. EARLY INTERVENTION/ABA
Starting your child in early intervention and ABA is ESSENTIAL. Bella is communicating 100% better. I used to just sit on the floor and cry with her when she would melt down for an hour straight. Now, she will come up to me and say "cup" "juice" "eat" "more" "outside" "apple"---I mean, it's amazing. I attribute this progress to diet, Josh and me and our hard work with her, and her ABA therapist. Oh and God of course. I pray for that girl all of the time, for a miracle.
So, look for these signs mom's and dad's with little ones...and don't be afraid. I had a sweet mom email me the other day that said that someone had thought her child was autistic but never said anything....he didn't get diagnosed until four. Think of all of the hours of therapy he could have had. Sorry, I'm just passionate about this:)
P.S. Before reading this, please know that a lot of these symptoms "normally" developing children exhibit as well (I see it all of the time)--- it's the combined symptoms that are more concerning :)
By Mayo Clinic staff (reference): http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/autism/DS00348/DSECTION=symptoms
Children with autism generally have problems in three crucial areas of development — social interaction, language and behavior. But because autism symptoms vary greatly, two children with the same diagnosis may act quite differently and have strikingly different skills. In most cases, though, severe autism is marked by a complete inability to communicate or interact with other people.
Some children show signs of autism in early infancy. Other children may develop normally for the first few months or years of life but then suddenly become withdrawn, become aggressive or lose language skills they've already acquired. Though each child with autism is likely to have a unique pattern of behavior, these are some common autism symptoms:
Fails to respond to his or her name
Has poor eye contact
Appears not to hear you at times
Resists cuddling and holding
Appears unaware of others' feelings
Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her "own world"
Starts talking later than age 2, and has other developmental delays by 30 months
Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
Doesn't make eye contact when making requests
Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
Can't start a conversation or keep one going
May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them
Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
Develops specific routines or rituals
Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals
May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car
May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch and yet oblivious to pain
Young children with autism also have a hard time sharing experiences with others. When read to, for example, they're unlikely to point at pictures in the book. This early-developing social skill is crucial to later language and social development.
As they mature, some children with autism become more engaged with others and show less marked disturbances in behavior. Some, usually those with the least severe problems, eventually may lead normal or near-normal lives. Others, however, continue to have difficulty with language or social skills, and the adolescent years can mean a worsening of behavioral problems.
Most children with autism are slow to gain new knowledge or skills, and some have signs of lower than normal intelligence. Other children with autism have normal to high intelligence. These children learn quickly yet have trouble communicating, applying what they know in everyday life and adjusting in social situations. A small number of children with autism are "autistic savants" and have exceptional skills in a specific area, such as art, math or music.
When to see a doctor
Babies develop at their own pace, and many don't follow exact timelines found in some parenting books. But children with autism usually show some signs of delayed development by 18 months. If you suspect that your child may have autism, discuss your concerns with your doctor. The earlier treatment begins, the more effective it will be.
Your doctor may recommend further developmental tests if your child:
Doesn't babble or coo by 12 months
Doesn't gesture — such as point or wave — by 12 months
Doesn't say single words by 16 months
Doesn't say two-word phrases by 24 months
Loses previously acquired language or social skills at any age
So, there you go. For my Bella, it was a variety of symptoms and things that "just didn't seem right".... I love my girl though and feel blessed to have her diagnosis and all of the support we have already (friends, family, and therapy)!