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Worried about Autism at early age: hand twisting, etc.

(88 Posts)
mommysandrine Wed 14-Jul-04 20:41:20


I'm worried about my very young son Ethan, who is 5 months old. My husband is beginning to become concerned, but is probably worried more about me, as my mood is going up and down by the hour based on how my son is currently behaving. I'm obsessively searching the Internet for early warning signs and early treatment options...but almost none of the material pertains to one so young as my son so I'm feeling rather stuck for now. The more I read and the older Ethan gets, though, the more convinced I am that something is wrong. My heart aches, and I really need some support.

Ethan is capable of engaging in interaction for minutes at a time, and he's advanced in terms of motor skills (sits up unaided already, etc.) However, he's showing some signs which worry me very much. I'm most worried about not being able to keep his attention without extra effort, and the way he's "crawling" early with his legs but pushing his face against the floor while making noises. I'm also worried about the way he scratches things and puts his thumb against things, twisting his hand around as he does so.

Other things: 1.) Often it's hard to get or keep his attention unless I am making silly faces or sounds, or eating, talking on the phone, or brushing my teeth; 2) He is doing lots of things that seems to be stimulating his sense of touch to a strange degree: pushing his thumb against something and rotating his wrist around it or popping his knuckle back and forth, crawling with his legs while pushing his face against the floor and making noises, "hitting" things alot and pushing off against things with his legs, including me sometimes while breastfeeding; 3) He rarely is still...constantly in motion; 4) He is totally attracted to "things" of all kinds: books, cameras, toothbrushes, etc. If I am holding him he will often lean over and reach out his arms towards something several feet away. Everyone is commenting how smart he must be as he is so engaged with the word at 5 months old...but I'm scared; 5) He's not making any consonant sounds, he does little "talking" to me but lots towards "things", he's not a good sleeper (lots of short naps), he had a "week suck" when he was born, and his head is in the 25th percentile.

I'm trying to stay away from the Internet, but I just can't. I think I have bookmarked every page out there having to do with causes and symptoms, and have now moved on to treatment...though no one's talking about 5-month olds. If he has any kind of developmental issue, I want to get him help ASAP. On the bright side, at least I'll have found it early. I don't think I would have noticed much odd had I not been I was keeping my eye out for it because I had been worried about the stress I was under during my pregnancy, the influenza shot I had, and the filling I lost while pregnant. I know there's a lot of quackery out there regarding autism, but I'm still worried.

I'd love to hear from parents whose kids once did what my son's doing (and hear whether they went on to have development issues or not) and others who have similar concerns, advice, or information.

Thanks in advance.

mrsflowerpot Wed 14-Jul-04 21:05:09

I'm sorry to hear you're so worried. I can't help with any real facts for you, but I will say that alot of what you mention, including the pushing off with his legs, never being still and being really interested in things sounds very like my ds who is now 3y 3m, and he has no development issues, just grown into a very active and curious little boy. I honestly can't remember about the rest, including the 'talking'.

There are plenty of people on Mumsnet who are really helpful with these issues and I'm sure one of them will be along soon.

hercules Wed 14-Jul-04 21:10:09

Sounds very typical behaviour of a five month old tbh. I'm sure more experienced will be here soon to give advice.

moominmama86 Wed 14-Jul-04 21:14:54

Hi mommysandrine. I'm no expert in this at all but IMO this all sounds like perfectly normal behaviour for a 5-month-old. In fact, it sounds just like my ds who is now 13 months, never still, 'into' everything, very easily distracted by anything that's more interesting than mummy's boring old face etc etc. Your ds sounds very engaged with the world and very curious about it - just as mine is.

*Please* try not to worry - you sound as if you are driving yourself to distraction! And please stay away from the internet (expect MN of course) as you will never find anything to reassure you and only things that scare the sh*t out of you. You would be far better off talking to you HV or GP, but honestly, it really doesn't sound as if you have too much to worry about. HTH

elliott Wed 14-Jul-04 21:16:23

Yes, I've got a lively active little boy too, who is absolutely not autistic. He sat around 5 months, was always moving (still is!), very absorbed in play, foudn it hard to nap (until I got him into a consistent routine), didn't say any consonants until past 9 months......
FRom what I've learnt here about autism, it seems its not something that can be diagnosed until much later - probably closer to 2 or 3 years.
I'm really sorry you're so worried about this, but it does seem a little premature to be reading too much in to your ds's temparament and behaviour. Do you have access to any health professionals who could perhaps reassure you about his current development? I'm not sure whether you are UK based or US.

prettycandles Wed 14-Jul-04 21:25:50

He does sound perfectly normal - truly and honestly. A lot of what you describe is exactly what my dd was doing, including the thrashing, 'crawling' and lack of consonant sounds. My ds was using consonant sounds by that age - actually sounded like he was talking Polish - whereas my dd didn't babble at all, except for the occasional grunts and cooing, until nearly 8-9m, and only added consonants around her 1st birthday.

I don't mean to sound at all facetious, but it sounds to me like you are feeling overwhelmed - like you say about your mood and your husband. Do have a talk with your HV (are you in the UK?) Naturally you are concerned for your son, but when you are tired and emotionally vulnerable things do get out of proportion. Please don't be offended, I'm not poo-pooing your concerns.

FWIW, my advice would be to delete those bookmarks today and come and chat on Mumsnet to get a fresh perspective.

Jimjams Wed 14-Jul-04 21:43:01

My eldest son is autistic. I was pretty convinced by the time ds2 was 4 months that he wasn't autistic as he copied me doing something (pressing a button or something- nothing elaborate), drank out of a beaker at about 5 or 6 months without needing to be shown how. His eye contact etc was fine (bit so was my autistic son's until he reached about 18 months/2). Ds2 is now 2 and a half and not remotely autistic.

I am now pregnant with my third- I know that I wojn't be 100% sure until he/she's about a year old, but the sort of things that would worry me would be a)NOT reaching out for things, b) not really being interested in toys- and not exploring piles of toys- even if dumped in front of him c)showing a remarkable interest in ceilings/leaves etc (by which I mean being able to watch them for half an hour/hour at a time) d) not learning anything at all through imitation, but having to be physically prompted for everything e) being hypersensitive to touch or sounds or smells.

DS1's adult directed attention now is pretty much non-existent. Up until about the age of 2 he apeared to have expeptionally good attention/concentration skills- people used to comment on it. But these were always on things of his own choosing (self directed attention is still good). A young baby of 5 months hasn't developed adult directed attention yet- it develops in line with language. So young babies should be distractable- and it was something I was pleased to note in ds2.

coppertop Wed 14-Jul-04 22:15:25

My ds1 (4yrs) is autistic. At the age of about 5 months he would have been happy to lie in his pram all day if I'd let him. Watching patterns on the ceiling was a particularly favourite past-time. People would tell us how lucky we were to have such an angelic 'well-behaved' (as though a 5mth-old could be badly-behaved!) child. At that age our biggest problem with him was that he just didn't seem to need to sleep. Evenings and nights were a nightmare as he wouldn't sleep unless someone was holding him, and even then it was only in 20-minute spurts. He didn't even nap in the daytimes either, despite me walking for miles with him in his pram. He wasn't particularly interested in toys either.

mommysandrine Thu 15-Jul-04 02:33:22

Wow, thanks everyone for all the kind advice and reassurance!

One question: I am under the impression that some babies with ASD seem to be passive, lethargic, etc, but some are completely different, no? Signs can include being hyperactive and squirmy, strangely attentive to complex objects, doing frequent hand twisting and finger twiddling, and being inconsistent about responding to attempts to get attention. These are all concerns I have about my son. I haven't put him near a ceiling fan (the one time I did I shut it off very quickly because he he did start staring at it and it made me worry), but I have noticed he is pretty fascinated with leaves when out for a walk, and shadows on the wall around the house.

I'm in the US. I do have a pediatrician but she was fairly dismissive.

Jimjams Thu 15-Jul-04 07:54:00

My friend's dd was very active and hyperactive from an early age. My friend always describes her as wild. I didn't know her then, and she tends to talk about her as a toddler but I'll ask her what she was like as a baby if you want. She's off to France tomorrow for a week though so it may take me a while to get back to you. My son was/is passive.

I think the main thing about the "non-passive" type is that they scream a lot. Literally all the time- and most parents describe them as incredibly difficult from the moment of birth. Another friend sais every time she took her dd to the supermarket she would scream and scream and scream.

All babies are interested in leaves, fans, etc it's the intensity that is different with an autistic child. An autistic child would watch the ceilings, lights etc and be pretty much oblivious to everything else around them, a non autistic child would look at them, but easily turn their attention to other distractions in the room (even if only fleetingly). In a young baby it is the intensity of focus that is different in many autistic children.

All young babies have single channeled attention though, the difference in an autistic child is that does't easily switch between objects/people etc- my son at 12 months would get totally engrossed in turning a ball over and over. My younger son used to like looking at balls as well but would easily switch to something else.

Jimjams Thu 15-Jul-04 08:01:19

BTW should just say if you actually look for autistic behaviours in a baby you WILL see them. All babies will do something from the "list" at some time or another. I know that DS2 did the odd thing (was watching him like a hawk). eg he was late to roll then did it craply, lined things up, liked lights, couldn;t always be bothered to make eye contact, was a bit too passive at times for my liking, even now he shows a nice bit of echolalia at times. It's the big picture that's important,ie the sum of the individual behaviours, not the behaviours themselves as such.

TheBoysMum Thu 15-Jul-04 08:10:10

Both my sons twisted their hands (lots) up until the age of about 7-8 months. Both chose to ignore their name sometimes. They are not autistic.
Can lack of rolling indicate autism, jimjams - why?

prettycandles Thu 15-Jul-04 11:18:03

mommysandrine, why are you so concerned about autism particularly?

aloha Thu 15-Jul-04 11:41:05

I think you should keep away from the Internet. I think you are driving yourself crazy for no reason. Nothing he's doing sounds odd for a five month old baby. They don't have any attention span, and wanting to touch everything is absolutely normal and good. I really think you are torturing yourelf here. How do you feel generally? Is it possible you might have a touch of PND which can lead to obsessive thoughts.

Jimjams Thu 15-Jul-04 12:06:06

BoyMum there is a guy in the States who was researching signs of autism in infancy. He reckons that if you show him video of children rolling at 6 months he can pick out the autistic ones. It's not so much that children are late rolling, its that they don't roll properly- so they arch their stomach and lead with that rather than their head (although I think younger babies do arch their stomachs anyway). This research was done at the end on the 90's and I haven't seen much on it since, so I have no idea whether it's still valid. I think the guys name was Teitelbaum. Both of mine were pretty poor at rolling but ds2 really isn't autistic. I think he also did some research on dodgy reflexes in autism - which is quite likely - but is also seen in dysrpraxia etc.

frogs Thu 15-Jul-04 12:21:33

Having said that, Jimjams, just to reassure owners of non-rolling NT children, none of mine have rolled, at all, ever, and all seem to be entirely normal (now 9, 5 and 7 months).

They were also very late to get into a sitting position by themselves, tho' ok sitting if you put them down on their bottoms. Neither of the older two were mobile until well after their first birthday, and didn't walk until 18 months+. Dd2 looks to be going the same way.

Frankly, whenever I hear stories of 9 month olds walking, I reach for the gin and thank my lucky stars. Mercifully, I didn't own a copy of 'What to expect in the first year'.

frogs Thu 15-Jul-04 12:25:07

Also, despite having good head control, they all HATED being on their fronts. They used to lie there like little stranded beetles, flailing arms and legs, while bumping their noses on the floor, and making pitiful, angry little noises.

Jimjams Thu 15-Jul-04 12:26:19

Sorry I wasn't very clear- the autistic children do roll but in a very specific way. Ds2 (completely NT) was completely crap at rolling- even ds1's OT commented on it.

Like I said earlier if you look for signs of autism in a young baby you'll see them. Even if they do end up being autistic there's no point analysing every thing they do anyway- it only ruins your enoyment of their babyhood. Now someone remind me said that next year please

binkie Thu 15-Jul-04 12:31:09

two more non-rollers here - ds thumped over by accident at about 4 months then not again till past a year. Dd, the most NT child you could ever meet, - I can't actually remember seeing her roll ever, though I guess she can (she's 3). I put it down to them being in sleeping bags at night, so they just didn't get used to wriggling getting them anywhere. Both sat neatly at about 4 months though, crawled at 9/10 months, so their non-rolling was an unusual detail against a picture of generally normal motor development.

TheBoysMum Thu 15-Jul-04 12:46:23

I asked about rolling because ds2 is 11.5 months and still doesn't roll - ok so he will roll from his back onto his front and then gets stuck with one arm under himself and starts screaming!! I have never ever put him down on his tummy as he hates it (as did my older son).
My 11.5 month can also not get from lying to a sitting position, he doesn't crawl, but can bum shuffle about.
Poor little lad can't really get very far from anywhere or any position!! No interest in walking either. Other son walked at 10 months.
Unfortunately I DO have a copy of What to Expect and it IS possible to drive yourself mad. Oh and the Internet.... I rue the day dh got Broadband... license to obssess!!!! DON'T DO IT!!!!

mommysandrine Thu 15-Jul-04 13:40:14

Again, thanks for the information and kind words. It is really helpful...the info about autism, the info about normal behavior, and the questions about my own "obsessive thoughts" about this issue. I know that I'm thinking about this too much and that this is an issue in addition to anything ds may or may not have. I am working on getting help on that front. But as they say, even a hypochondriac can get sick...and even those with PND might have a son with autism. So while the obsession is definitely a problem, the worries might be on target.

I'm glad to hear that many of my son's behaviors are also exhibited in kids who did not turn out to have autism. Can I ask just about the hand twisting thing? That's that thing that makes me that most nervous, as it just doesn't seem right to me that a baby would be lying around flicking fingers or twisting their wrist. Is it in the range of typical behaviors for babies to push their thumbs against everything, twisting their wrists around the thumb repeatedly or flicking the thumb knuckle back and forth? Or scratching at things with his fingernails? TheBoysMum mentioned her (non-autistic) boys twisted their wrists constantly. Anyone else?

I am definitely enjoying my son's babyhood despite these worries, but the worries are still there.

Thanks again!

prettycandles Thu 15-Jul-04 14:30:55

mommysandrine, do you go to any Mother and Baby groups? I think you need to see other babies over a period of time to reassure yourself that they also do these things. When I was at my worst with PND I was very isolated. I isolated myself at times because I couldn't pull myself together to go out properly. There was a time when I would watch ds (my first child) and worry terribly about him. But I religiously went to every meeting of my weekly M&B group. We were a group of about 20 mums and babies, and about 5 - 10 would be at each meeting. Seeing these babies developing over the course of about a year, talking to other mums, sharing anxieties as well as joys, and especially seeing existing and recognised problems reassured me about my son. It also helped me to see that a lot of my worrying was a facet of the depression.

aloha Thu 15-Jul-04 14:37:36

Babies play with their hands all the time - they are usually their favourite toy, especially young babies. They can see them, manipulate them and it's fun. Loads of babies literally wring their hands like little Uriah Heeps. And I've never met a tiny baby yet that wasn't at least slightly interested in a ceiling fan! But I suspect no amount of reassurance will entirely help you, which is why I wondered if there was another issue here, such as PND. Agree that getting out and seeing other mums and babies might help you feel better in all sorts of ways.

ItalianDancer Thu 15-Jul-04 14:52:09

My son is one and I was like you - obsessive about whether he was autistic or had some other problem. I analysed everything he did and lost sleep over it all. I spent hours and hours on the NET when I could have been enjoying my son. I slipped deeper and deeper into worry until someone pointed out to me that I was suffering from PND. I had shut myself away and stopped mixing with other Mums as seeing other babies worried me even more. All I could think was 'my child's not doing this' that everyone else's was. I was obssessed. This is a classic symptom of PND. I got help after I realised I was having negative feelings towards my child because he was the source of all my worry, my lack of sleeping and my not eating etc.
My child is fine. And so am I now. Don't let this ruin your enjoyment of your little lad. Before you know it he will be all grown up and this precious time will be gone. You are me a few months ago and my months with my son have gone. Yours have not.

misdee Thu 15-Jul-04 15:05:58

my dd2 is now 22 months, and her hands have never been still. even when she is engrossed in a non-moving activity (watching tv) her hads are contantly moving, stroking things, playing, fingers moving, hand wringing etc. its just the way she is. as far as i am aware she is nt, tho i have moments of wondering if she is as nt as dd1, but dd2 is just a very active, clever, loud, whirlwind little girl. she is obsessed with lights (spent 30mines shouting at the spot lights in fatty arbuckles the other evening, much to the amusment of other diners), obsessed with wheels, but can be distracted. which has been the thing to reassure me. when she was younger she could focus for hours on one task, and you couldnt drag her away for love nor money, but lately she has been better.
maybe she isnt as NT as i like to think, but it doesnt dominate my thoughts. I have had enough of docs telling me her behaviour and vomiting was attention seeking (another story) that i have stopped putting my trust in the health service (it was shot to pieces when dh fell ill in april 2002 and almost died, i can only thank my instints on him being here today).

I'm not sure what i'm trying to say here, but after going thro so much with my dh, and dd's sometimes i sit back and think, well if there is a problem ,it doesnt make any difference to them being the way they are, so just get on with it. nit easy i know, but i cant change a thing.

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