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Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on special needs.

Autistic traits at 16 months but did not have autism?
11

HopefulMother1 · 04/05/2022 08:46

Hello mothers. My son is displaying a number of autistic traits. He does not point, wave or imitate clapping (well, only once he did), he very occasionally flaps, does not respond to his name often (although he does if he knows I am calling him for something he wants), and his eye contact is not amazing (it is on his terms usually) although it has improved in the last month since I started getting down on the floor and playing with him. Despite all these traits, I am aware that I have been working full-time since he turned 8 months, he hasn't attended nursery, and so has little to no interaction with anyone, nor did I recognise the importance of modelling. I am not expressive in body language myself and so my son has only seen me point, clap and wave in the last month. He also has not said any real words although he will occasionally say "ma ma ma ma" or "da da da da". He does babble although nothing I understand and not in a conversational way (back and forth with me).

On the positive side, he seeks me out and pulls my face to look into his eyes if I haven't for a number of hours, he loves peek-a-boo, and is super fast at picking up any toys he has to learn. He also walked early at 8 months. He plays well with peers his age on the few occasions he has had a chance to (follows them around), and looks strangers in the eyes before usually coming to hide behind my legs if they talk to him.

Has anyone had a similar story and found that their toddler turned out to not be autistic? My son is due to start nursery in a few weeks so I am hoping this helps. Alternatively, has anyone had a similar story and managed to help their toddler develop to be fully functioning. If so, how?

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LightTripper · 04/05/2022 10:12

He sounds like he is doing really well in lots of ways. My daughter did turn out to be autistic, but then I learned I probably am too and it is not something to be scared of (which is not to say that autism is not a challenge, and obviously affects different people very differently - but I had far too negative an impression of autism and too limited an understanding of what it actually was when DD was little, which made me much more scared of the prospect of her being autistic than I should have been).

It is very difficult to tell early on if a kid is autistic as nearly all autistic behaviours are also normal human behaviours - maybe just expressed more often or in different scenarios to the ways neurotypical people would express them. For example, my daughter jumps up and down when she is excited which is pretty normal, but probably most 7 year olds would not do it as often as she does. She does find some things difficult because of her autism and still gets a lot of anxiety around transitions and new experiences, but understands it as a key part of who she is, and that it's not something inherently bad and certainly not to be ashamed of. For example, it also helps her focus and learn and retain lots of information about things she is interested in/passionate about and gives her a strong sense of justice and loyalty. She gave her class a show and tell on autism last term to share what she's learned and got really nice feedback and support from them.

If you look at the Nurturing Neurodiversity YouTube page/Instagram and Facebook group, there are lots of parents there who are in a similar "limbo" phase of finding out if their child is autistic or not, and ideas for ways to engage your child and help them develop.

But in the end kids all develop at their own pace and in their own way. You can give them opportunities to practice new skills, but you cannot teach them to do something they are not developmentally ready to do yet, so please don't feel you are missing anything or made a mistake by not sending him to nursery earlier. At your DS's age independent play is still completely normal and even parallel play is not expected yet, and certainly not actually playing with other children (see e.g. therapiesforkids.com.au/social-stages-of-play-for-children-0-6-years/) so it's not like he would have been interacting a lot with other kids before now even if he turns out to be neurotypical (NT) - at most a bit of observation. We always found DD learned new skills easiest with us, and then would gradually extend to apply them with other trusted adults, then with older/younger children, and only at the very end with kids her own age, so he will have been picking up plenty of exposure to the skills he needs at home, try not to worry!

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HopefulMother1 · 04/05/2022 13:52

Thank you so much @LightTripper. I think it is the fear of the unknown that gets me, how wide the spectrum is and not knowing where he'll be on it if he is. Will he be able to cope as an adult independently? Honestly makes me burst into tears thinking the worst here. Right now, I just want to do the best by him I can. Not sure of where to start, but I'm researching on this front. Any developmental tips and strategies would be amazing to hear from an experienced parent like yourself. Thank you.

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HopefulMother1 · 04/05/2022 14:56

@LightTripper I am so grateful for the detailed response. I have just had time to process all you said now that I am indoors. It is reassuring to hear you also say 16 months is too early. Everything online makes you feel as though it is life or death if your child does not hit the development milestones on time. Your daughter sounds amazing. It has given me hope.

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Leaf1216 · 05/05/2022 15:04

Hi, just wanted to show some support.
I have three sons, 2 on the spectrum so not the outcome you were looking for I know.

But, my youngest is 2 and is waiting for a diagnosis of autism. And the overwhelming feelings all happened even after going through it with my eldest and understanding possible paths etc.

That worry does consume you some days. But none the less my son is coming on brilliant, he uses his hands to show people what he wants as he is non verbal at the moment. He has sensory issues with like any child we've learnt his triggers. And while he is not meeting the standard milestones he is achieving every day in his own way. He is quirky but we spent ours enjoying watching him play and interact in his own way, it is so sweet.

I think I'd speak to family or friends and then maybe approach your health visitor? Me and dad spoke honestly about it but had to and still do remind ourselves that something he's not doing now doesn't mean that he never will they are still so small.

When my youngest was small I was prepared for him to live with me forever, yet he is 9 now in a mainstream school with lots of friends and a really happy young boy.

We have started intervention early because at that point we thought let's get the ball rolling (long waits) and if he didn't need it great. Turns out he does need the additional support so glad it is in place.

Anyway, good luck on your journey. Try not to worry to much, they are fantastic children with or without a diagnosis. Definitely not life or death, though the early days feel like it.

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HopefulMother1 · 05/05/2022 21:58

Thank you @Leaf1216 for your supportive and insightful message. That your 9 year old is a happy little boy in mainstream school with many friends is reassuring to hear. I guess it is the not knowing where on the spectrum my son could fall that worries me the most. I saw a post by another mother about her autistic husband who is a leading nuclear scientist in Europe; but then I have also seen posts by mothers who have dependent adult children struggling to cope. Can I ask, how did you get your 2 year old to show you what he wants with his hands? At the moment my son reaches for what he wants, but does not interact with me to show me he wants something. I just have to sort of spot him reaching.

Also, I am looking into early intervention rather than waiting for my son to be assessed. It does seem a struggle. If you are able to give any tips here I'd be extremely grateful. I just want to ensure my son can communicate his needs/wants and that I have the right strategies to enable him to learn.

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Leaf1216 · 06/05/2022 01:37

I called the health visitor out just after one to chat about what we were seeing, she acknowledged our concerns and came back at around 18 months. To which she put him on a list for
hearing and eye test (to rule out anything effecting speech).
Asd waiting list for diagnosis.
Speech and language therapy
Funded sessions in nursery ( 2 days pw, 9-2)
Nursery are now applying for 1-1 off their own back, just to help encourage him.

I then picked up on him walking funny on occasions so gp referred him to physio after ruling out hip dysplasia. Turned out to be hypermobility.

I found interacting became easier when we worked out what he likes. So clapping hands, peek a boo, builing the same tower over and over. We started copying his actions and this triggered off him wanting to interact with me and dad. First he would stare at items and over time (more than a year later) he guides our hands there now. I think he does it because we hold his hand everywhere kind of guiding him, that he know does it back. But I'm not too sure.

I got my other two sons to start repeating his actions and now he's doing it with them too, (guiding hands and interacting) which is amazing because 6 months ago he wouldn't even glance in the same direction. Amazing what time can do for our small ones in time.

What does your son like to do, is there anything he seeks out or seems content doing?

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HopefulMother1 · 06/05/2022 09:08

Due to health service issues with Covid, I don't believe my son was assigned a HV - at least we certainly were not informed. I will have to reach out on this front, especially as my son has not had a hearing or eyesight test since birth, and I have noticed he can follow a ball rolled on the floor, but does not look up if you throw it in the air. Thank you for sharing your steps.

My son also like peek-a-boo, clapping he has only now started to do every now and again, and he gets really excited if you run away from him as he thinks it is a game and runs after you. He has stacking blocks which he enjoys, but in particular looks for items to stim with, i.e. anything that he can dangle in front of his face. My son used to do a lot of hand leading, but has stopped and mostly now brings items to me if he wants something opened/to show me.

I have also noticed that copying his actions encourages him to look at my husband and I in excitement. I've been doing this a lot more as a result. He starts nursery next week so I will see how he progresses, and post an update here.

Thank you again for sharing. It has made me feel so much better. Truly.

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HopefulMother1 · 06/05/2022 09:12

Oh btw @Leaf1216, I have found some videos on YouTube called "First Words" under "Songs for Littles" and they are really helping my son to babble so much more. He doesn't have to look at anyone to see how their mouths move, he can comfortably see Rachel on screen showing him how to shape his mouth. Might be worth a try with your little boy.

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Leaf1216 · 06/05/2022 09:27

You can phone your gp for health visitor information or ask gp for referrals, I know it varies by County. My eldest had referrals done by school and peadiatritions. Though for us it's been better to get the ball rolling before school for the youngest.

If he is bringing you stuff that is great, there's the beginning of him interacting and seeking out social situations. Took us ages to get there. I found it's it's social aspect that has really helped my eldest so we are always encouraging the youngest to get involved now.

Glad your feeling a little better, it can feel so daunting at the start of any concerns. Like you said it's the unknown that scary. But your little one sounds like he's happy and engaging so keep doing a great job. I'll definitely give that a go on YouTube, be a treat to turn off peppa pig or Ben and holly.

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HopefulMother1 · 06/05/2022 13:52

Thank you @Leaf1216. I will be following up with my GP. I've also started looking at private behavioural therapists to begin early intervention like yourself.

Indeed, check out the YouTube videos. You may look forward to putting Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly back on after a day of listening to Rachel, but if your son is as engaged as mine, you'll happily suffer her.

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austismmama · 06/08/2022 11:06

Hi! 👋
I have two children on the spectrum. They are completely different. My youngest has always been the “classic” signs if that makes sense. Whereas my eldest spoke before she walked, never flapped or had any of the traditional traits but struggled with changes in routine, struggled
social anxieties etc. I completely understand your concerns - the spectrum is huge and at the end of the day you want your child to have a “normal” childhood with all the experiences that we had and the thought of bullying and them struggling is painful. I understand. But the great thing is, is
that you’ve noticed all these things early on. And studies have shown that children with autism who have early interventions have much better outcomes. My youngest has developmental delays but she is under the speech and language therapist and the occupational therapist and she has made progress. Please keep chasing these professionals and get him the support you feel he may need. He is young, but I always had a gut instinct about my youngest since she was about 18 months old. Waiting times are ridiculous also, so please be prepared to wait a year to even two years for your referral appointments to happen. Good luck and I’m sure everything will be ok. My two pleasantly surprise me every single day! X

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