Ok so i’m putting a disclaimer at the very beginning of this post as I am fully aware from research and speaking to other mums who have gone through this, that there are numerous “symptoms” which individually may not be related to Sensory or Autism. However, we have found that with Matthew having several of these ‘red flags’ as it were, that they were more of an indication that there was a bigger problem. Autism is also a Spectrum disorder and so each child is different and displays a different set of behaviours.
On that note, I will start at the beginning of our journey.
Matthew was born 16 weeks premature, and with this comes a whole host of issues. Apart from the physical implications of being this premature, we were advised by Matthews numerous consultants that there was a much higher chance Matthew would have trouble with his mental development. The possibilities were as varied as having a slight delay, to Autism and right up to Cerebral Palsy.
Matthew showed no immediate signs of there being anything wrong, other than with his lungs which is an ongoing issue. However, we were advised that any symptoms related to his mental development wouldn’t really surface until he reached the age of hitting milestones.
He met the majority of his early milestones without a problem. He rolled over, learned to crawl, babbled until his heart was content and eventually started walking at 17 months (13 months corrected due to his gestation) which was January of this year.
This was when we started to see some strange behaviours from him, which I’m going to list so as to make it easier if anybody is skimming this post for the specific symptoms we noticed.
- He has an aversion to water and gets very upset when being bathed.
- He does not like certain textures and often acts like he can taste them in his mouth when he touches certain things.
- He rocked back and forth in his highchair, often for long periods of time.
- He banged hard surfaces with his fist, often very hard, and showed no signs of physical pain.
- He had quite severe Eczema and would often scratch it until it bled, again showing no signs of pain.
- He didn’t play with his toys, instead just spun them around, put them in his mouth or tapped them against hard surfaces.
- He didn’t make eye contact, unless myself or my husband sang a nursery rhyme to him.
- He didn’t respond to his name.
- He didn’t speak any words, only babbled.
- He got very overwhelmed and upset by cheering and clapping.
These were the first set of symptoms we encountered, and we brought up our concerns at Matthews Neurological Development Assessment which took place in February. This is one of many clinics Matthew must attend to check on his health and well-being because he was so small and sick when he was born.
His Neurological Consultant, Occupational Therapists and Physio Therapists all noticed these issues and advised us that he was indeed showing early signs of being on the Autism Spectrum.
They decided then and there to refer him for early intervention services. This was in the form of a Speech & Language Referral, a more intense form of Occupational Therapy and he was invited to attend a Special Needs toddler class where there was an array of Childhood Development Support staff who would be able to help and assess his development.
Matthew started this class in April and goes on a weekly basis. He also has several Therapy sessions each month with both his Occupational Therapist and Speech & Language Therapist. Since his early intervention support started he has improved greatly, and has stopped some of his previous behaviours as listed below.
He rocked back and forth in his highchair, often for long periods of time. He banged hard surfaces with his fist, often very hard, and showed no signs of physical pain.He still doesn’t really feel pain. He didn’t speak any words, only babbled.He can now say Dada & Mama, but is still very non-verbal. He got very overwhelmed and upset by cheering and clapping.This has improved greatly since starting his class.
The early intervention Matthew has received has been invaluable and has really helped him develop. However with the decrease in some of his behaviours there has been an increase in new ones:
- He has an aversion to certain loud noises and crowded places.
- He, on occasion, will scratch his tongue.
- He is terrified of Carousels (Merry-Go-Rounds) we recently discovered on a trip to the fairground.
- He doesn’t like the feeling of grass on his skin.
- He has become very fussy with eating and tends to only eat certain things (which are bland in colour and taste).
- He tilts his head back, to the side and to the front when he’s walking.
- He is obsessed with closing doors.
So this is where we are at right now. All of the above behaviours and actions are very much part of his daily routine, and I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting. However, I just wanted to give as much information as I possibly could so that anybody who suspects their child may be on the Spectrum can see what Matthews particular symptoms are.
We are currently waiting on our referral for a Paediatrician who will carry out the Autism assessment on Matthew, but I am almost certain in my heart that he is on the Spectrum. The most frustrating part of this entire journey is waiting on a specialist confirming it for you. This is all we want right now, so that we can help Matthew and get the best support in place that we can for him.
It’s not what you envision your childs future to be, but it is the reality of the situation and truth be told it is just another thing that makes him who he is!