Regression in Autism

in autism, parenting, 13th March 2019

a return to a former or less developed state.

The Regression Monster

The Regression Monster

It goes without saying that regression is a big part of autism. It’s the part that we as parents fear the most. Being able to say or do something one day and then losing it entirely the next. Speech, social skills, sleep routine… you name it. Every little part of our children is up for grabs when it comes to the monster that is “regression”.

Despite having only been diagnosed recently, my tiny human has been battling the regression monster since around 8 months old. One day be was babbling, the next he wasn’t. It comes in waves and each one literally takes your breath away. Are these words gone forever? Will he ever sleep at night again? So many questions and very little reassurance in the answers you get from the professionals.

Matthew has recently gone through his most severe period of regression to date. It’s been awful.

Speech Regression

Speech Regression

I waited such a long time to hear him say “mummy”, for it to be snatched away from his already very limited vocabulary. I honestly don’t know whether or not it will ever come back. Time will tell.

Regardless of how disheartening this is, we continue to encourage Matthews speech and build on his vocabulary. Flash cards, Makaton and simply reading a book with him means that we are continuously filling his head with words, signs and symbols that he can hopefully use at some point to communicate with us.


sleep regression

As well as that his sleep regression has been quite severe in the sense that despite being on a high dose of Melatonin to aid his sleep, he’s waking at all hours of the night again and has a lot of difficulties falling back over.

There’s nothing you can do except maintain consistency with your bedtime routine and hope that everything will eventually go back to normal. Let me tell you though, there’s not much worse than watching your little boy on a baby monitor each and every night, just staring at the ceiling.

Food Aversion

Food Regression

Matthew has always had a complicated relationship with food. Due to prematurity, he had difficulty gaining his sucking reflex. This meant he was tube fed for a long time through an NG tube. As he got older he was also afflicted with sensory issues relating to the taste and texture of his food. This meant he became very fussy with his eating habits.

However, in the last year, we have been able to build up a good number of foods he enjoys and he has been steadily gaining weight because of that. That was until now!

He has since stopped eating the majority of the foods he would usually enjoy and mealtimes have become a big challenge. Not only is he now refusing to eat most foods, he is also therefore unable to move his bowels, resulting in us having to turn to medical intervention with laxatives. Something that no parent wants to have to give their child.

Forging Ahead

Despite the turmoil that regression causes to the lives of children on the spectrum and their parents/ guardians, there is no other alternative than to just continue on. There’s no cure or remedy to speed things up. It will all happen in its own time, if at all. The most important thing to remember though is that maintaining consistency is key. If your child is going through something like this then stick with their routines like your life depends on it. If things come back then great, if not, try not to dwell on it. There are plenty of special moments to be had with your children. Enjoy them and never stop encouraging them.

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