The most difficult time raising JJ was probably the period of one year that I worried about whether or not he was on the spectrum. I genuinely feel so much for parents whose children are on the spectrum. Having gone through the raw emotions for a year, I feel for those parents who go through them for years.
This post is only meant to help parents who questioned whether their child was on the spectrum like I did. There’s usually a waiting period to get your child evaluated. That was a very nerve racking period for me. After the evaluation, I wasn’t entirely sure of the result either. Now I am pretty confident that he’s not on the spectrum. It’s all because I tried these methods to relieve his symptoms and they worked without the involvement of an OT.
I am not an OT, the advise in this post should be taken as the opinion of one mother who dealt with these issues. Please consult a professional in conjunction with trying the methods I used in this post.
According to an OT I spoke to, when you work with a child to relieve possibly autistic symptoms, often a normal child will respond right away while it will take a professional using a host of different methods to get an autistic child to respond. Sometimes, it’s empowering for a parent to try these simple tactics just to test their child during that worrisome time while waiting for an evaluation.
Reading autism blogs helped me get through most of this journey. A big thank you to moms of autistic kids who write these wonderful blogs to help others.
5 Autistic Symptoms I Questioned in My Toddler and What I did to Help
When my son was 1 years old, he would incessantly open and close cabinet doors to his play kitchen for hours at a time. It drove me bananas. But, I kept it to myself and did not show any emotion or stop him from doing it. In fact, I supported him by sitting next to him and talking him through the names of some kitchen foods.
This went on for weeks on end. Until one day, it finally stopped but replaced with another behavior. He would swing his legs up when leaning on a table for 20 minutes at a time; He would jump from the couch onto cushions I laid out for hours; He would jump into the ball pit incessantly; He would walk up and down a slide or a hill for an hour at a time.
As you can see all of those behaviors really worried me as a mom. This is what I did:
After a while, I started to gently redirect him away to a new activity. If it’s a new skill, I would let him repeat a few times to learn it. But, after that, I would redirect him. In the beginning it was really hard. I had to really plan a diversion that was really enticing. But, then after a while, he got it and moved on. It was as if he didn’t understand that he was stuck.
My son’s visual stimming was not very obvious to an untrained eye. I had to look through youtube videos to actually realize that he was stimming. He would look out the corner of his eyes for brief moments. It looked like he had a tic sometimes. He didn’t do this for a long time or line up his trains to look so it was not obvious to me.
Nevertheless, I was worried. This is what I did:
After a while, I would make a little telescope with my hands and say “JJ, telescope.” As I looked through the hole to see his face, he would laugh, then imitate the action back. This helped to center his eyes. I also put carrots in his food a lot.
Food Texture Issue
I wrote another post about JJ’s food texture issues. But, he really only ate crunchy foods for a along time. Until this day he does not like “wet” foods. Yes, baby puree was never accepted. Rice cereal or Oatmeal cereal was accepted with reluctance, then completely rejected. It was a hard time starting solids for him.
We worked on his food issues separately. It was like climbing a mountain. For a while, he only ate two different kinds of foods and drank only milk. But, slowly, he came to accept vegetable juices and semi soft but non-crunchy foods. It took a lot of work.
Click here to read about what I did.
When JJ started to speak, he would ask the same questions over and over again. He would continue even if you answered him. It was as if he was using the questions in place of things he couldn’t express. A conversation with him went like this: “What’s that?” “It’s a Rabbit.” “What’s that?” “It’s a Rabbit.” “What’s that?”…. It kind of went on and on… He also repeated one phrase for a few weeks, then went on to another for a few weeks. I could never tell how many words he was learning because he only said one phrase at a time.
This is what I did to help:
For this, we read a lot more. I also asked him a lot of questions when we were out to see if he would respond. I asked him questions when we read together. I also asked him questions when we went over our day at night. Soon, it was apparent to me that his receptive language was right on the mark. But, he was just slow to say words.
It became clear to me that my son’s meltdowns were just not normal one day when I was changing his diaper in the car in a parking lot. It just persisted for a long time. After that day, I went home and really thought about his meltdown after nap everyday. Was it normal that a tantrum would go on for 30 minutes to 40 minutes with him simply rolling on the floor and screaming? This happened right after sleeping morning and night for a couple months when he was one.
I went online and looked at videos of autistic kid’s meltdowns. Those videos gave me a piece of mind that even the worst meltdowns end. It also told me that JJ’s tantrums were meltdowns where he had no control of what happened. I needed to help to prevent the meltdown or sooth him to end them.
This is what I did to help:
Realizing this, I started to proactively plan to tame the meltdowns. I made him nap in a play tent because it was more soothing. When he napped in the car, I always waited in the car for him to wake up, I never interrupted his sleep. In the morning when he woke up, we got up slowly and I gave him a bottle of water or juice right away. We waited to get rid of the bottle since the sucking motion helped to calm him. When we were out and he starts to have a meltdown from tiredness, I would pop him in a stroller and give him a snack right away to remove him from stimulation. The rocking motion of the stroller also helped to sooth him.
Soon enough, he went from 3 meltdowns a day to just one a week. Now that he’s two, it’s almost non-existent with our careful planning. We are committed to hold out on preschool or any overstimulating activity until 4 years old when he can get a better grip on big emotions.
After getting concrete results from these methods, I felt confident that my son is in fact not on the spectrum. He’s a normal kid who is sensitive to his surroundings. During the various phases of development, he overreacted to many stimuli whether it’s internal or external that caused many autistic symptoms. I’m glad I tried these tactics to give myself a piece of mind.
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