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May 4th, 2012, 09:26 AM
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All About Autism : ASD 101

What does it all mean, what do I do if I suspect Autism, what is this thing my child is doing, where do I go for help?
If you suspect an ASD or are the parent of a newly diagnosed child, you probably have a lot of questions. I hope you can find some answers here, or some help in the right direction.

Scroll through this thread for information about Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders, the Red Flags & What to do if you suspect an ASD, Common Terms & Abbreviations, Info about Stimming, Links to books about and for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families, and more.

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Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this...

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills... and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy...and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ...about Holland.

Is it Autism?
Have you noticed some things about your child that have you concerned about autism or PPD?
Here is an online assessment you may find helpful: PDD Assessment Scale/ Screening Questionnaire. Don't forget to read the "How To rate" instructions! You may find it helpful to print it out for reference as you do the questionnnaire.
Another helpful screening questionnaire for children under 3 is the M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) Scoring instructions are here.

Ask your doctor for an autism evaluation if your child:
Does not babble or coo by 12 months of age
Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp, etc.) by 12 months of age
Does not say single words by 16 months of age
Does not say two-word phrases on his/her own (rather than just repeating what someone says to him/her) by 24 months of age
Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age.

Other "red flags" parents, teachers, and caregovers should be on the lookout for are:
The child does not respond to his/her name.
The child cannot explain what he/she wants.
Language skills or speech are delayed.
The child doesn’t follow directions.
At times, the child seems to be deaf.
The child seems to hear sometimes, but not others.
The child doesn’t point or wave bye-bye.
The child used to say a few words or babble, but now he/she doesn’t.
The child throws intense or violent tantrums.
The child has odd movement patterns.
The child is hyperactive, uncooperative, or oppositional.
The child doesn’t know how to play with toys.
The child doesn’t smile when smiled at.
The child has poor eye contact.
The child gets “stuck” on things over and over and can’t move on to other things.
The child seems to prefer to play alone.
The child gets things for him/herself only.
The child is very independent for his/her age.
The child does things “early” compared to other children.
The child seems to be in his/her “own world.”
The child seems to tune people out.
The child is not interested in other children.
The child walks on his/her toes.
The child shows unusual attachments to toys, objects, or schedules (i.e., always holding a string or having to put socks on before pants).
Child spends a lot of time lining things up or putting things in a certain order.

These signs don't necessarily point to an autism spectrum disorder, but they can be helpful in determining if a child should be evaluated for an ASD or other communication disorder.

My child has signs of autism, now what?
See your child's primary care provider as soon as possible. Make a list of all the red flag symptoms your child exhibits, and anything else about your child that concerns you. If your doctor agrees that your child has definite signs of autism, or enough red flags to be concerned, they should refer your child to a specialist in child development or another type of health care professional for further testing and evaluation.

Is my child old enough to diagnose?
Most symptoms of autism are measurable around 18 months, but a child may show symptoms before then. Parents and experts in autism will be able to see these signs where others may not. That's why if you suspect your child has an ASD, bring up your suspicions to your child's primary care provider and push for that evaluation, you as the parent see more than your doctor may observe in a short well-baby visit. In general, a diagnosis of autism is made between age 2 and 3, when there has been a noticeable delay in developing communication skills.

What kind of services can my child get?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 requires the child’s primary health care provider to refer the family to an Early Intervention service. There is no cost to the family. In addition, children aged 3 and up are entitled by law to Free and Appropriate Public Education.
Specific services vary by state, but include special education and related services or treatment programs. These programs can include special needs preschool, individual speech and occupational therapy, in-home therapy and transportation to services if needed.
If your child is under 3 years old, contact your local Zero-to-Three (or Birth-to-Three) service system, if your child is over 3, contact your local School District for services. Early Head Start, your local School District, state education agency, and the local or state Health Departments can provide you with referrals for the necessary services.

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