WARNING SIGNS OF AUTISM
Autism Web Sites
AUTISM RESEARCH INSTITUTE
AUTISM SOCIETY OF AMERICA
ANDI - Autism Network for Dietary Intervention
GLUTEN FREE/CASEIN FREE FOODS-Acceptable & Nonacceptable Foods
KIRKMAN LABORATORIES, INC.-Vitamin Manufacturer for Autism & other Related Disorders
Life with my son is aways interesting and VERY tiring. You see, Jesse doesn't see the world like we do because he was diagnosed with autism when he was three-years-old.
Jesse's life started out what we thought was a normal baby. There were little warning signs, but since we were first time parents we didn't have anyone to compare him to. First was his sensitivity to certain sounds. Whenever anyone blew their nose he'd cry like he was in pain. When Jesse was four months old, my husband had to use the chain saw on some old dead trees in our yard, so I closed all the windows, brought Jesse to the back part of the house and covered his ears so it wouldn't be so hard on him.
Feeding was another problem. He took his bottle fine, but would flare his little arms around so hard he'd knock the bottle out of his mouth, then scream because he wasn't getting fed. We found by wrapping him tight with his arms down to his sides and the blanket up to his neck, he was able to drink his whole bottle and fall asleep.
When he got older and went through that--don't leave me by myself in the crib--stage, instead of just crying for mama or daddy he'd bang his head on the crib. At first it horrified me and I'd run back into his room pleading, "Oh sweetie, don't do that...Owie!" Well, he was no dummy, he knew how to get my attention and I didn't know until later this boy had a very high tolerence for pain. He finally stopped when he wasn't getting a rise out of us anymore.
Since he wasn't talking by two-and-a-half we had the school test him and they found Jesse to be delayed in speech and fine motor development. At his three year check-up, a different pediatrician saw him and she suspected he had autism, so we got him to a specialist right away and she diagnosed him with high-functioning autism.
Because Jesse looks so "normal" it was easy for me to deny his condition at first. Once he started Early Childhood Family Education, I noticed how different he really was. He wouldn't play with other children or look directly at anyone and when he got excited he'd flap his hands, or if it got too loud in the room, Jesse would try to leave.
Sometimes it's hard for him to use his words, but he certainly knows how to communicate. One day I found him in the kitchen with five different phone books sprawled out on the floor with each one of them opened to the Domino's Pizza page. When I walked in the kitchen Jesse looked at me, smiled and said, "Pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza." Needless to say, we had pizza for supper that night.
Disney movies are also his favorite and one evening while watching Toy Story, we wanted to watch a different show. Since our TV has the ability to show two screens at once, we put Toy Story as the little picture with no sound. We didn't realize until that night, he had ALL the words AND sound effects memorized!
Being a visual learner, the computer has been a wonderful tool for teaching him how to read. He's known the alphabet since he was a year-and-a-half, so we've taken advantage of those strengths.
Jesse isn't always so cute. Many of our problems are when we go out somewhere. Since he has no concept of fear, I made a tether for him that went around his waist and clipped onto my belt loop. There were a few raised eyebrows because of it, but I've also had moms tell me they wished they had one for their child. I'm at the point now, where I don't care what people think as long as Jesse's safe from moving vehicles, getting lost in the store, or worse...Now that Jesse's older, we don't need the tether. He's learned "The Rule" to stay with us.
I'll say one thing, we never have a dull moment with our boy. One evening while eating hamburger and popcorn for supper, Jesse was chomping on popcorn nonstop, ignoring the hamburger on his plate. I finally pushed it away and said, "No more popcorn until you eat your hamburger." He reluctantly picked up the burger and took a small bite. Seconds later we hear a loud crunch, crunch, crunch. Thinking he was chewing on a popcorn hull, neither of us paid much attention, but when Jesse opened his mouth to take another bite from the burger, I noticed his bottom teeth, and one was missing. "Oh my God," I exclaimed, "He lost his first tooth...and ATE IT!"
At first I worried that he could've hurt his other teeth by chewing it up, then I wondered if it's pass through his system okay. After his visit to the dentist (which of course he hated, and we had to hold him down, just to pry his mouth open), the doctor said his teeth were fine and joked that a little protein through his system wouldn't hurt him a bit. Knowing he was all right, we all had a good laugh about the toothfairy now wanting THAT TOOTH!
Potty training is another story in itself. Jesse had no clue about going to the bathroom until he was over five. We got lucky a few times catching him at the right time, then we'd make a big deal about it by praising him and giving him special things. The only problem was, he had no clue what he just did. Sometimes he's get up, look at the empty toilet and clap his hands thinking he went potty. We didn't know until later that he wasn't aware of his body and may not be until he's between the ages of five and seven years old. When this was explained to me, my first reaction was, What? How can someone NOT be AWARE of their body?
I still don't totally understand this concept, but decided to wait. When he started kindergarten, the special education teachers helped with his potty training and after many trial and errors, Jesse realized by using the bathroom properly, he got to do his favorite thing of all time; play on the computer. At age six he was TOTALLY potty trained, but because of Jesse's marathon-potty-training, my husband and I joked that he'd be 16 years old, and right before he leaves for his date, we'd stop him and change his diaper!
Many parents of autistic children have tried Vitamin Therapy, Secretin, the Gluten & Casein Free Diet, Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT), Lovaas (ABA) and Sensory Integration Therapy, which have improved the quality of some of these children's lives. We've tried most of these treatments on Jesse, but haven't found a "quick fix" or "cure" for him, yet...
If you have any questions about autism, feel free to address your comments to the e-mail listed below.