What do you do when your one year old does not respond to his name, fails to call you mommy, and does not point to any object being referred to or fails to make eye contact? The alarm bells ring but you still hope and hope that he will start talking soon, or will interact better with his peers? Yet the nudging fear remains something to amiss?
Being a health professional myself, I could not ignore the signs of autism in my first born. With the help of paediatrician and child psychologists, a diagonosis of autism spectrum disorder was established.
Accepting it and trying to provide the best possible intervention in terms of speech and behaviour therapy were my initial targets. Luckily, once speech improved I was able to find an inclusive school, where he could be a part of a regular class with a shadow teacher who would help him move from one task to another, or calm him down when the situation got overwhelming. Another 2 years passed, and he assimilated into a routine, now without the resource teacher. The structure provided by school life helped and my son did not want a miss single day of school. However, social challenges remained and even a loud happy Birthday would result in sensory overload and often a meltdown.
The tricky part of this journey has been to pre-empt any stimulus or situation that leads to a meltdown or aggression because he is unable to vocalize his feelings quickly and simply lashes out when he feels he cannot cope. The heartbreaking bit is when he is bullied for being different or he realises he cannot be a part of the crowd. Growth spurts are tough and with neurological development, ADHD arose. A child psychiatrist prescribed catapress which helped him focus on school work.
Such is life, and one cannot be prepared for its various twists and turns. Adolescence kicked in and with the rafing hormones came a new set of problems. Ultimately relief was obtained with lithium and resperidone.
Awareness, acceptance and patience are keywords into raising such an individual, but building an includive society is the real target. As a parent and caretaker, I promise that raising a child who is on the spectrum may be difficult but definitely rewarding. Its just a question of unlocking their potential.