By – Tina Baily (Twitter @TheMotherGeek)
When our son was 18 months old, he still wasn’t walking, talking or responding to his name. He rocked – a lot, and bounced up and down for hours on end on his knees. I mentioned my Autism concerns to our health visitor, and we were referred to a paediatrician. Initially she said it was probably delayed development, but when he still wasn’t speaking or responding to his name at 22 Months, we began our journey towards an Autism diagnosis.
The months between our journey beginning and Sam receiving a diagnosis were really hard. I felt very lost, and overwhelmed by the whole experience. I felt like a fraud for asking about support as Sam hadn’t yet been diagnosed with anything. It was a very lonely time. I had no idea what to do to help Sam, and I was scared about what the future would bring.
As time went on, we saw more and more professionals, who gave us more and more advice. I tried to implement everything which was suggested, but eventually realised that I knew Sam best – some suggestions were none starters for him, it was as simple as that.
One thing which has always helped to get Sam to engage is shapes. Whether it be drawings, toys or iPad apps – if there was a shape involved, Sam would spend time exploring the item. I spent a lot of time doing shape puzzles with him, and this helped us to realise Sam’s potential. He is non verbal at the moment, but if you ask him to find the square, he will find it almost immediately. The same applies to most shapes, colours and numbers now. He spots shapes in places where I would never notice them.
I clung on to this, and stopped focussing on the things Sam wasn’t yet doing. By encouraging him to do the things he enjoys, Sam has developed other skills. His hand-eye co-ordination has come on massively, thanks to puzzles and iPad apps. Sam’s social interaction has improved hugely too, by playing alongside and then with him, while doing activities he loves – not necessarily the ones he will “learn” the most from.
If I had to give one piece of advice to a parent beginning their child’s autism diagnosis journey, it would be “ask what support is available locally”. I went to our local Autism family support group, and made some great friends. It was amazing not having to panic and explain Sam’s needs when he began shouting.
There is plenty of support online, too. I found the #AutismMum hashtag on Instagram and Twitter amazing for finding other UK based Autism parents. You can find me on Twitter at @TheMotherGeek, and you can read more about our autism journey at mothergeek.co.uk as well.
Thanks for reading.