Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges and those challenges ring all too familiar to a local family.
Scott and Stacy are the parents of Ross. They describe Ross as their second child who achieved developmental milestones on time in every category until around his second birthday in July 2012. Stacy recalls that it was at his second birthday party when she started noticing something maybe wrong.
“He was very cranky and didn’t seem to show interest in interacting with anyone or opening his gifts,” she said. In the months following, he started to show regression in his developmental skills, began to withdraw socially and would sometimes ignore others when we called his name. Ross began to throw “tantrums” when they would take him in loud or crowded places and his speech began to decrease to the point where he used very few words to communicate. Going out in public is also very difficult for them as if Ross has a meltdown, people don’t understand and often stare. It was at that point she contacted the Ottawa County Board of Developmental Disabilities Help Me Grow Early Intervention Program.
Early Intervention evaluated Ross’ development and he began to receive services from specialized therapists and an early intervention specialist. Stacy said that, “Everyone at Early Intervention is wonderful, that they have made a difference in facilitating his language and social-emotional development as well as giving structure and guidance on what we should focus on for follow through at home. They also have a Service Coordinator who helped coordinate referrals to several doctors to determine a diagnosis, and introduced them to other public resources available such as Project Lifesaver and a support group.”
On Feb. 4 of this year, Ross received the diagnosis of PDD-NOS, which is Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, which is one of the five autism spectrum disorders. Scott and Stacy contacted a nutritional consultant in March who suggested they try the Specific Carbohydrate Diet in addition to some dietary supplements. After starting the diet Ross quickly began showing improvements in language and eye contact and has continued to make progress.
Ross is now 33 months old and with the changes in diet and the help received from Early Intervention, he has become a very bright, happy, loving, affectionate and curious child, Stacy noted. He has started to interact with other kids, playing and asking questions instead of getting frustrated. He is making more eye contact and talking in phrases and short sentences.
In addition to the therapies and diet, Scott and Stacy have enrolled Ross in swimming lessons. He went from not being able to handle being in the pool area because of his sensory issues to happily walking in the building for his swim lessons and loves the pool.
According to the Ottawa County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the most challenging part of raising a child with autism is there is no known cause or cure for autism. Every child is an individual and trial and error is required to find treatment/therapies that work best.
Stacy adds that diagnosing autism spectrum disorders can be difficult, since there is no medical test, like a blood test, for diagnosis. Doctors look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.
Stacy encourages parents whose children are diagnosed with autism not to be afraid – the diagnosis doesn’t define your child, but rather look at it as the key to getting the interventions that your child needs. “Always follow your instincts and as a parent, you know your child best. Educate yourself as much as you can as you are your child’s advocate. You have to be your child’s voice until they become well enough to be their own voice,” she said.
“When my son was first diagnosed, he couldn’t tell me what was wrong. He would scream and throw himself on the ground. He had sensory issues that made it difficult for him to handle being in loud or crowded places,” she said. “We learned to prepare Ross by talking him through where we were going and what we going to do and also incorporated picture cards of the place we were going.”
Scott and Stacy hope Ross’s future is no different than that of their first child. Ross will be starting pre-school next year and they hope he will continue to progress socially and academically so that eventually it will no longer be evident that he was ever diagnosed as a child on the autism spectrum.
Autism spectrum disorders can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. Recent data from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network indicate that more children are being identified with autism spectrum disorders than ever before, but they are not being identified as early as they could be. She states that her major source of support has been talking to other moms with kids on the spectrum. It helps to talk to someone who can relate to your situation and give advice on what has worked for them.
For more information about autism spectrum disorders or Early Intervention call the Ottawa County Board of Developmental Disabilities at 419-898-0400.