But some of the signs are there at an early age. Even as young as two or three.
- For example, walking on toes. Many autistic children tend to walk up on their toes, rarely choosing to going flatfooted.
- Lack of eye contact.
- Monotone voice
- Intense interest in one subject. I remember that at three years of age, our son was completely into dinosaurs, even to the point of trying to learn Latin to understand them better.
- Sensory sensitivity. Sensitivity to noise, or touch, or visual busy-ness.
- Dislike for gooey substances, like fingerpaints, pudding, or melted cheese (this is really about sensory sensitivity, but I keep hearing about this specific issue, so thought it should be included).
- Balance issues, such as delayed walking, trouble standing on one foot, or missing childhood milestones for balance and fitness.
- Lack of response to changing emotions. Not recognizing anger or frustration in parents or other adults – something kids learn to do quickly – can be an early sign of social challenges.
- Rituals. Actions that need to be repeated for comfort (not something we see a lot of in our house, but I’ve seen it in spades in other AS kids).
The list goes on. And not each person displays each symptom; everyone is an individual. Person A may speak in a monotone, but have few balance issues. Person B may show the intense interest, toe-walking, and sensory sensitivity, but not many other signs. Or, like my son, he or she may display just about every symptom on the list, making diagnosis an easy no-brainer.
All the same, how can parents possibly know about things like Asperger’s Syndrome to recognize these symptoms? The answer is: we can’t. And it’s not our fault.
Personally, I’d like to see the schools step up and hold classes in parenting and home repair. After all, more of us will have children and need to be able to perform routine repairs on our homes/apartments than just about anything else.
But that’s just a dream.
The sad truth is that our kids don’t get diagnosed or get help until an older age because only then do they seem to spiral out of control; only then do their symptoms interfere with their lives enough to raise red flags.
And, much as we like to blame ourselves for not catching it earlier, or doing something to help them when they were younger, it’s not fair. We, as parents, do the best we can. We’re not perfect, and we don’t know everything.
But we can do something now.