Monday, July 16, 2012

Taking a break from the autism study Az has been part of since she was hanging out in my womb. I was contacted about taking part in a study that focuses on the causes of autism when I was pregnant. It seemed like a win-win situation, I would be helping research that would both benefit society and my family and my baby would be followed so that if there were any signs she might be on the spectrum those signs would most likely be discovered earlier. The study will continue to follow her until she turns five.

I haven't really been too worried about Az being on the spectrum. She seems like she is developing on time if not early in every category. During this day's visit Az was able to do all of the tasks I would expect a two-year-old to do. She chose not to do many of them because she wanted to play with other toys in the room rather than sit at the table talking to the doctor and performing the tasks asked of her. We were in the small room for over an hour so I didn't really blame her for growing bored of the exercises. At a certain point she seemed to decide she would just do the bare minimum to move along. When the doctor asked her to name certain facial features on a picture Az just pointed and said, "nose" each time. Az can easily name twenty facial and body parts, very easily in fact. It seems like the activities during the study aren't always the most accurate, but we're helping them get more data than if we weren't showing up at all.

Az wasn't able to do the multi-step requests, such as, "Put the teacup on the small table and then close the book," but this seemed to still be a little advanced for a just turned two-year-old. Maybe it's not, I don't spend a lot of time with other two year olds these days, but in any case it wasn't anything that concerned me too much. There were some things she did manage to do that I had assumed she wouldn't, like threading beads onto a shoe lace. One of the unexpected benefits from the study has been finding out Az has skills I wouldn't have discovered on my own until possibly much later.

It seemed like the hidden skills balanced out with the skills she hasn't quite acquired. She was feeling a little shy in addition to increasingly bored so I know she will score lower this time, because there were a lot of things she didn't attempt. What did concern me was that the doctor pointed out Az had been walking on her tiptoes almost the entire time. I'd noticed that before without really giving it much thought, but once it had been blatantly pointed out to me I had to admit to myself that this was a possible sign of autism.

The doctor told me to be aware of other possible early signs, and of course immediately they all seemed to apply to Az as she listed them off. As a matter of fact, Az doesn't really cry when she gets hurt. She does like to have a clean environment around her. It's so easy to begin seeing everything as something to be concerned about but since then I've given it some thought of course, and while Az usually doesn't cry when she gets hurt she does when it hurts enough, and she almost always comes in for a snuggle and a kiss after a fall. She prefers things to be clean around her, but I'd hope she would. She lives in a household that tends towards the messy side; if she required things to be meticulously clean she would constantly be agitated. Even when it comes to the tip-toe walking, it seems like she only does it in certain shoes. Most importantly, Az shows a lot more empathy than Z has; when someone is crying Az is concerned and wants to comfort them. Z has always been a little baffled when people show emotions around him, I'd say this is the biggest "autistic" thing about him.

I feel like I could make a strong case for both Az being on the spectrum and not being on spectrum. She's only two so it's so hard to tell. I will definitely mention the tip-toe walking when we see her pediatrician in a couple of weeks, and now that it has been brought up I probably will keep an eye for other warning signs. I know it wouldn't be the end of the world if Az were on the autism spectrum, it would probably be much easier for me this go around because I've put in so much time on the battlegrounds already. I know what services to ask for and where to try to get them. I know how to be a mom to an autistic child. But crap, life on the spectrum hasn't been easy for Z. I want life to be as easy as possible for both of my children.

But hey, if worse comes to worse we'll just buy her a bunch of toddler-sized high heels and continue on.

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