Real Autism Awareness: What to Look For

So, if you’re just joining me in this last of my four-part series on Autism, you can go back and read why I’m writing this, my experience, and what Autism is not. This post talks about what things you can look for to find if your child might be on the Autism spectrum.

There are two core symptoms that usually begin in early childhood (although they may not be recognized as such until later on). These issues persist as the child grow to some degree and interfere with daily life. The first is some social communication challenges and the second is repetitive behaviors. As I’ve said before in previous posts, these may vary in severity and differ from person to person.

Since this is a complex issue, it’s best to have your child formally assessed by a professional. This article is for informational purposes only. I’m no expert, but I feel strongly that if I had access to this information when my son was young, I could have helped him feel less frustrated and he wouldn’t have blamed himself for so long.

Here are some of the things you may notice in your child that could lead you to suspect he or she might be on the Autism Spectrum. I’m going to break them down into categories to make it easier to visualize. Remember that each person will be different. Not all Autistic people have all or even most of them. This is just a list I put together after having done some research in order to make it easier for you to determine if you should take your child to a professional to get more individual information.

Social and Communication Challenges:
Difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication including:
* Gestures
* Spoken language (1/3 of Autistic people are nonverbal)
* Eye contact
* Facial expressions
* Lack of empathy
* Expressions not meant to be taken literally
* Recognizing emotions or intentions of others
* Expressing emotions
* Feeling overwhelmed in social situations
* Taking turns in conversation
* Gauging personal space
* Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
* Preferring to play alone or difficulty playing with others
* Not taking part in “Make Believe” activities
* Not recognizing sarcasm or joking

Repetitive Behaviors:
* Rocking, flapping, spinning, running or walking back and forth
* Repetitively spinning wheels, shaking sticks, flipping levers
* Staring at lights or spinning objects
* Ritualistic lining up of objects or touching them in a particular order
* Narrow or extreme interest in specific topics
* Resistance to change or rigid adherence to routines
* Self-abusive looking behaviors like hitting themselves with objects

Other Behaviors and Behavior Patterns:
* Loss of previously acquired speech
* Preference for solitude
* Delayed language development
* Persistently repeating words or phrases
* Unusual intense reactions to sounds, smells, textures
* Abnormal body posture or walking on toes
* Flat tone of voice or monotonous speech
* Difficulty learning or learning disability
* Sleep disturbances (my son had waking nightmares)
* Avoiding or disliking physical contact
* Fussy eating
* Lack of coordination or clumsiness
* Aggressiveness
* Short attention span

Other Profiles:
If you haven’t read my son’s story in the first of this series, you can go back and read part one. However, my son is only one of many ways in which a person can be Autistic. So, I’ve found a page on Autism Speaks that gives various profiles of different Autistic kids that you can read through to get more of an idea of how Autism can manifest itself.

I hope this has helped you to get a bit of information on what Autism may look like. I pray you find your answers. Please comment below and let me know your situation. I’d love to hear from you.

Do me a big favor and please forward this blog post to all your social media accounts. I’d love some help getting the word out!

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Sometimes You Need a Pity Party

cry baby partyI don’t think you’d be human if you were sunshine and roses every day, especially in the face of chronic struggles and hardships.  However, some will tell you-you’re not a good Christian if you share that you are depressed or upset or frustrated.  It’s not like the Lord doesn’t know you feel this way. It hasn’t escaped His notice.  It’s not a sin to be angry or sad or frustrated with your situation.  It’s only destructive if you stay there.  It can actually be quite therapeutic to throw yourself a little pity party now and again.

I think the only people who don’t ever go down deep in the valley of despair are those who don’t have any problems. Know any people without any problems?  Me neither!

So when you are exhausted just after getting up in the morning, you go looking for your sandwich in the closet, your electric bill is past due and you have only two nickels to rub together…AGAIN, you will enter that valley.  What you do there and how long you stay will determine your quality of life and the joy you find in spite of it all.

The value of a pity party:

Allow yourself time to grieve and/or express your negative emotions so you can move on.  Without a pity party, some find it difficult to gather the strength to move on to life’s next chronic hurdle because they haven’t dealt with the previous one.  Making time to express your anger, sadness or frustration can help you get rid of those feelings.

What to do at your pity party:

Invite people to your pity party.  You don’t have to send out formal invitations or anything, but fellowship with one or two trusted, Christian friends or family members who understand what it feels like to deal with the issues you are struggling with.  They will not only understand and allow you to vent but lead you back out of the valley of despair and back to the Lord.  They can help by validating your feelings so you aren’t concentrating your energy on justifying why you feel the way you do.  You have a right to your feelings.  You don’t have to marry them, but you have a right to them as you come by them honestly.

Play Woe is Me.  Express how you feel and allow that trusted friend or family member to see the real you–even if it isn’t pretty right now.  It’s your party and you’ll cry if you want to so…cry if you want to!  You’ll feel better afterward.

Allow friends or family to lift you up.  I know.  It’s frustrating to make one single statement and have well-meaning Christians immediately jump all over you about not being positive and tell you just to cheer up.  But once you’ve had a good cry (or scream as the case may be), you need to be lifted up out of the valley or you’ll be tempted to stay there.  And trust me, pity parties are a nice place to visit, but you don’t want to live there!  Your friends want to help.  Let them.

What to do after your pity party:

Have some FUN!  Here are a few ideas.  Go for a walk, see the beauty God put on this earth.  See the humor in your situation and poke fun at yourself. Lift someone else’s spirits.  Make someone laugh.  Concentrate on someone else’s problems for a while and try to help.  It’s amazing how focusing on others will draw you out of the pit you’ve fallen into.  Write about it.  Sing about it.  Hug your blessings…better known as your children.  Hug someone else’s children.  LOL

Pray.  Pray that God would take this from you and, if God doesn’t take the struggle away, pray that He would use it, your experience and you to lift someone else up.

Lastly, thank God.  Thank the good Lord for the good things in your life.  Count your blessings.  You have some!  Even in the lowest pit of despair, you have some blessings you can count.  If your dishwasher broke and you can’t afford to fix it, you can thank God your water bill is paid this month and you can afford dish liquid.  If you are so tired you can’t get up out of bed, thank Him for the bed you have.  If your pain level is high, thank Him for the life you have and the chance you have today to perhaps find your answers. Maybe you’ll discover something that helps you.  Maybe you’ll discover a $20 bill in the couch that will pay for a few groceries.  I know, I’ve looked there a time or two as well!

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”—  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

I pray this has been helpful and uplifting. Please leave me some feedback in a comment.  Share your story.  Tell me what you’d like to see in the coming weeks as I share.  And please pass this post along to others who may need to start planning their own pity party.  😀

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