A child with autism experiences different kinds of developmental disorders from the early stage of his/her childhood. Our autism angel Ferdous Mahi was not an exception to it. But we were late to identify his developmental disorders earliest in his childhood as we were not familiar with the term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the corresponding developmental disorders.
My autism angel playing at the sea shore
Since the disorders related to autism start prevailing in a child from his birth and till today there is no curable treatment of it, the parents do not have anything to do other than nurturing him/her and trying to bring some developments in his behaviors. So the parents of the child with autism need to understand the symptoms of autism and other developmental disorders.
In this article, I would like to discuss the usual trends of development of the normal babies as well as some of the disorders as symptoms of autism that prevails at the different ages of a child which I have learned from my experiences of living with autism for last 21 years.
It may help the parents of the newborn babies to understand the symptoms of autism and to take the decision of early intervention for their rapid development.
Different types of developmental disorders
There are many types of developmental disorders. Some of those are mentioned below:
Autism and others pervasive developmental Disorders
Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD)
Expressive Language Disorders
Fragile X Syndrome
Among the above-mentioned disorders, mental retardation is most common in the USA followed by Cerebral Palsy and then Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In this article, I will talk only about the developmental disorders related to autism.
Birth of a child with autism
My autism angel is on the lap of his beloved sister
My son Ferdous Mahi was born on a beautiful evening on January 23, 1996, at the Combined Military Hospital, Dhaka to enlighten our life with joy. It may be mentioned that our first issue was a beautiful daughter and the second one was a boy who was stillborn. Mahi, being our third issue, came to us as a blessing in our life. Especially, his mother was very happy as she lost her second issue. She was a little bit upset after losing her second child before starting his life. But she could forget the moment of losing her second son to some extent after getting Mahi within us.
He was a normally born baby without any difficulties either physically or mentally. All the actions after his birth were very normal. Both the child and the mother were in sound health. It was beyond our imagination that the able-bodied lovely child would face some developmental disorders and could turn into a child with autism. We were so happy getting Mahi if our life that I can not express in language. Mahi fulfilled our life in all respect. We wanted to be really happy with one daughter and one son.
All of our joys were just lost when we observed few developmental disorders in our lovely child and came to know that our cherubic baby was affected with a lifelong developmental disorder which was nothing but Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) along with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Normal trends of childhood
Normal babies possess some common features of development at the early stages of their childhood if they do not have any type of disorder. In the following paragraphs, I would like to discuss those developments in chronological orders which will help us to understand the developmental disorders in a child with autism:
Developmental Milestones for a Child of Six (06) Months:
-Generally, a baby of this age gives a big smile. -Shows other warm or joyful expressions. -Responses by reciprocating any sound. -Makes a sound to express joy/sorrow. -Rolls over both front & back directions. -Brings the things into his mouth.
Developmental Milestones for a Child of Nine (09) Months:
-A baby of this age shares back-forth sounds. -Shows some facial expressions. -Copies other’s sound and gesture. -Makes sounds like ‘baba’, ‘mama’. -S/he can sit without support. -Tries to stand holding any support.
Developmental Milestones for a Child of Twelve (12) Months:
-The baby responses when somebody calls his name. -Tries to draw attention by saying words or showing gesture. -Creates babbling or baby talk and tries to say a word that other says. -Starts pointing, showing, reaching and waving. -Starts copying gestures.
Developmental Milestones for a Child of Eighteen (18) Months:
-At this age, a child starts walking. -Plays with dolls imitating cooking, feeding etc. -Shows affection to the familiar people. -Can speak numbers of single words. -Can point to show someone what s/he wants. -Can follow a verbal command.
Developmental Milestones for a Child of Twenty-Four (24) Months:
-A child of this age learns the names of the familiar people. -Tries to mix up and play with others of the same age. -Starts telling two or three words sentences. -Follows others instructions. -Can find out hidden things. -Can run, stand on toe tips and kick a ball.
Developmental Milestones for a Child of Thirty-Six (36) Months:
-A baby of this age generally copies the adults. -Understands the words like ‘mine’, ‘his’, her’, ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘under’, ‘over’ etc -Capable of dressing / undressing himself/herself. -Can exchange conversation of two/three sentences. -Capable of fixing the puzzles and operating the toys.
Developmental Disorders of our autism angel
My autism angel with his sister
We passed a happy life for two years after Mahi’s birth. We were a happy couple having two sweet babies. But all on a sudden we noticed that our little angel Mahi was not growing normal like other children of his age. He was lacking some of the developmental traits.
Mahi was physically very sound and attractive boy. It was very difficult to understand his disorders unless he was observed closely for a couple of minutes. He suffered delayed in development throughout his life since birth.
We observed some sorts of abnormality within him. Initially, we thought that he would be normal in course of time. His activities were a little bit different from the normal child. But we could not recognize those as his abnormality or developmental disorders.
Here I will discuss some of the developmental disorders prevailed in Mahi in his early life:
Language/Communication Skills of autism angel:
Language/communication skills are the ability of an individual to understand others and express himself/herself through some words, gestures or facial expressions and thereby establish a channel of communication to fulfill their needs. Mahi was lacking in language/communication skills in the following ways:
-Mahi was lacking in his entire developmental milestone on different ages of life.
-He did not have any speech for a long time till he was six years old. Even he did not babble at his early age.
-He used to say ‘baba’, ‘mama’ from nine months of age, but those were meaningless, not calling his parents.
-He could not understand/follow any instructions from us.
-At his early age, he did not have any eye contact. He did not have any response if somebody called him by his name.
-He did not have any back-forth sharing of sound or making any response like other babies of his age.
My autism angel at the seashore with his sister
Social Skills of our autism angel:
Social skills are the ability of an individual to communicate or interact with others, making friends with them to survive as a social entity. Mahi was lacking in social skills in the following manner:
-Mahi did not have any social interaction even with the babies of his age.
-He used to shout at the top of his voice if something happened opposite to his will/choice.
-He could not mix up with anybody like other children of his age.
-He used to play on his own without mixing up or playing with others.
Cognitive skills of autism angel:
Cognitive skills are the ability of the brain to understand, learn, think, remember, and memorize some problem-solving techniques. Mahi was lacking in his cognitive/motor skills in the following manner:
My autism angel with his sister in a school function
-Mahi was very much hyperactive. He never used to stand in a place for few seconds.
-He was very much sensitive to sound or noise. If there were any loud noise/sound, he would cover his ears with his hands.
-He had stereotype behavior like repeating the same thing again and again.
-He used to spin within his circle. Sometimes he used to spin over the dining table at a very high speed without falling down from there.
-He used to break sticks (wood/bamboo) and make it to small pieces and sometimes he used to give them different shapes as per his imagination.
-If he would see something changed around him, he would start non-stop crying. The change may be in his routine or shifting of any items from one place to another in his area of living.
-Unable to understand the difference between good/bad, big/small, high/low etc.
Our autism angel with us in front of Tajmahal
Diagnosis of Autism in our angel
Our autism angel was being grown up in age but not in different types of skills like communication, social and cognitive skills. It became a matter of great concern for us. But it was already late as he became 4 years old by that time. We became anxious observing different disorders during the developmental stages of our son. We visited different doctors for their advice. But we did not get any fruitful suggestion as autism was not that much familiar to us at that time.
It may be mentioned that autism was not familiar to the parents even to the doctor in the late nineties. In the last 10 years, there is a significant improvement in the field of autism in Bangladesh. At the same time, the number of autism affected children has been increased in the country. At that time (in 2000) we did not find any good institute related to autism. So, we had to move to India for his treatment.
We visited the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Science, Bangalore, India for further investigations and suggestions. It was one of the renowned institutes working on autism. The doctors studied Mahi’s case and observed him for about two weeks. Then came to the conclusion that Mahi was affected by ASD along with ADHD. The doctors made us understand about autism and suggested us to admit Mahi in a school preferably normal school to get his accelerated development. By that way, he was turned into our autism angel.
We could not recognize Mahi’s developmental disorders till he was two years of age and could not confirm him to be a child with autism till his four years of age as we were not aware of autism at that time. When we noticed that he was delayed in all developmental milestones, we realized that he might have some problems. So, it was too late when he was identified as a child with autism.
After his diagnosis, we tried our level best to bring improvements in him. At that time there were lots of limitations for the autistic children, even though he has made a tremendous improvement in last 17 years. Still, he is learning how to become self-dependent.
Early diagnosis always lead to early intervention and rapid development in a child with autism. As such the parents of newborn babies must observe sharply the chronological development of their children at different stages of childhood and if any disorder is found, would intervene as early as possible to bring them in the normal stream of life.
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