Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a term used to define three key features, communication difficulties, social interaction and engagement difficulties and repetitive and restrictive behaviours.
Often the ASD signs and symptoms are identified as early as 18 months and a diagnosis can be reliably confirmed by clinicians by two years of age. Early signs of autism include inconsistent or lack of response to name, I recall thinking how well my baby behaved and that she really was not too worried about me leaving the room. She slept whilst playing with toys this could be on the floor or on the sofa. She often would need to be lifted and held and even then, it was a challenge to gain her full attention.
My daughter was 18 months when she was diagnosed and interventions began soon after, these included me educating myself on autism and the weekly speech and language input to help develop her communication and social engagement.
We introduced a picture exchange communication system (PECS), structure, routine and as I continued to develop an understanding of sensory issues, sleep issues and challenging behaviour such as smearing I reached out to services and used resources available to me to address the issues as I developed in confidence, I was able to seek out respite which helped me to maintain a good mental state.
Early diagnosis and early intervention have helped develop my daughter’s communication skills and confidence, she is now 21 and although still non-verbal she is able to communicate her needs effectively and is able to engage in social interaction in a manner that is meaningful and enhances her overall quality of life.
This is just one journey I am aware that many parents and individuals face barriers to diagnosis and therefore a limited in terms of accessing the right services at the right time. The diagnosis offered me peace of mind and enabled me to focus my attention on learning more about autism and accessing the necessary services for my daughter to develop and learn.
With growing waiting lists for diagnostic assessments delays can prevent people from getting the answers they need in order to move on, however, whilst waiting for a diagnosis you can seek advice and support from the National Autistic Society and contact your local mental health service for mental health support and advice.