When I started delving into Dr. Google to assist me with my medical research surrounding Ellie’s symptoms, I found quite a bit of information on young children with Autism, but not infants. At the time, I didn’t really consider Autism because she didn’t seen to fit all signs presented. Well, now I know, that no two children with Autism look alike. I wanted to document the things I noted when Ellie was a baby and continue to do so. Maybe a parent, in my shoes, will stumble on this and be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together early.
One of the main symptoms that threw me off was language. I read so much information about children never developing language or regressing. That was not our case. Ellie developed language early. Her first word was at 9 months (pretty) and her vocabulary was (and still is) well beyond her age. As I learned later, it isn’t necessarily the development of words, but how those words are used to communicate. Ellie still struggles with pragmatic language and echolalia.
This was written a couple of months prior to Ellie’s third birthday so I could use it as a reference for delving into resources and ultimately, a diagnosis of Asperger’s.
a) Ellie cried continuously as an infant. She was rarely consolable. At about three months of age, her pediatrician determined she had gerd. Ellie was on rantidine and maalox until nine months. The medication helped her pain. She continued to be an extremely fussy baby.
b) As an infant she didn’t like to be with other people. Outings were painful. Family functions most often resulted in meltdowns. Example: at six months of age, we attended a small family Christmas party. She was only happy in her infant seat in another room.
c) Ellie never liked to be snuggled or held. At the age of three, she is just starting to let Mom and Dad hug her but usually her hands are at her side and she comes at you with her head.
d) She has always been fearful (more like petrified) of children. Her body physically shakes and she clings to my leg. Most often times it leads to meltdowns.
e) When Ellie was two, we attended the Little Gym weekly for seven months and she never went near another child if she could help it. If someone accidentally touched her it led to a meltdown and we would have to leave – almost as if she felt they did it on purpose to hurt her. She loved the balance beam and could do it for hours if no one else came around.
f) Flaps hands, jumps and toe walks.
g) Has tremendous difficulty reading other people’s expressions.
h) We have had weekly play dates with a little girl across the street and Ellie has never gone close enough to interact.
i) She makes brief eye contact with her parents or non threatening adults, but never makes eye contact with peers or strangers.
j) Ellie has always been scared of noise. Noisy toys (other than soft musical toys), sneezing, coughing, gruff voices, vacuums, hair dryers, hoses, toilets flushing, dogs barking, loud and abrupt laughter, the list goes on. This isn’t just fear, it’s physical shaking, hand-shaking, inconsolable panic. She doesn’t want physical affection for comfort but wants her parents near.
k) Ellie is petrified of floor fans or wall vents. If we go to a restaurant or other public place that has them, she counts them over and over and worries about how we will get around them.
l) Ellie’s first word was at nine months (pri-eee). Pretty. By 18 months she had 250 words in her vocabulary that could be clearly understood.
m) She knew her capital and small letters before she was two. She also recognized and performed the signs for them.
n) She loves to collect or hold tiny things for days on end – seeds, popcorn kernels.
o) She is happy to look at a map for 90 minutes and talk about cities, compasses, legends, interstates, airports, rivers, etc. This topic may last for one day or two weeks and can be replaced with another like utilities and how plumbing/cable wires/electricity works. This topic may then be replaced with types of flowers or insects or spices for cooking. She learns as much as she can and then wants you to sit in the living room chair (all day if you let her) to talk at you about them – almost as if she’s lecturing or trying to teach you. This is always accompanied by walking on her tiptoes and moving her hands in a repetitive way.
p) We don’t go to my Grandma’s house. Ellie is scared of the barking/crying from the dog and the sound of her telephone. It has results in meltdowns that last more than 30 minutes even after being removed from the situation. Some meltdowns can last for 60 minutes although, thankfully that is more rare. We have tried to distract or go into another room, but she is so worried about the potential for those noises she can’t stop talking about them or going home.
q) I no longer take her to play groups that might have several children or where we’ll be inside.
r) It is impossible to have a conversation for more than 20 seconds with another adult. She will put her face in mine or have a fit to stop the talking. I’m constantly trying to stay ahead of the meltdown mode which involves her screaming, her hands flapping in front of her or at her ears.
s) Ellie is very articulate in her speech.
t) She likes the playground only if no other children are nearby. She is scared to explore things on her own there even if we are the only two at the playground. She is overwhelmed by the options. She loves to swing. She enjoys a slide (most of the time, if I go with her).
u) She hated the car as a baby but is now liking it.
v) Ellie is hypersensitive to smells. Can’t be in the same room when I’m ironing clothes. Can’t stand to wear clothes that have been in the washing machine beyond the 24 hour limit. She doesn’t seem to be hypersensitive to fabrics though.
w) She likes a variety of foods, but nothing mixed together. Won’t eat bread, cheese or meat. Loves fruit, vegetables, plain noodles, and yogurt.
x) Is very inquisitive about what people or animals are doing with their faces in her books or on television. Always asks, “what is he doing with his face?” whether the individual is smiling, angry, or frustrated. She recognizes when I make angry/happy/sad faces and will make them when I ask.
y) Always asks me if she can do the smallest of things – can I bring my toothbrush to the living room; can I drink from this cup or is it old; can I bring this toy in the bathtub; etc.?
z) Hates to have her head washed or hair brushed. Is okay with toothbrushing.
aa) She remembers events from the age of one. If you tell her your favorite color she will never forget it. Examples: Monkey Joe’s/library book/what I said.
ab) Around most people other than family, Ellie’s face has no expression or she just looks downn.
ac) Songs have to be played in the same order. When going to toy store, we have to play with the things in the same places.