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3 Year Old Girl With Autism?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hello! I have been seeing autism signs in my 3 year old daughter for a while now, and would like to get perspective from some of you who have autistic kids...


  • Speech: She did have a speech delay, said nothing at age 2 when she started speech therapy. She learned some basic signs in speech which helped her communicate with us(helped a TON), and it eventually led to her beginning to say words. She is now getting speech through the school district since she is 3, and is finally beginning to speak in short(3 word) sentences, but only to people she is very very comfortable with like myself, her dad, and my best friend who she has known since birth. She has to think really hard about talking, and will only ever say a word to people she is very comfortable with like her family, her therapist, and her teachers(it took 6 months for her to say anything to them though!).
  • Play: When she is in a group, she will always play by herself and rarely interact with the other kids or even acknowledge their existence. She will play in her own little world with toys. She does pretend plays and games, but it is usually by herself unless her siblings are around. If her sisters, brother, or best friend is around she will play with them. Those are the only people that she will play with though. She sometimes has trouble with pretend play when you say she is someone that she is not as well. She will dress up in my hat and shoes and push a stroller around, but if I ask her "are you mama?" She says "no, you mama" "me sage". lol. I'm not sure if these are signs or just quirks and shyness though. It is so hard to tell! She also has an obvious preference for one type of toy, babies. She will have a baby with here everywhere. She usually needs to bring it with her to school, carry it in the store, to pick up her sister from school, to church, everywhere. She loves her babies! Again, this can be normal, but it can also not.
  • Tantrums: She is normally a very calm and docile girl, but sometimes the smallest random thing will set her off and she will just cry and scream inconsolably. Nothing will calm her down. Like, we put the wrong shoes on her when she didn't want to wear them or if she is being stubborn and not wanting to move and I have to physically carry her. Or if I make her food the wrong way, like not cutting it right. Most of the time she is nice and calm, but once she gets set off, she just can't be stopped. 
  • Eye Contact: She has trouble with eye contact, and she doesn't always respond to her name. Sometimes she does, but it takes a few times of calling her, sometimes she responds more quickly, but others she just completely ignores you. Also sometimes when trying to get her attention to look at you she will just stare at a wall sternly with her lips tightly closed. Nothing will get her to look at you. This happened at her school pictures, so she didn't end up in the class picture. Other times she will make contact though, so I don't know if it is a sign or if it just her stubbornness.
  • Eating: She is a very picky eater, and often won't eat what I make, she wants her food a certain way, and won't eat complex foods. She is not as picky as her older sister who I suspect has SPD, but it is noticeable. At school she will eat what they feed her though, but it is never anything too crazy
  • Textures: She won't finger paint, paint in the shaving cream, play in the mud, all those things that get your hands dirty. She through a tantrum when we tried to get her to do a hand print for a Christmas project in her preschool class.
  • GI Issues: I just recently learned about the link of GI issues and autism, and before I did not know it was even related! She has had either diarrhea or constipation almost all the time. It hasn't been since birth that I can remember, but I have noticed especially recently that it has been an ongoing problem longer than a little illness. I had chalked it up to her poor fiber diet, which it obviously could be as well.


There are so many different possibilities and factors that go into it! I don't want to label my child, but if she does have an issues like autism I want her to be able to get the help she needs to lead the best life possible for her.


Overall she is a sweet, kind, loving, quiet, introverted, shy little girl. She doesn't have any large behavior problems, so that I am thankful for.


Any input would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

post #2 of 11

Our DS isn't on the spectrum, but we spent about 2 years trying to figure out if he was or not.  Just to give you my background - it sounds to me like your DD has some "red flags" for autism but also some "green flags."


If I were you I would seek out a very good developmental pediatrician to get an evaluation.  In my opinion I would make sure you find a dev ped that DOESN'T specialize in autism, so they will be well versed in a range of possibilities (after about 10 different evals for our DS I became very convinced that the adage "when you're a hammer everything looks like a nail" really applies). 


With GI and picky eating stuff, I would definitely want a dev ped who can help you make sure there is nothing medical going on. 


I will say that our DS had a number of red flags that all turned out to be related to a language processing disorder rather than autism and it can be SO very hard to really figure out what's going on until kids are closer to 3.5 or 4.  However, I also am a firm believer in early intervention and if you have any doubts I would get some professional help asap. 


In terms of your description, much of what you mention could also be severe shyness - does she have any repetitive behaviors?  How is her non-verbal communication (gestures like waving and pointing, use of appropriate facial expressions, etc)? 

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply! She sucks her thumb as a coping mechanism, but I don't know if I would call it repetitive. I try to discourage it whenever I notice her doing it, and her teachers do too. That can be normal for her age too though. She also twirls her hair in her finger. She is doing it less than she was, but she still does it, and sometimes to the point where her finger gets tangled in her hair and it hurt her. I have to untangle it, so it doesn't cut off the circulation.


She uses signs as non-verbal communication when she doesn't know the words or doesn't want to talk. Her speech therapist that she has when she was 2 and didn't say a word taught her basic signs to help her communicate with us. She doesn't use many facial expressions other than her grumpy face when she is not happy with you because you are trying to get her to do something she doesn't want to do! lol. She does smile when being tickled, when you make her laugh, sometimes when she is happy, and when she is taking pictures. I need to pay more attention to her use of non-prompted facial expressions and emotions. A lot of times I think I prompt the emotion, like I smile and giggle when something is funny so she does.


She really takes in a lot and is always learning... when you tell her something new or correct her she just says "ooooooh", and you can just tell she is processing that new information. lol.


We live in an isolated area, so access to specialists will be really hard to find. That is why I was relying on the school district. :/

post #4 of 11

I agree that there are lots of flags (and everything else in Fizgig's post), but it really can be difficult to sort out what is going on at this age. A book you might like is:

"Quirky Kids" by Klass. It takes about a range of issues from PDD-NOS to Aspergers to Non Verbal Learning Disabilty. Really super book -- written with a BTDT tone.

There are a LOT of very positive things in your post -- she is in preschool and doing OK there. That is HUGE. She is able to speak. She has some pretend play. She plays with her siblings and a friends. This is all very positive stuff.


I have a DD on the spectrum and this has been a tough road at times. One of the hardest things for me has been the Not Knowing. Even with evals and specialist, no one has ever been able to tell us what it really means, what she is really capable of, what she'll be like as an adult. She is 16 and doing awesome, but its been a roller coaster at times. For me, this has been a journey of making peace with The Not Knowing.


Girls on the spectrum tend to have fewer of the behavior issues associated with boys on the spectrum, which sometimes means that they don't get the same access to services and therapies.


Labels are a funny thing. I understand where you are coming from, but diagnostic labels such as "autism" really are just descriptive words that help others understand what might work for her. It fills in a blank on insurance form and gets access to special help at school. Its just a way to communicate and open doors.


(I reached a point where I didn't care WHAT label my child had, if it mean that some one would be able to reach her, and that she would have access to the right services for her. If they had said she was a "purple martian" but that meant her getting what she needed, I would have gone along with it)


If your DD does end up being on the spectrum, I suggest reading something by Temple Grandin (any of her stuff). Temple is on the spectrum and has been able to write very clearly about how she experiences the world. This has been great for me in coming to a place of peace about my DD, and it has been helpful for my DD to read things written by someone else who thinks like she does.

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks! Is playing with siblings not usual with ASD kids? And she does have one friend, but her friend is basically like another sister since they have been together since they were born. DD is 3 months older than her friend, and I met her mom when DD was 6 weeks old(so her friend was born about 6 weeks later). 


That is good to know about the girls having less behavior issues... She is just VERY temperamental and shy.

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

And I'll look into that book because she definitely is quirky! :)

post #7 of 11
Originally Posted by love4bob View Post

Thanks! Is playing with siblings not usual with ASD kids? And she does have one friend, but her friend is basically like another sister since they have been together since they were born. DD is 3 months older than her friend, and I met her mom when DD was 6 weeks old(so her friend was born about 6 weeks later). 


That is good to know about the girls having less behavior issues... She is just VERY temperamental and shy.


autism is such a spectrum, and some kids with autism are self isolating to the point that even interacting with siblings isn't natural for them. However, this isn't a litmus test. My DD played with her sister when she was little, and a girl with autism that I work with (I work with special needs kids at a school) is very fond of her sister and sometimes plays with her on the playground. However, she mostly plays parallel to her rather than interacting.


The more a child is interacting with others, the better. That your DD has several children in her life that she is open to interacting with GREAT. She will learn all sorts of things from them, and the fact that she is interested in relating to others, especially PEERS is just a great sign for her. grouphug.gif


It may be some time before you are really clear on whether or not she is on the spectrum, or just has a speech delay and quiet personality. I think that the signs that (if she is on the spectrum) she is on the higher functioning end of the spectrum might help you have some peace of mind. Lots of people with autism lead independent, meaningful lives -- pursue things like university and career, marry if that is what they want, etc. Even if your Dd is on the spectrum, there is a bunch of good stuff going on for her, and I wouldn't want you to feel like  because some things take her longer to learn or have to be taught more explicitly, to means anything at all about where the end point is for her.


Even though your district is rural, they either have specialist or are liable for paying for you to have access to them as appropriate, though this could be a fight and I'm not the best one to help you figure that out.

post #8 of 11

In the medical world, a diagnosis is a label for a problem. A problem, by definition, needs a solution. In the OP's description, I don't really hear a problem that is looking for a solution. A generally happy, somewhat introverted child, with some quirky habits. It doesn't sound like she needs a diagnosis, because her quirks are within the realm of what the family and school can live with. A few of the quirks sound sort of autismy: picky eating, tantrums over seemingly trivial issues, the eye contact, playing, and speech issues. If you want to address any of these issues, it might help to learn how they would be addressed in a kid with autism. But you don't need a diagnosis to try teaching a skill. And not every quirk needs fixing. I don't get the emphasis on eye contact for example. And most kids grow out of the picky eating with no intervention at all. Maybe she will never seek out much social interaction - perhaps she will be an author, or a researcher, always working independently. Or maybe that trait will change over time. Who knows?


Oops - gotta go to work. I will be back to finish this evening.

post #9 of 11

There are some red flags there.  I completely agree with Linda on this.  Getting a diagnosis helps with getting services that you child may need now and in the future.  Things that seem just mildly quirky at 3, can have significantly larger impacts on her life as she gets older.  I saw this with my oldest son, who is on the spectrum.  Preschool and Kindergarten, quirky and a little different.  By 1st grade he couldn't function in a regular ed classroom for the whole day. Now he's 14 and doing great.  Completely mainstreamed with 2 pull out sessions a week to work on social skills.  He's going to highschool next year and I know that without the skills he has learned over the years, there is no way he would be where he is now.  I think the earlier you can get the support your child needs, the better the outcome.  

post #10 of 11

Hi.  I agree that there appears to be red flags, however it appears she has a lot of sensory issues.  Is she receiving OT?  If not, that would be something I would request from the school district.  You can indicate it is educationally relevant because addressing her sensory issues will increase her ability to being in a general education classroom when she enters kindergarten.  (we know that she will be, but that should always be your argument - always connect the intervention to being educationally relevant)


There are children who have sensory issues that can be severe enough as to exhibit behaviors similar to ASD.  For instance, a child can have over stimulation to his environment that can affect his ability to communicate or interact with his environment.  This is only an example.  If interventions can be provided for the sensory issues, then there may be improvement in social communication skills and the reduction of other behaviors.

Like the moms said, do as much intervention as possible regardless of the final 'label.'


All 3 of my children (2 boys/ 1 girl) have autism.  Each of them are completely different from each other. 


Follow your mommy gut.  You will never be wrong.

post #11 of 11
Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

In the medical world, a diagnosis is a label for a problem. A problem, by definition, needs a solution. In the OP's description, I don't really hear a problem that is looking for a solution. A generally happy, somewhat introverted child, with some quirky habits. It doesn't sound like she needs a diagnosis, because her quirks are within the realm of what the family and school can live with.


I don't agree. Deafness, for example, isn't considered a problem by a lot of people who are deaf. Many adults with autism see it as being neurologically different, not having a neurological problem. For my DD, at times being on the spectrum has caused HUGE problems, but right now, none at all. Would you considered her only on the spectrum during those times it is a problem? Is she bouncing on and off the spectrum?



Also, the demands of school keep going up every year. More will be required for this child in K than in preschool, and more again in First grade. Waiting until her quirks are something that the school can't live with means waiting until things completely fall apart for this child, and starting the process of getting a complete neuro psych eval. In some cities, that process can take a year.


My advice is too seek professional help and evals when a parent sees red flags rather than waiting until things completely fall apart for a child, because I've seen what it looks like when it all goes to hell, and I know how long it can take to get an eval in some cities.

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