My son recently had an evaluation by EI (I do not have the report yet though). He has a speech delay, and will be receiving services. No surprise there, he is almost 20 months and does not have any words, he does not even babble "right" (he only makes a handful of noises all single syllable vowel sounds). He will mimic if someone says "mamamamama", "bababababa", "dadadadadadada", and "gagagagagaga" but that is it. He also does not really gesture, for example he does not nod his head for no. However he understands everything I say and follows directions really well.
During the evaluation the SLP and OT doing the eval commented on his joint attention, or rather they commented on his lack of joint attention. He does not point to object to share, he does not bring me objects to show. When someone else is pointing at something in a book he will mimic, but he does not look at us to see if we saw (if that makes sense).
So I have been researching (bad idea) and everything I find says the poor joint attention and a language delay means autism.
So the point of my posting, I am trying to find information and struggling, I want to be intellectually and emotionally prepared at our upcoming IE appointment.
Specifically I am trying to figure out if he can have poor joint attention and not be autistic?
If that is possible what kinds of things could it be?
Also, can a child be autistic and have some joint attention? My guy sometimes seems like he is moving forward in that direction, today he pointed at a pear in the fridge to tell me he wanted it!)?
Having been where you are, I can tell you that it is basically impossible to answer your question. Autism symptoms are like a big bag of marbles that come in 20 colours and each kid gets 10 marbles. So you can find two kids with totally different marble colours, but the more kids you group together the more similarities you find until you realize they are all drawing from the same bag.
My advice is this: go through the evaluation and try to keep an open mind; they will look at a lot more than just that one thing. If your child does have autism, please know that is it not the end of the world and you will get through it. Getting my kids diagnosed made me a better parent to them, because I was able to understand them better and figure out how best to teach them the coping skills they needed.
Homeschooling, Homesteading Mama to DD ('02) and DS ('04)
Piglet really said exactly what I was thinking. There is just no way to say whether or not it's autism with those symptoms. Of course, some kids with autism do have those symptoms, but not all. Regardless of whether or not it's autism, it sounds like you have the supports in place that he needs at this point. Right now, just see how he progresses.
And from a personal perspective, my son is on the autism spectrum. He also needed speech therapy, because he had an auditory processing disorder, and he also needed PT for similar reasons as you mentioned. He's 14 now, and he speaks absolutely fine. He still struggles a bit with the APD, but he has learned the skills he needs to advocate for himself. He is doing great academically, and to top it all off, he came in 5th in his last cross country meet! The kid who fell out of his chair at dinner and couldn't walk around a corner without bumping into it, would drop things constantly, is now running over roots, up hills, around corners, and just loving it.
This all came about because he got the help he needed at an early age. He didn't get a diagnosis of autism until he was 6, and although it was scary and I was sad, it really just became another tool to make sure he got the services he needed in order to accomplish the things he wanted to. So hang in there, and either way, you are being a great parent by making sure your son is supported no matter what diagnosis he is given.
I'll agree with everyone. It is possible to lack joint attention and have language delays and not be on the spectrum.
Our DS had mediocre joint attention at that age, and almost no words. He has a severe language delay but is not Autistic. But we didn't know for sure until he was almost 3. His joint attention was always there, just much lower than typical children. Same with his use of gesture. As his receptive language improved, all his spectrum "red flags" went away.
So, it is possible. At that age, there are million things that could be going on and I'm sorry to tell you that there really is no way to tell until they are older. EI isn't in the business of diagnosing so much as pointing to potential issues your DS could work on. I would be slightly wary if they push heavy doses of ABA therapy but otherwise, no matter the root "cause" of his delays, as long as they are working on his individual strengths and weaknesses, I wouldn't focus overmuch on why.
Hope this helps!