By Amber McMorrow (@TheAutismMammy)
Firstly, hello! My name is Amber. I am a mum to a beautiful little girl called Leah, who is three and has autism.
You may have heard of the term ‘Autism’. You might not really know what it is. I sure didn’t before I had Leah! So today, on Autism Awareness Day, I would like to tell you a bit about Autism.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that usually appears in early childhood, impacting social skills and communication. The reason it is known as a ‘spectrum’ is because it can manifest differently for each child and can affect children differently. Some of the early signs of Autism include;
- Lack of babbling/ ‘baby talk’
- Poor eye contact
- Not responding to name
- Language delays
- Repetitive behaviours known as ‘stimming’ (e.g. spinning, flapping hands, etc)
- Lack of gestures such as pointing, nodding head for yes/ no, waving, etc
- General disinterest in other people
- Rigid routines/ structures
- Sensory issues (over or under sensitivity to noises, lights, textures, etc)
Autism signs can appear as early as a few months of age (like Leah) or as late as two or three years of age. Autism can often explain why infants have consistently missed milestones (for example, sitting up independently or even walking).
Some children with autism use verbal language to communicate, others do not. Many use visual aids like picture exchanges or signs to communicate. The main thing to remember? Autism is a spectrum and can look different for every child and adult. Hence, the phrase ‘he/ she doesn’t look autistic’ is totally invalid!
If you have any concerns about your child, the best place to start is to speak to your Public Health Nurse or GP. Remember- you are the expert in your own child and you know them better than anyone else. If you are worried, voice your concerns to a healthcare professional. This means that early intervention can be sought early, which is so important for helping your child.
There are lots of different supports available for children with autism; Occupational Therapy and Speech & Language therapies are so helpful, and have helped Leah so much in the last couple of years. As a parent, the thought of an Autism diagnosis can be daunting and scary. Don’t feel guilty, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. Try to connect with other parents of autistic children (this helped me massively!). Look out for local support groups, or online support groups on platforms like Facebook. Instagram has so many amazing support pages too. I am always happy to answer any questions from parents on my Instagram page, or even just have a chat!
The biggest support to children (and adults) with autism & their parents? You!
We as a society must promote Autism awareness, today and every day. Education is key to this. However, awareness is not enough. Acceptance is paramount. We must teach our children the importance of kindness and inclusion. It is amazing that big brands such as My 1st Years are using their platform to promote awareness and acceptance, and this makes me so happy as an Autism Parent.
Remember, every child (and indeed, every person) is unique. The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same. So today, on Autism Awareness Day, let’s embrace our differences, and promote Autism Awareness and Acceptance.
Happy Autism Awareness Day,