Need Help with an Autistic Child

Updated on June 24, 2010
S.S. asks from Lees Summit, MO
12 answers

I need advice, I have a 2 year old (he'll be 3 in October) who's being diagnosed with autism. He doesn't say any words, or even know that he can, he does things repeatedly and doesn't think that he can do something different, and he has terrible tantrums because things always have to go along with his 'tunnel vision', or one-track mind. He has an extremely difficult time learning new concepts, and he actually acts like he doesn't want to learn anything new. For example, he may climb to the top of some playground equipment, and then just run in circles, babbling a specific sound (usually "da"). But if I try to show him that he can go down the slide or crawl through the tunnel, it throws him off and he starts having a tantrum and screaming. The same happens at home if I try to teach him something or get him to play with his toys 'appropriately', such as stacking the blocks or coloring for more than two seconds instead of carrying the crayon or block in his hand while he just runs around his room in his own little world. In grocery stores he constantly shakes his head back and forth, I guess in response to all of the lights in the store. I have stopped trying to take him to restaurants because he can't handle it and screams and throws himself around. People always look at my son and I strangely anytime we go anywhere, I know they're wondering what's wrong with him because he acts differently, and probably thinking that I never discipline or teach him anything.

I should also mention that his father is not around, but my parents are very supportive and a big help. But I don't think I interacted with him enough or stimulated him in the early months. I feel like I didn't know what I was doing being a new and single mom, and was trying to rebuild what was a broken relationship with my parents and God. And he didn't attend a daycare until he was almost 2. So I'm wondering if all of that's part of the problem also. Now that I work in a daycare, I keep thinking about every way that I should have been working with him on during the first year. Now he goes to a special needs preschool, but his behavior is not very cooperative there. I feel like we're all trying so hard to 'break the ice' with him, but the ice keeps getting thicker. Like he keeps slowly regressing. I'm so afraid that he'll be a five year old who can only babble and won't know his colors, ect.

I've tried and tried to tempt him to say an actual word (or at least "mama"), but he won't. Although he does know the meaning of several words and phrases. He's had ear tubes put in and passed a hearing test, so I know that's not a problem. His tongue and mouth are normal, there are no physical restrictions. He loves to look at books and hear the names of the objects, but he never wants to repeat the word.
Please, if anyone can help or offer advice, I'm honestly so frustrated! I love him so much but I cant' teach him anything and communication is extremely difficult. I'll be honest with everyone, I did have a few alcoholic drinks while I was pregnant, the guy I kept trying to work things out with kept assuring me that it was ok after all to drink, I was SO stupid then and blind to many things. I just know that either that, or the combination of that and the lack of stimulation in his early months has caused something he won't grow out of. His brain is just wired differently. Since the birth of my son I feel like I've grown and am a completely different person, but I'm afraid my son has to suffer because of me.
Any advice is very much appreciated.

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answers from Dallas on

I like Dr. Bock's book Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, Asthma,ADHD, and Allergies and Cutting Edge Therapies for Autism. Both worth the read after you've done what the others have suggested, call ECI and begin therapy. The gluten and casein free diet is extremely helpful for many kids on the spectrum as are MB12 injections. Treating the child for yeast and bacteria can also make a big difference. Get as much support as you can and read as much as you can. I local or online support group will be invaluable for you.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I am a behavioral therapist at an early intervention clinic for kids with autism, so I hope I can offer some help. First of all, I second the others who have said that this is not your fault! That being said, once you know a little bit more about ASD there are SO many things you can do to help him!

Find an early intervention clinic specializing in ABA and/or AVB therapy. This is the only therapy scientifically proven to produce positive outcomes for kids on the spectrum. Here, there are people who can help you! They will help you learn to analyze his behaviors so you can change the way you approach situations BEFORE something happens to result in a tantrum. They will help your son develop a method of communication. I've taught sign language to many children and have seen great success; sign language actually helps children learn to communicate vocally! Imagine how frustrating it would be to not be able to communicate your wants or needs; communicating will decrease the frequency of tantrums/crying/other unwanted behaviors because you will be able to give him what he wants. This also teaches him "I talk, I get," an important relationship for him to understand. Right now, he may not feel he needs to communicate because eventually Mom will figure out what I want. But, if he does communicate, there will be a lot less heartache and instead of reinforcing an unwanted behavior (crying) you'll be reinforcing a positive behavior (verbal behavior: sign, PECS, vocal, etc).

While he's at daycare, are they asking a lot of him? For a child with autism, asking them to do a seemingly simple task may be too difficult. Instead of placing many demands on him, take what he likes to do and build on that. If he likes holding blocks or crayons, that's ok (for now)! Show him that the people around him are fun and give him things he likes by giving him a block and saying "block" (but don't say it like a question or like you're asking him to repeat the word) or the same with the crayons. By giving him the things he likes, you are establishing that good things come from you. Once he understands this, he will be more willing to attempt the simple tasks you ask of him. If he has motivation for the block, ask him to "say block" or "say ba." If he makes any sounds, awesome! Give him the block! It doesn't matter that he didn't make the exact sound, the point is that you asked him to do something and he tried, and when he tried, you gave him the block and were really happy and excited! This takes lots of repetition, but he will learn!

It also sounds like your son may have some sensory issues as well, which is very common with ASD. A consultation with an Occupational Therapist could also be very beneficial as they can teach you how to provide him with the type and frequency of sensory input your son needs. When he is shaking his head or running back and forth, or does any other repetitive behavior (stimming), he is doing it for a reason, primarily to gain sensory input.

It is so great that your son has been diagnosed at a young age! I've worked with several children who start therapy around age 2 and are able to transition to regular school for kindergarten! It's a lot of work, but just know that this time in his development is crucial! I remember a training I went to for my job on the neurophysiology of a child's brain and how through early intervention, the brain's anatomy and physiology can actually be changed! Once they get to a certain age, this is no longer possible. I guess I just want you to know that there is HOPE!

As a new mom and as someone who has dedicated their career to teaching children with autism, I can't imagine how you must be feeling. Just know that you are your son's best advocate and do everything you can do get him started in therapy NOW! Time is precious.

I'm so sorry that people are treating you and your son so horribly in public. That's just terrible and I wish people weren't so rude and would think about how they would feel if they were you.

I wish you all the best! Remember, there is HOPE! Message me if you want any more info or opinions about any therapy centers!


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on


Stop kicking yourself around about having caused the autism. While drinking could cause FAS, it does not cause autism, and you did not fail to interact with him enough, and if you did, it would not have caused autism either. While neither one of these things is ideal, they also do not cause autism, so you can put that to bed and never think of it again.

You got very good advice about therapy, so get him into a program now, as it is exteemly lucky that you have a diagnosis at age 2, so take full advantage of his early age and get him ABA, speech therapy, and OT as soon as you can. Call a speech therapist and an OT in your area and make the next available appointment. Because he is only 2, the state early intervention program will be available but be ready to transition to your local school district at age 3. You need to contact them early and find out the process so that you can have him evaluated by them at the earlist time, and get him started in a public education program.

The state will evaluate him (both for the ECI program and for school based programs) but do not count on the state to tell you everything you need to know. If you do not have a full evaluation by a Developmental Pediatrician, call on monday at your nearest childrens hospital and get him an appointiment, still go through with the speech therapy and OT while you wait for the appointment. You will get a report from the developmenat pediatrician that contains every kind of professional opinion you need and a treatment plan that will tell you exactly what you need to do. You should never count on the state to tell you what you need for your son and you should own the report that contains his diagnosis. Use the public services and advocate well, but supplement that program with as much private service as you can afford. Public services are only legaly obligated to make him functional, and you want more than that. Some may go beyond the lowest legal requriement, but you need to know what he needs so that you can decide what is enough.

You are not alone. Your feelings are just what all of us in your shoes have felt, what you have to do now, is to take that frustration and turn it around into action to help him. It is how it is, and it is a hard road, but once you get him into therapy and in an appropriate eduational program, he will progress. You probably cannot teach him these things on your own, and you will need help from trained professionals in a multi facited program. It is intense training.

My hunch is that there is a more appropriate place for him than a regluar day care, because he needs a theraputic enviornment, so do some inquirey and make some phone calls on Monday to find out what is in your area. You can read about services for autisic kids and learn about the kind of advocacy you will need to practice at There is much for you to learn.

Take care of yourself too. If you begin to feel hopeless or overwhelmed, get help from a pschiatrist. Most primary caregivers need help at some point because this is a very difficult journey. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you do, and you will be in good company.

Get him some early intervention, and don't beat yourself up. It is not your fault, you are not alone, and you can't dp this on your own without a lot of help from professionals. Most of all, let go of the past. It's over, and you have much to learn, much to do, and you will need to be completely in the here and now to do it! May people will not see how far you have come, but you will, and you will learn how to accept his challenges and be happy.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Have you made the referral to your State's Early Intervention Services yet? If you haven't, then please make that call first thing tomorrow morning to make the referral. Since they ususally have a waiting list between the date of referral and the date that services actually begin, you want to make that call ASAP. Here is the website:

I would suggest you contact your local autism parent support group and ask if they can pair you up with a parent advocate who can help you tap into the services that are available in your community, give you some guidance on what you can do to help your son and your family as you are going through this process.

Some of the books that have helped me get a better understanding of ASD and how best to help my son are:

*Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew
*More Than Words: Helping Parents Promote Better Communication and Social Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
*Overcoming Autism: Finding the Answers, Strategies and Hope that Can Transform
*Engaging Autism

Before buying any books, check to see if your local library has them or you can borrow a copy from your local autism support group library. Also, ebay and craig's list is a good place to buy used books. It's very easy to go book crazy and to go broke doing so.

Professional services that have been very important in helping our some recover from autism:

*Developmental Pediatrician -- evaluation
*Speech Therapy -- evaluation and treatment
*Occupational Therapy -- evaluation and treatment for sensory processing disorder (SPD), fine and gross motor delays. Make sure that your OT specializes in SPD!
*ABA therapy. Every parent has an opinion about ABA. For us, it has been a crucial part of my son's recovery. I don't know what we would have done without it. ABA is basically a systematic way of teaching children with ASD in a way that is meaningful to them. It helps get behaviors under control, help children learn to communicate, socializes, self-manage their emotions, and very important life skills.

I'm sure that you will get some other very useful advise from some of the other moms out there so I will just stop with this. If you have any questions at any time, please feel free to send me a private message.

Blessings to you and your son.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I have an autistic daughter who is 4 years old now. It sounds like you could use some more help. Does he have therapist that work with him one on one at his special needs preschool? My daughter had a speech therapist, a behavioral therapist, and an occupational therapist all working with her directly one on one. She had an amazing team and she is now talking and doing amazingly well. She still gets speech and occupational therapy at her special needs preschool.

You mentioned that he isn't 3 yet, have you looked into 1st steps? I noticed someone gave you a link to their website below. They are an amazing resource. They were the ones who connected me with my daughter's team of therapists and paid for her therapy. They also provided a lot of parent training for me (I was a single mom at the time) so that I knew how to help her learn and how to deal with her behaviors. I was so impressed with the program that I am now a ABA Implementer (Behavioral therapist implementer) working with First Steps. He would only qualify for their services until his birthday, but it could make a difference.

If there are specific therapists that work with him at daycare, I would ask them for help. Have them teach you things you can do to work with him. There are a ton of books about autism at the library. I learned a lot from there. If he was diagnosed at Children's Mercy they should have given you a bunch of resources for more information. Check all of those out. There are autism support groups for parents of autistic children. Attend some of those, other parents of autistic children are an amazing resource.

Know that you didn't cause your son's autism, and that it is perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed when learning how to deal with it. The past is done, what matters now is that you can learn the best ways to help your son. You don't have to learn everything all at once. Take it a day at a time, do the best you can, and ask for help when you need it. I wish you the best.



answers from Los Angeles on

This isn't your fault and you need accept that asap! The sooner you do the sooner you can completely focus on his needs and options. I have 2 step sons with autism, 12 & 7 and they are on both ends of the spectrum. If you haven't already I would contact your school district and get him in early intervention. In CA they offer in home therapy and year round schooling. Get involved! Diet is another huge part in this. No sugars, no dairy and I would try no gluten/casein asap. Research it online. If its your parents that are your biggest supporters get them informed and involved so they can support your disipline, diet and routines. My bf feels he deprives them of things kids should enjoy like ice cream but its like a drug for them and he dones't get it. Read as much as you can and research it when you have free time.

For now, dont try so hard to teach him new things. Rather make the every day things lessons for now. When you dress him, say everything you are doing, Let's get dressed. then point out each item, pants, buttons, socks etc. He'll catch on and soon he will repeat.

Be very careful of what you allow him to watch as they start to repeat everything they see and hear! and the tv can be just as good as it is bad. They can learn so much but it becomes routine to watch tv for hours and the same movie over and over and over and over again!

You also want to have an area where he can throw his tantrums without being distruptive. For ours, they take themselves to the bathroom. If you're out in public and he acts out, pick him up and leave. At home ignore it. The more you pay attention to it the worse it usually gets.

Remember that these children dont adapt to change very well and need routine, whatever that may be for you. It is a tough job, but you can do it! i'm not and expert but I can share what I do know and what I have experienced anytime.



answers from Kansas City on

S., check with your school district. Once he turns three, he may qualify for some early intervention programs. I would start looking into it now, they may even take him earlier.

You son will never suffer because of you! Always keep following your instincts and as long as you are doing the best you can, nobody should fault you for at least not trying. You are very fortunate to have a supportive family.

The sooner you get services going for him, the better. He may respond to signing better than verbal right now, and as you both grow, you will begin to recognize what will and will not set him off. Patience is key, but it sounds like you already have that.

You already have some super input from the other posts - and I'm hoping Martha R. from Columbus will weigh in- she can tell you how to move forward from the point of an advocate.

Good luck, please keep us posted!



answers from Los Angeles on

I've read the responses of the other moms, and I really have nothing new to add--these responses have been top-notch! Good job, Moms!

I just want to echo that this is NOT your fault on any level. Autism rates have been exploding, and it has nothing to do with us! Stop beating yourself up about this (although I'm sure we all do this to ourselves).

Your son will definitely need more services. He needs speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA. These services are free if you go through your local regional centers.

Good luck! My daughter was diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism/Asperger's about a year and a half ago. The therapies have been amazingly helpful. I have a different daughter now then I had then! I've heard stories of kids who had pretty severe autism who have come a long way also. Early intervention makes all the difference1



answers from Dallas on

just because you drank doesn't mean you gave him autism. seriously. don't beat yourself up. my 18 yr old sister has autism just as bad as your son. she says maybe 4 phrases and lately she's been doing better. she knows when her birthday is and can point it out, but she's been doing the whole repetative thing since she was 4 (when she was diagnosed). don't try so hard to get him to change routine or learn something new at this point. it frustrates them beyond all reason. it's not his fault. Autistic kids are NOT social by any means and very stubborn, so as you said "his brain is wired different". You have to accept that. It'll get better, but it takes longer. So what if he's 5 and doesn't know colours or shapes. It's not the end of the world. He'll open up your eyes in a different light, trust me. It's not a death sentence for you. Keep your chin up.



answers from Minneapolis on

Please don't beat yourself up about what you did when you were pregnant and what you did the first several months of your child' life - there is nothing you can do about that other than learn form your mistakes and help yourself and other to not make them again. It sounds like you're doing a great job with that.

What (little) I do know about Autism is that it is hardwired in the child from birth and that the 15 Month mark is when early intervention really starts helping out.. so it sounds like you've been aware of this for sometime and have been working toward getting him some help.

I've heard of children who were developing 100% on track and then just stopped so even if you had been on top of things in your child's early months perhaps his development would have stopped too? No one knows. What I'm trying to say is move forward, become an EXPERT re: the resources that your community offers for children w/ special needs and get him involved in everything you can from here on out. Good luck to you and your son.



answers from Chicago on

I have a son with Aspergers, and while he is pretty high functioning, it is still extremely difficult sometimes. Don't beat yourself up, it's nothing you've done.

You said that your son is going to a special needs school, but didn't say what kinds of therapy he gets there. My son will be 5 in September, and he's in a blended class for preschool. He also gets speech an hour a week at school, and OT a half hour a week at school. I also take him to OT an hour a week outside of school, and a social skills/speech group for 45 minutes a week outside of school. My insurance pays for all of his outside therapy; I just pay a $20 copay for each therapy visit.

If you can at all afford it, I highly recommend you do some OT outside of school. It has helped tremendously! 2 things in particular seems to have made a lot of difference - "astronaut training" and therapeutic listening. The first one stimulates the brain and helps to regulate the vestibular system, proprioceptive system and auditory system. The second one is just for auditory training. The past year has made a huge difference for my son - mostly regarding speech, and I think those therapies have been much of the reason. OT in general is just great! Has made him much more confident too.

I might post more later so if you check this message before I delete this line, come back for more. I've gotta run an errand now, though.



answers from Kansas City on

Well, a lack of interaction and/or drinking during pregnancy does not cause autism. How much did you drink? What exactly were you doing with him when he was a tiny baby? I mean, I have three, and I don't think they would have let me not interact with them--they were demanding attention all the time. Did he not demand your attention? My point is that it sounds like you are blaming yourself for something you didn't do. Have you mentioned to his pediatrician that you drank some? It may be hard to do, but then s/he could check him for fetal alcohol syndrome. If he does have that (and/or autism), then maybe he could get the help he needs for that. Having an autistic child is very hard. Is he getting therapy at this special needs preschool? I hope you find some answers.

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