Preventing Autism?

Eli is showing some red flags for autism. We are waiting for an appointment with a neurologist in a couple of weeks to find out, although some friends who have been down this road have recommended we see a pediatric psychologist instead. I’ll be looking into that this week. I honestly don’t think Eli is autistic right now. He is incredibly relational, shows empathy, likes to do everything with somebody else, and has been recently been showing vast improvement in giving eye contact.

I do however have this feeling that he is in danger of becoming autistic… kind of like he’s on the tipping point and it is important to keep him from going over. It is a gut-feeling, intuitive thing and it is very strong. It has only happened a few other times in my life and each time I have been later so thankful that I paid attention. I’m kind of feeling that God is giving me a heads-up here. And while it may seem a bit screwy to other people, especially with an issue like autism and all of the controversy that surrounds the condition, I don’t want to find myself a year from now with my son locked in his own world bemoaning the fact that I didn’t listen to the voice inside that was doing everything it could to get my attention. If in the end he does end up with an Autism diagnosis  despite our interventions and precautions, at least I will know I did everything I could and not waste any time or emotional energy on guilt.

So what will we be doing?

First, we will see the neurologist and most likely the psychologist as well to make sure he doesn’t already fall on the spectrum. I may think he doesn’t, but I’m not a expert in this area and I’m also not completely objective when it comes to my little boy.

We will continue with the speech therapy and occupational therapy that he already receives for his speech delay and Sensory Processing Disorder. These are the same therapies he’d receive with an autism diagnosis. When we are at therapy I am trying to learn as much as I can and am continuing the activities at home. If he does get a diagnosis we will add on any other therapeutic interventions they recommend.

We took Eli to see Dr. Sears last week. It was an extremely helpful appointment. The biomedical theory about Autism makes sense to me. We will be following Dr. Sears’ advice found in the preventing autism chapter in The Autism Book: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention (Sears Parenting Library). See here for an overview of the book.

 (This link is provided through the Amazon Associates program.)

We have decided to stop all vaccinations (we were previously on his alternative vaccination schedule), at least for now. We will likely reevaluate this decision in a couple of years. We are starting Eli on the recommended supplements (multivitamin, cod liver oil, vitamin D, and a probiotic). And the biggie is we are now doing the gluten free casein free diet (GFCF). There will be future posts about that one, I’m sure.

(I know some of this stuff is controversial. I’ve read quite a bit from both sides, and this is direction we have chosen to take. While I am generally open to hearing conflicting points of view, this is a time of struggle for me and I don’t want the comment section on this post to turn into a heated discussion. It’s fine if you don’t agree with me, but please don’t choose this place and this time to spell it all out. I just don’t have the energy.)

As a footnote… We also spoke to Dr. Sears about how hard it has been lately to get Eli down at night. (Actually it always has been, but prior to therapy I could just let him sleep in in the morning and it wasn’t such a big deal.) It doesn’t matter when we try to start putting him down, or what we do, we are lucky if he falls asleep by 10:30 and often it is 11 or midnight. The doctor recommended we give him melatonin at night. I had wondered about that before but don’t feel comfortable giving supplements to the little guy without medical advice. Well, let me tell you, the stuff is amazing! Eli is out for the count and snoring away within 15 minutes of taking it.


Ribbon Streamers

One of the things the occupational therapists are working on with Eli is motor planning (basically thinking about and carrying out a specific body motion.) Because of his Sensory Processing Disorder he has trouble seeing a certain motion and mimicking it. Many of the signs he uses are approximations of the actual sign… and sometimes not so very approximate. He does stick to his version though and I am able to understand him, another person who knows baby signs though probably wouldn’t recognize many of his signs.

So to work on this skill,  one activity is to play with ribbon streamers. I don’t know if there is another name for these, it’s just the best one I could come up with. They are just lengths of ribbons attached to a handle.

He holds one and I have another. I try to get him to imitate me swinging it from side to side, up and down, around and around, etc. Add some music and dancing and a mini party can be had!

Of course hitting the wall and other things with them is also great fun.

Want to make some yourself? It’s cheap, quick and easy!

I started with two scraps from an old pair of pants. I didn’t measure… I just cut them the length I wanted the handle loop to be and wide enough to fold over a few times to give the handles some stiffness. I chose to use the existing seams to add extra weight.

I folded the raw edges in and folded them again to get the width I wanted and pressed them with an iron.

I stitched down the length of each handle.

This was a perfect project for the $1 box of ribbon I had picked up long ago at Michael’s. I had two of these boxes. Each ribbon is 18″ long which isn’t really even enough for wrapping most presents, yet just right for these ribbon streamers.

I unrolled all of the ribbon spools and sandwiched the ribbons between the two ends of the folded over handle. This is a quick and dirty project… finishing before the end of naptime took higher priority to craftsmanship, so the handle ends are just raw edged.

I then sewed the ribbon into place with three  lines of back and forth stitching. The first handle went relatively smoothly.

The second which used fabric with the outer seam of the pant leg, not so much. Besides the six layers of ribbon, each side of the handle was by this point at least six layers of heavy material thick. I should have clued in that this would be a problem when I broke the first needle.

But no, I had to keep going with a new needle that promptly broke as well…

after being driven through the bobbin case! Ahem…

I managed to hand sew the rest of the handle, not easy let me tell you. We will see how long it lasts.

For now they are working just fine. A therapeutic toy for only $2 (not counting the replacement sewing machine needles!)


I have now finished a couple sets of these streamers to put in my Etsy shop Folk Haven Creations.If there is continued interest I will make more. As you can see the ribbon streamers for sale are not the quick and dirty version shown in the first part of this post.

I’m quite pleased with how the handles turned out on these (and with the fact that I didn’t break any more needles!) I used a pair of jeans that are part spandex so they are a bit stretchy and softer to the touch.

These streamers are also longer, measuring 28″ long from the top of the handle to the ends of the ribbons.

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Letter to Eli, 23 Months

Dear Eli,

What a month this has been!

In mid-December you were given a developmental screening. We were expecting it to show a speech delay but were shocked by the degree of delay they say you have. The good thing is that it qualifies you for some free services in addition to the therapy that the insurance has approved. We have full confidence you will do just fine in the speech department given time, and the extra help is certainly welcome. Already you are showing improvement. At the time of the screening you weren’t saying much verbally other than “Mama” (when crying) and a couple of words you would repeat if asked to. Now you are saying “Mama” all the time and have added to that more, sopa, agua, dog, tea, Dada, ball, go, apple, Elmo, in, ‘Acki (Aunt Jacki) and a couple others that I just can’t think of right now. As of yet you’ve only had 2 speech therapy sessions, so I think a big part of it is just that you are becoming more ready to speak.

What we didn’t realize before the screening was that some of your behaviors aren’t just you being Eli, but rather indicate a Sensory Processing Disorder. For you it is mainly the vestibular system that is affected, although there are other non-motion things going on with you as well.

This actually helps to explain a lot… especially about why you are ALWAYS moving. As it has been explained to me you don’t have a sense of where your body is located in space unless you are receiving the stimulation of movement. Ironically, for your body to feel at rest it has to be moving. It explains why when you were a little baby you couldn’t sleep unless you were in the swing, and later why you would start rolling across the bed like a little tumbleweed waking up on your hands and knees crying 3 or 4 times every night. (We are thankful you don’t do that anymore.)

You beg to take a (cold) bath at least a couple of times a day. Once is usually the limit. I don't look forward to the day when you make the connection between getting dirty and bathing. I shudder to think of what you will do then. 🙂

Other ways you are affected are that you only want to be bathed in cold water. We’ve slowly gotten you to the point where you will tolerate it being luke warm. You also aren’t tolerating a lot of different textures of food, and often end up coughing when you try to drink fluids or when eating small grains. The swallow study you had done this past month showed that your esophagus works fine, so the problem has been attributed to the Sensory Processing Disorder.  In addition to the group and individual speech therapy you’ll be receiving you will also have group and individual occupational therapy. We are all of the sudden very busy, but I’m so glad that there is help available for you.

Adding the final touches to Mama's crudely drawn sidewalk pig.

You continue to love music, instruments and performances. You love to hear the sound of a crowd cheering and applauding. Sometimes when you are in a fussy mood it helps for us to turn on a game show in the background because when you here the applause you usually can’t help yourself but to cheer and applaud along.

You have had an on-going love affair with your daddy’s old guitar for many months now. The headstock is now completely shattered from all of the times you have dropped it on the floor. Let’s face it, it’s a lot of guitar for a little guy. It has been held together with duct tape, but the few remaining strings are becoming less and less strum-able.

Thankfully my Aunt Sylvia and Uncle Dave sent you a new, toddler-sized guitar. The day it arrived you spent much of the day carrying it around in a big bear hug when you weren’t strumming it. I caught you kissing it a time or two as well. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get a non-blurry picture of you with it yet.

You also are drawn to the microphones and drum equipment at church. It is so cute to see you in your element happily exploring these things after service. Less cute is our inevitably loud exit as no amount of time with your beloved instruments is ever enough. Your howls and shrieks of frustrated disappointment are most likely heard at least a block away.

Here you are pointing inside your cup, exclaiming delightedly "TEA!"

Your love of tea continues to grow, much to my delight. You like to play tea party, in which you serve me pretend cup after cup of hot(!) tea, poured with all sorts of burbling water sound effects. In return, I am expected to share any cup of my (real) tea with you. I pour a little in a small cup and you impatiently wait for it to cool. This practice has led to a great improvement in your ability to drink from a cup without choking. The tea we have at home is all caffeine free but when we are out I like to get an occasional soy chai latte. I order it weak and you enjoy drinking the cold last half inch in the bottom of the cup so much that I figure whatever small amount of caffeine there is won’t kill you. The looks we get from other people are really something though, as it seems like I am giving my toddler coffee! This appearance is then only underscored by your normal extremely active behavior! (For the record I’ve never noticed any change in behavior after you’ve enjoyed the last of my tea.)

Riding on the firetruck at the park.

There are so many things you enjoy doing these days, but going to Barnes & Noble takes the cake! Now if we even drive on the street that glorious store is located on you begin frantically signing “book” long before the store is even in sight. At night your daddy and I like to wind down by watching a bit of Masterpiece Theater. He always mutes the B&N commercial at the beginning to prevent you from getting the idea that you have to go there RIGHT NOW. They have now removed the Lego table, but there are so many other things you love to do there I’m not sure you have really even noticed.

You had to test drive EVERY nook! You were so careful to replace each one carefully on the display holder without me even having to say anything. I was amazed (and hovered just the same.).

You usually make a bee line for the Music and DVD section immediately upon entering the store, (although today you were momentarily distracted by those wonderful nooks.) As soon as it is in sight you break into a canter, chirping “Elmo!”, Elmo!” Once inside the music section you gravitate to the DVDs looking for the Baby Einstein and Sesame Street displays.

These DVDs are then taken one by one to the scanner to be scanned. This is very serious work.

With each satisfying beep you abandon  that DVD and look for another to scan.You are actually pretty good about returning them to the place you found them, but you sometimes need a little encouragement. The sales people who work in that section  now recognize you and even seem to enjoy your visits.

Leave it to you to find the guitar!

Then it’s off to the children’s section, which, after all, is where Elmo lives.

You especially like the books in the vehicle area that have all sorts of sound effect buttons on them.

At some point it is time to go to the cafe, and as Daddy is usually your shadow at Barnes & Noble, you find Mama there with a cup of delicious tea and hopefully a coconut macaroon! In fact, the best way to get you to leave the children’s section sans tantrum is to suggest, “Eli, do you want some tea?”

Mmmmm... TEA!

Best of all, Barnes & Noble is a place where we occasionally meet up with people who love you!

Yes, Barnes & Nobel is truly your idea of heaven on earth!

I can’t wait to see what this last month of your second year will bring. I love you so very, very very much!