Over the last four years, I have had so many people ask me what first alerted us to know that something was wrong with the twins, to lead to their diagnosis. I have to preface my response by saying that our early years were not easy. In fact, they were so difficult that they are nearly a cloudy dream that has almost faded from memory. I can say that in retrospect, so many signs were there, but we were probably too tired to notice. It's true that we had an older 'neurotypical' child to compare the twins to, but in our defence, we were told over and over again "it's different with twins. It's a twin thing."
Rather than list all of the signs by assigning them to who experienced what, I'm just going to list them all in point form. This will have to be a first half of a list that will be behaviours and signs that were symptomatic of autism. The second half of the list will come at a later time and will be comprised of medical signs that I NOW believe contributed to the diagnosis, based on my more recent beliefs that autism does not just stem from the brain, but from the gut and body as well.
I couldn't dare break down the signs chronologically as they appeared. I wish I could. But as I say, that time in our lives really was a blur. I can only say that these signs were pretty solid all prior to the age of two for both boys.
- often appeared deaf; did not respond to name, twins did not acknowledge each other
- eyes did not track objects or people's movements
- lack of physical affection, would not tolerate being cuddled or held for length of time
- appeared to be colicky- excessive screaming, fussy, difficult to calm
- could never develop a routine for either boy, sleep schedules were erratic & unpredictable
- introduction to foods did not happen as it should- rejected entire food groups, once they found something they liked they were fixated on that food and we could not even rotate brands
- PICA- eating, licking non-food items including bricks, threads, dirt, rocks, crayons, etc.
- sought out different textures- ran fingernails over pieces of paper, along carpet, fabrics, etc.
- constantly covered ears with both hands
- flicking of fingers in front of face
- no interest in toys, activities (even bubbles) or other children
- fixation on particular objects (pulling threads out of couch), television
- toe-walking, excessive jumping on the spot, flapping of hands
- strange vocalizations
- lack of eye contact
- had a couple of words, appeared for a day, then disappeared
- no communication. used adult's hand as if it was a tool or extension of their own arm and dragged around to reach for desired object.
- TEMPER TANTRUMS!!!!!!!! could last for hours and hours with no explanation for the cause. No self-regulation to calm down.
- excessive hyperactivity
- 'inappropriate' emotional responses- laughing/giggling or crying for unexplained reason
- extreme difficulty with transitions from place to place or activity to activity
- did not try to 'please' parents in any way
- could not act on any commands/receptive instructions
- zero imitation skills
- zero attempts at labeling (pointing to objects and saying "huh?" or other typical baby commenting
- seeking out of dangerous stimuli (ie. if Will pinched his finger in a door, he would stick it back in over and over again)
- appeared to be a lack of 'feeling' when in pain.
- not hitting milestones for gross motor or fine motor skills (climbing stairs, jumping, grasp, etc. not typical)
- extreme fixation or addiction to preferred items - milk bottle had to be specific colour/type
- lost in their own world. Had own agenda. Oblivious to world around them.
- extreme, unexplained fears
- huge anxiety
- sought out deep pressure.. would often try to squish behind people seated in chairs, or bury himself under tight places like the sofa or bed
- like to cocoon himself in heavy bedding
It makes me sad to write this. Looking back I suppose to anyone else, it would have seemed obvious. No point looking backwards. I just hope this might help another parent, family member or friend, to help catch the signs early so that a child might seek out an early diagnosis.