For quite some time now I've suspected that Sissy was autistic. I even mentioned it in a blog post last November. However, I didn't know much about autism and assumed that because she liked going to church and attending the youth group activities that she must not be autistic because I mistakenly thought that people with autism didn't like to be around people, even though she didn't function normally in the group. Then, after being at one of our specialist's appointments, he asked her to return to the waiting room, turned to me and said, "She's not made any progress at all in 6 months, I'm going to consult with our autism specialist."
I received an evaluation in the mail to fill out about Sissy's behavior traits and she was positive for everything except two traits. We've now been referred to Kaiser's Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic three hours away in San Jose so we can get a definite diagnosis. I also spoke with our pediatrician about autism since her son is severely autistic and she explained to me that autism is a developmental disorder, not a mental health disorder. I knew it wasn't a mental health disorder, but I didn't know it was considered a developmental disorder.
Here is a list I found online from the National Institute of Health that describes some of the characteristics of signs and symptoms of autism and an explanation of the two categories of behaviors, Sissy's behaviors involve the Social Communication/Interaction type:
Not all people with ASD will show all of these behaviors, but most will show several. There are two main types of behaviors: “restricted / repetitive behaviors” and “social communication / interaction behaviors.”
1. Getting upset by a slight change in a routine or being placed in a new or overly stimulating setting
2. Making little or inconsistent eye contact
3. Having a tendency to look at and listen to other people less often
4. Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others
5. Responding in an unusual way when others show anger, distress, or affection
6. Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or other verbal attempts to gain attention
7. Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversations
8. Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
9. Repeating words or phrases that they hear, a behavior called echolalia
10. Using words that seem odd, out of place, or have a special meaning known only to those familiar with that person’s way of communicating
11. Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
12. Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
13. Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.
Sissy strongly exhibits ALL except #8, which she exhibits, but just a little. What's not listed here, but is also very telling, is how Sissy DOES respond/behave.
Looking at this list, anyone in the adoption community who attended classes at their agency or read the adoption books will know that many of these symptoms are on the same list as that of children who have been raised in orphanages. The difference is that healthy kids start to catch up, or at least learn enough to be able to safely function, even if they never quite reach what we'd consider normal, and Sissy hasn't been able to do that.
I'm so relieved and glad that we are finally finding the right answers to help her.