The toddler years are a magical tapestry woven with milestones, meltdowns, and moments of pure, heart-bursting joy. But for some parents, this beautiful chaos is tinged with a niggling concern – could their child be autistic? I absolutely understand this concern first-hand, as I have two children with autism and I am a Primary School teacher and SENCO.
Suspecting autism is a natural reaction when something feels amiss in your toddler’s world. Social interactions that seem off-kilter, delayed language development, or a preference for solitary play can trigger a whirlwind of emotions. This is where your journey begins, not as a burden, but as an opportunity to understand and support your child. However, at the time, you can feel that there is a massive weight on your shoulders.
Navigating the Uncharted: Where to Begin?
First, breathe. Breathe deeply, for you are not alone. Thousands of UK families walk this path every year, and a wealth of support awaits you but you do have to seek it out. Your first step is to talk to your GP or health visitor. They are your initial compass, assessing your child’s development and guiding you towards specialist evaluation if needed. Remember, early intervention is key, and seeking help paves the path for crucial support. My advice is that you ‘know’ your child better than anyone else and sometimes you have to push and have a voice to ensure that your concerns are heard.
Building Your Knowledge Arsenal
As you wait for professional assessments, equip yourself with information. The National Autistic Society (NAS) UK is a great resource. Online toolkits, informative guides, and helplines could become your trusted companions. Immerse yourself in their library (either physical library or online) to help you understand the autism spectrum, the nuances of communication, and the unique strengths autistic children possess. It’s not all negative although in these early days, I know that it can feel this way.
Connecting with Others
No parent should have to walk this path alone. Seek out the comfort and wisdom of other parents. Support groups, both online and local, offer a sanctuary of shared experiences. You’ll find solace in stories that mirror your own, practical advice gleaned from lived experiences, and a support system of like-minded people who will champion your corner. Remember, this is a journey, not a destination, and your fellow travellers understand the twists and turns better than anyone.
Diagnosis and Beyond
A diagnosis, when it comes, is not a label, but a key unlocking a world of support. I feel very strongly about this and my experience bith as a teacher (and SENCO) and a parent with children autism is testament to this. It opens doors to early intervention programs, tailored therapies, and educational resources specific to your child’s needs. It empowers you to advocate for their unique learning style and celebrate their individual strengths.
Embracing Your Child’s Uniqueness
Autism is not a deficit, but a different way of experiencing the world. Your child brings a unique symphony of perspectives, passions, and talents to the table. Nurture their strengths, be it an uncanny memory for facts, a deep connection to nature, or an artistic brilliance that takes your breath away. Provide them with environments that cater to their sensory needs and communication preferences. Remember, their world is just as valid as yours, and understanding it is the key to unlocking their potential.
A Journey of Growth: For You and Your Child
This path when you suspect autism, it will have its challenges, moments of frustration, and days when hope feels like a wisp of smoke. I know that and have been there many times and unfortunately this is the reality. But amidst it all, there will be laughter, breakthroughs, and the profound joy of seeing your child blossom in their own unique way. Every milestone suddenly becomes something to celebrate, as does every ‘Inchstone’.
Embrace the rollercoaster. Lean on your support network, celebrate small victories, and remember, you are not alone. With love, understanding, and the right resources, you can help your autistic child thrive, painting their own vibrant masterpiece on the canvas of life.
These are the resources I have found particularly useful during my journey with my children. My advice is to make sure that what you read comes from a trusted source. Whilst forums can be very supportive at times, I have found that some of the advice is not necessarily the best advice. As with everything along the parenting journey, you need to filter advice and work with what is best for you and your child. If you suspect autism in your toddler (or child of any age), these resources are very useful.
- The National Autistic Society: https://www.autism.org.uk/
This is perhaps the most well known resource for parents with children they suspect maybe autistic or post diagnosis. It is used by parents, teachers and medical staff.
- NHS information on autism in children: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/
The NHS is a good place to start to find out more about autism. There are some useful videos and a wealth of information on the NHS website.
- Autism Together: https://www.autismtogether.co.uk/
This is one of the leading authorities in autism and offers parents the opportunity to attend parenting courses.
Remember, you are not just a parent; you are a navigator, a champion, and a cheerleader. This journey may be unexpected, but it is filled with extraordinary moments and boundless love. Take heart, stay informed, and walk hand-in-hand with your child, one beautiful step at a time. It’s not easy at times, I can’t pretend it is but this is the hand I have been dealt and I love my children despite their differences.
We have a new section designed for parents navigating the world of SEND – if there is something you would like us to discuss, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.