One-Year Old Child Stops Talking…Is This Autism, and What Can We Do?

Reader’s Question

My grandson turned 1 this month. Two weeks prior his mom and I had noticed a behaviour change. He has always been a loving, sweet, smiling, hugging child and 2 weeks before his birthday it was as if his light had gone out and another child had replaced ours. He doesn’t smile, laugh or talk anymore. He doesn’t recognize his name or respond to it or loud noises. My daughter took him to the pediatrician who says he has Autism and is referring him for further testing. The further testing appointments are 1-2 months out, and we need to know if there is anything we can do now to get our baby back. The waiting is awful and every day we lose a little more of him. Please advise me what to before it becomes irreversible.

Psychologist’s Reply

I agree that a faster response is needed. A variety of conditions can produce the symptoms you mention. A diagnosis of Autism is actually too easy here. All we know for sure is your grandson has some unusual symptoms, changes in behavior, and regressions in development. A referral for “further testing” is probably not enough. Psychological testing will be of little value here, unless accompanied by additional pediatric, neurological and medical studies. I would encourage you to contact other professionals and arrange for assessments in multiple areas such as pediatric neurology. EEG and brain scans may be needed as well.

While arranging for additional assessments, work with the mother to develop the best developmental history — when did he first sit up, walk, etc. Be able to provide a history of medical treatment, innoculations, etc. The more accurate the information available, the more accurate the assessment.

You may also want to contact Autism support groups in your area. Not because your grandson is Autistic, but because those parents have been in your situation and may have referral sources for you. They may know what clinics to contact, what professionals take an interest in similar cases, etc.

At this time, you can contact regional pediatric clinics or autistic-spectrum clinics. Ask about procedures, books, and classes on early infant stimulation. The goal is to maintain a high level of external stimulation for your grandson.

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It may be some time before you know the true nature of his condition. I believe it’s more important, however, to focus on a global assessment from many disciplines rather than assume it’s a question of Autism or Not Autism. If we’re not careful, we tend to provide testing along the lines of our “assumed” diagnosis, which can miss other important sources of assessment for the child’s functioning.

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