Joe was really proud of his son Josh. Josh spoke early at 1 and by 2, he was already recognising words. He started to recognise letters at 1, when he could already recite the letters in order. He was a neat boy who would put his toys side by side, like his trains and his trucks; sometimes, he would even line the shoes nicely at the door.
When he started nursery school though, teachers started to comment that he would be insistent on specific routines and ways of doing things. He would often be alone and not participating in group activities. He enjoyed music and movement, but when it was time for story-telling or group activity, he would at times wander off or stare into space. His teachers suggested seeking consultation.
Joe realised that Josh did not like to interact with his peers though he enjoyed chatting with older kids and with adults. He would chatter on specific topics with older people, topics that he knew a lot about because he would read or search up on the internet. He knew so much about planets and the solar system and would tell anyone who would listen about the rings of Saturn or the moons of Jupiter. He also likes dinosaurs and could talk about the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, things that Joe had to Google for, in order to communicate with his son. When Joe asked him about school however, or his friends, Josh would mutter something and then walk away.
It was not till another parent got to know about Josh’s patterns and shared with Joe how similar their sons were that Joe realised that there was something unusual. Sam told Joe that her son, Isaiah, was like that too, though Isaiah was less verbal than Josh. She also shared that consultation with a developmental paediatrician had led to further assessments and finally, a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) had been made.
ASD was a wide spectrum disorder that spans individuals with low intelligence to high professional levels. It involved having deficits in social communication, social interaction and specific behavioural patterns and rigid preferences. It made life difficult for these individuals, as they have trouble negotiating the social web, making social connections and friends, doing things together and interacting, being aware of others’ perspectives and likes and dislikes and having a narrow view of how things need to be done. Not all of them have the same issues though many share similar experiences.
Once Isaiah was diagnosed, he was started on speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and structured teaching programmes through Early Intervention. He was also recently enrolled in a social skills group. He was now all excited about going to Primary School and though he was anxious of the new environment, he was now better equipped to manage socially. He was better at communication, sharing his feelings and learning to listen to others as well. Sam was thankful Isaiah was now ready for school.
Written by Dr Lian Wee Bin
Paediatrics and Neonatal Specialist