Autism/Austim 8.5 months

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Question
Hello.

Thank you so much for reading and helping. You have no idea how much I want answers/help!

Ok.. so I have an 8.5 month old daughter. She is very quiet. She cooed and smiled at normal times but around 4 months old stopped cooing and never started again. She has had reflux since early on and is on meds for that twice a day. She still vomits pretty regularly after feedings and sounds raspy at times.. so we had her seen by an ENT she said everything seemed to function fine but throat was red from the reflux. Also had hearing tested and it was fine. I guess I will list her pros and cons to save time...
Pros:
Does respond to name almost always
holds her own bottle, sippy cup and self feeds table food
crawls well- started at 7months
pulls to stand and cruising well- holding on with one hand and trying to climb stairs already!
just started to babble at 8 months 1 week. says dada, gaga, "C" sound but does this VERY rarely and not talking to us more just on her own.
Eye contact is very good
can respond to commands well if she is in the mood... say Aubree bang and she will bang her blocks, say smash your blocks and she will knock them down that kind of thing..
smiles at siblings
if you say where is dada she looks for him..same for sister and dog and our fish
when feeding is "trained" to say Ahh with each spoonful. and raises her hands up to get picked up and makes and Ahh sound because i was trying to teach her UP.

So..I know I sound crazy because that seems like a lot of pros.. which is my problem. I just feel she is off...here are the cons:

Does not make noise in crib to get our attention after she wakes up. we only know she's up because we hear her crawling around
Doesn't really seem to get excited much at all. She will smile but is very unemotional
doesn't really play with toys. She will bang if i tell her too but rarely does it on her own..only mouths things.
does not get upset when you leave the room.
no clapping or waving or gesturing other than for Up and thats only if you hold your hands out first
almost never smiles at strangers- just isn't a big smiler in general
she is very hot and cold. somedays can imitate a little with coughing or raspberries but then won't do it again for weeks.

So we take her to a speech therapist who says yes she is very quiet but she makes good eye contact so... lets just check in every month and watch her progress. Is that really all we can do? Does any of this sound concerning to you? I really want to help her as much as i can now because all i do is see how earlier the better and if you start so young maybe you can reverse some affects. I feel like she has some good things going so I want to bring those out more but i am not a therapist so I just feel a little lost.  Thanks again for any advise.

Answer
Hello Brenda,

You are obviously a concerned mother who is paying attention to her daughter, thus you are far from being crazy or sounding like one.
From my experience, there is a fine line between personality and autism, conventionally we diagnose autism based on three aspects: communication, language and interests. Therefore, as you may already know, a child who is less than a year old is hard to diagnose since they are only starting to show their competences on these areas and there is a lot of variability between children at this age. So, what I advise you to do is to keep paying attention and going to the speech therapist, she will be able to guide you, I hope. Also, what is done for children with autism is essentially training communication, language, social skills amongst other competences, so just keep interacting with your child and do not focus on what she is less capable of doing, but on what she is very good at. Play with her and the siblings, sing to her and ask her to sing back. Another thing you can do is to provide social situations with new children, do not mind if she is not that fond of adults, what is most relevant is how she is with children because those are her peers.
From studies in this field, what is usually seen is that parent intervention is sometimes as good as the one provided by a therapist, but the parent needs to be taught how to work with the child. So ask your therapist what you can do to help your child, even if she does not have autism, she will certainly benefit from playing and being stimulated by you.
If needed, just contact me again with further questions and news, and maybe I will be a greater help next time.

Best wishes,

Cátia.

Autism

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Cátia Oliveira

Expertise

Being a speech therapist and a homeschool teacher I can answer questions related to communication, speech, interaction, relations with others, intervention, education and especially family and community respect for the amazing individuals that children with autism have proven to be in my career. I am especially interested in theory of mind development.

Experience

I have been a speech therapist for more than three years. I have been practicing both in clinic, educational and home settings. In have been working with children with autism for a long time and I have known children with autism with extremely different characteristics which provided me with the expertise to understand this developmental disorder with more accuracy.

Education/Credentials
I have a degree in speech therapy from Escola superior de tecnologia da saúde do porto and i have been a frequent presence on seminars and workshops about communication and language. Also, I have a great interest for autism and I have been researching this field for a long amount of time.

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