Autism Reality

The Vancouver Sun is continuing its excellent six…

The Vancouver Sun is continuing its excellent six part series on autism with an article on early signs of autism in toddlers. One of the items listed in the article that we noted when Conor was young (there were several causes for concern early on with Conor) was a failure to play peek-a-boo at any point as a toddler. ( We did not know about autism we were just concerned ). A big one was his failure to learn to say mommy, daddy and other basic words. He also used to play for loooong periods of time sifting sand. He would hold one of those small toy plastic basket balls in his hand for hours. We have several pictures of him asleep in the car seat his hand grasping one of the primary colored plastic basketballs. We had an indoor swing set and Conor would lay with his face pressed firmly into the side of the set. But it was the failure to develop any significant language or show any substantial recognition of mom and dad that led us to seek medical attention for Conor and ultimately led to his initial diagnosis of PDD-NOS which was subsequently changed to Autism Disorder.

The signs of autism in toddlers
Vancouver Sun

A decade ago, autism diagnosticians developed CHAT — the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, designed to flag symptoms of autistic behaviour.

If the majority of answers to the questions are ‘no’ it is suggested parents talk with their family doctor or pediatrician. Here they are:

Does your child enjoy playing word/action games with others, such as peek-a-boo?

Does your child show emotions that fit the situation?

Is your child interested in what’s going on around him or her?

Does your child enjoy playing with many different toys, in many ways?

Is your child beginning to enjoy pretend play, taking turns and imitating other people’s play?

Is your child interested in approaching other children and joining a group?

Can your child easily indicate his or her interests and needs through words or sounds?

Is your child talking as you would expect?

Does your child point to, ask for, or try to show you something?

Does your child look at you when you talk to him or her?

Does your child imitate words or sounds?

Does your child imitate gestures and facial expressions?

Is your child comfortable with changes in routine?

Does your child hear and react to sound as you would expect?

Does your child enjoy being touched and touching other things?

Does your child move his or her hands like other children?

Does your child see and react to things as you would expect?

Does your child eat and drink a variety of foods and beverages?

Point to a toy and say, “Look, there’s a ——.” Does your child look in the right direction?

Use two cups and spoons. Invite your child to make juice with you — mix, pour and drink. Does your child participate?

Ask your child to show you something in the room. “Show me the ———— ?” “Where’s the ———— ?” Does your child turn and point or touch the items?

April 24, 2007 Posted by | autism disorder, faces of autism, signs of autism, vancouver sun | 1 Comment

Emotional Roller Coaster – Living With Autism

The following excerpts are from the first of a six part Vancouver Sun series Faces of Autism by columnist Peter McMartin and photographer Glenn Baglo. The author is correct to point out the uniqueness of each person with autism. It is also true though, that life with an autism family member and loved one, is an emotional roller coaster with considerable stress. Parents of severely autistic children will be able to relate to much of what is portrayed in this article.

Autistic 14-year-old Kristi Jansen swings from crying to laughing to screaming in a matter of seconds. Her body, home and family members — especially her mother — bear the scars of her violent outbursts that have only been calmed through years of expensive therapy. Kristi isn’t a typical autistic child — in fact, there is no such thing, as Pete McMartin and photographer Glenn Baglo discover. What families struggling with the disorder do have in common, however, is intense physical, emotional and financial stress.

t is 3:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and Kristi Jansen, 14, of Langley, is just home from high school. She is tall and blond, with the long-limbed athletic build of a middle-distance runner. She is wearing a short jacket, leggings and a camouflage print skirt — an outfit of combat chic that gives her an artful, edgy look, as if she were the kind of young woman who would gravitate toward the high school drama club. Her mother, Sandy, gives Kristi a Popsicle. Kristi settles on the den couch to watch television and Sandy turns on cartoons for her. Her mother and I go into the living room at the front of the house to talk.

And then, without warning, Kristi is screaming.

That is not quite right. Kristi is screaming and laughing and crying, one outburst after the other. They come within seconds of each other, intermingled, without pause, as if she were channel-surfing her emotions. …… …..

April 21, 2007 Posted by | autism awareness, autism disorder, emotional, laughing, screaming, vancouver sun | Leave a comment

Vancouver Sun – The Many Faces of Autism

One fundamental point which is repeatedly ignored in discussions, debates and arguments over autism is that “autism” as discussed in the media is a spectrum of disorders which includes autism disorder and other related disorders eg. PDD-NOS, Aspergers. There are many faces of autism, many different characteristics. The Vancouver Sun has published a balanced and understandable overview of autism disorders and promises to present a series of stories portraying different aspects of the spectrum of autism realities.

To understand the many faces of autism, first consider what it is not

Pete McMartin, Vancouver Sun

Published: Saturday, April 21, 2007


Simply put, there is no one profile that fits those diagnosed with autism. So, to define what autism is, it might be best by pointing out what it is not.


It is a neurological and, ultimately, a biological disorder that affects the normal development of the brain in areas of social interaction, communication and sometimes cognitive skills. Usually, that disorder manifests itself before the child reaches three. (More on those symptoms and their diagnosis in a later instalment.)




It is a spectrum of disorders. On that spectrum are five related disorders, the three most common of these being classic autistic disorder (AD), pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger’s syndrome. They share some behaviours but not others. Those with AD, for example, are often withdrawn and can be completely non-verbal, while those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome can have normal verbal and academic skills but have extreme difficulty interacting socially with others.


Some have below-average intelligence, some are average and some are above average.

Additionally, mental abilities can be uneven. A person on the autism spectrum might be able to do complex math but be unable to tie his or her own shoes.

Some are capable of holding jobs and of living independently or semi-independently; some have the intellectual capacity to work but not the social skills to make their way in the work environment; some must receive 24-hour care their entire lives.


It is a life-long condition. As one parent of a 12-year-old girl diagnosed with severe autism said:

“Parents have to understand:

“This isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.”

The initial symptoms, however, can be ameliorated through a combination of intensive early childhood therapy and, it has to be said, the fierce and protective love of parents and family.

See for more from the six-day special feature


The story of a severe case, and life at home with an autistic child.


Two mothers, their tears, and the sacrifices they must make living with autism.


How the health care system discriminates against those on low income.


Immigrants and the special challenges they face in dealing with autism.


The high cost of therapy, and a mother’s determination.


Two autistic teens and their families face an uncertain future.”

April 21, 2007 Posted by | Aspergers' Syndrome, autism awareness, autism disorder, autism interventions, behavioral intervention, PDD-NOS, the rain man, vancouver sun | Leave a comment