One of the common  complaints that I hear from parents is their frustration with navigating  the healthcare system. As your advocate, it is very important to promote knowledge and awareness daily.  Early detection is the key  when handling   any health issue.  It is very important to help you identify ways in which you can navigate the healthcare and social system more effectively.  April is known as Autism awareness  month,  April 2, 2016, was celebrated as  World Autism Awareness Day. Thousands of landmarks, including the CN tower went Blue to raise global awareness about autism spectrum disorder.  With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognised as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome.

 According to  Autism Canada  Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological condition that can affect the normal function of the gastrointestinal, immune, hepatic, endocrine and nervous systems. It impacts normal brain development leaving most individuals with communication problems, difficulty with typical social interactions and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour.  Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, math, and art. Studies also show that autism is four to five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism.  There is no standard “type” or “typical” person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder but being able to recognize early signs is the key to early diagnosis.  Presently, we do not have a medical test that can diagnose autism. For this reason, parents should pay attention to their child’s social and language skills as well as their child’s play skills and body movements. -

Autism awareness has drawn attention in Jamaica as well, Autism and other disorders can be misunderstood if parents are not aware of what needs to be done to help their children strive. Taken from an article in the Jamaican Observer as a Mother of autistic child vents her frustration
 written BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer reporter husseyd @jamaicaobserver.com
 "Sometimes mi frustrated. Sometimes mi feel fi lef him and just make them kill him in a Bay (Montego Bay) because mi tired of it! To deal with this no easy you know, lady, and fi know seh you have to go deal with it for the rest of your life?!"
Davidson explained that her son was diagnosed with autism — a lifelong brain disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them — after many tests which began soon after she discovered that at age two, he was still not speaking.
Her son Christopher Clarke was seven when he was diagnosed as autistic at the psychiatric ward at Cornwall Regional Hospital.
"But the doctor didn't tell me what is autism. Is somebody where mi used to live did have a 'doctor dictionary' and she look up the word autism and tell me say it mean the delay of everything," Davidson said. "But mi still never know nothing 'bout autism. But mi stay with him and try with him. It was at the age of 10 that I took him out of diapers after I read a book on autism. To show you that I am working with him," she said.

As a Nurse from a Jamaican background, this story can be the story for many regardless of your cultural background. The alliance between families and providers is the key to supporting your child’s progress, but  this can be difficult for parents who have limited English proficiency or lack the knowledge and skills to access systems of care successfully.  I have always stated that It is very important for care  providers to use cultural  competence  in identifying early signs of ASD and making appropriate referrals for diagnosis and treatment. According to The Mother Company,  the average age at which a child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder in the United States is around four years old, most parents who ultimately get a diagnosis report having  concerns about their child’s development or behavior by the time the child is just 18 months old.  

Kudos to   Chief Saunders  of the Toronto Police  who had his son  with him at his  May 28, 2015  swearing in ceremony.
Chief Saunders says he has learned a lot from his son, mostly about listening. When you’re dealing with autism, he discovered, you have to listen to what a person means, not what he says.
“When you come home from school and say, ‘This is the worst day in my life ever. I wish I were dead,’ that translates into ‘I had a bad day’ or ‘I had a bad encounter with so and so.’ 

The chief says he learned to do things like say that he himself had suffered through a bad day or an angry encounter and that he felt bad about it. That could help the talk along.
It is no secret that health literacy increases when families understand the care needed for themselves or their children. Every child develops differently, however  understanding healthy milestones in child development is  used to help Parents and Doctors see if children are developing accordingly. Remember not every delay calls for a trip to the Doctors. But be aware. One thing that I insist on, is being  persistent  when you require medical attention of any kind. Check to see if your child is achieving these typical milestones at each age level:

By 3 to 4 months
Watches faces with interest and follows moving objects
Recognizes familiar objects and people; smiles at the sound of your voice
Begins to develop a social smile
Turns head toward sounds

By 7 months

Responds to other people's emotions
Enjoys face-to-face play; can find partially-hidden objects
Explores with hands and mouth; struggles for out-of-reach objects
Responds to own name
Uses voice to express joy and displeasure; babbles chains of sounds

By 12 months/1 year

Enjoys imitating people; tries to imitate sounds
Enjoys simple social games, such as “Gonna get you!”
Explores objects; finds hidden objects
Responds to “no”; uses simple gestures, such as pointing to an object
Babbles with changes in tone; may use single words (e.g., dada, mama, uh-oh!)
Turns to person speaking when his/her name is called.

By 24 months/2 years

Imitates behaviour of others; is excited about company of other children
Understands several words
Finds deeply-hidden objects; points to named pictures and objects
Begins to sort by shapes and colours; begins simple make-believe play
Recognizes names of familiar people and objects; follows simple instructions
Combines two words to communicate with others, such as “More cookie?”

By 36 months/3 years

Expresses affection openly and has a wide range of emotions
Makes mechanical toys work; plays make-believe games
Sorts objects by shape and colour and matches objects to pictures
Follows a 2- or 3-part command; uses simple phrases to communicate with others, such as “Go outside, swing?”
Uses pronouns (I, you, me) and some plurals (cars, dogs)

By 48 months/4 years

Cooperates with other children; is increasingly inventive in fantasy play
Names some colours; understands concepts of counting and time
Speaks in sentences of five to six words
Tells stories; speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand
Follows three-part commands; understands “same” and “different”

By 60 months/5 years

Wants to be like his/her friends; likes to sing, dance, and act
Is able to distinguish fantasy from reality
Shows increased independence
Can count ten or more objects and correctly name at least four colours
Speaks in sentences of more than five words; tells longer stories

 If you suspect  that your child or someone you know  has  autism spectrum disorder, please consult with your family Doctor, a developmental pediatrician. Neurologist, Psychologist. As your advocate. I am able to help you navigate the system as well as help you understand the signs that you should be reporting to your physician. Remember you are the most important part of your health care team.

This blog is dedicated to a special boy and girl  that I know

Resources use


Here is a milestone chart that you can use as a guideline









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