One of the big things that struck me when my eldest daughter was little was that I started to “know” that something was up. When she was very little, she appeared to just have Down Syndrome. As she got older, I noticed differences between her and the other children with Down Syndrome. I would read what other children on the T21 forums were doing, and I thought to myself, “why isn’t mine doing that too?” The usual answer is that each child is different and would develop at their own pace. While this is true for typical children or children with “just” Down Syndrome, with a child who has Autism, this isn’t necessarily the case. I mean, yes, there will be some development. However some won’t happen without help. But how do you know if your child is just developing slowly or if your child has something else going on. This is largely due to instinct. However, you can also get some clues by looking for red flags.
A lot of the red flags are things that doctors just chalk up to normal issues in childhood. They don’t tend to look at the big picture. One of the big things I have taken away from being in the “alternative” Autism and Down Syndrome communities (yes, there are sort of two factions, but I’ll leave that for another day) as well as from my training as an NTC is that everything is connected. Your sinusitis and your constipation and possibly your depression are all related. But if you go to the doctor, he will just see sinusitis, constipation, and depression and treat you as such. He might give you a fiber recommendation or miralax, maybe an antibiotic or an allergist referral for your sinuses, and then a referral to a psychiatrist for your depression. However in the “alternative” community, we know that these things are all connected. So what does this have to do with the red flags?
Red flags are symptoms that point to a larger issue. A series of them can give clues as to what is going on overall. If your child has developmental delays plus perhaps alternating diarrhea and constipation along with food sensitivities, these are all clues to the underlying issues. These underlying issues can be the CAUSE of your child’s delays. That is something that allopathic medicine has not really caught onto yet. This is why children who change to certain dietary protocols and who eliminate certain foods suddenly do better behaviorally or cognitively. Our guts are connected to our brains, and what happens in one area can affect the other. If you want to understand how this happens, a great explanation is in the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride goes into detail regarding the mechanisms behind this. Suffice it to say, taking a good look at your child (behaviorally, physically, emotionally) will help you figure out if there is more to what is going on.
How does this look? My daughter, had constipation, she was very limited in what she would eat, and it was all dairy and gluten. She was in a fog, and she didn’t seem to care what was going on around her. She would tantrum if we didn’t let her watch Barney, and wouldn’t want to go anywhere, especially if there was loud noise. She also wouldn’t play. Her gut distends 2 1/2 inches by the end of the night and looks very pregnant. She has very dry skin, lots of keratosis pilaris on her arms, and she has thick cradle cap still at the age of 11. It went away for a while, but now it is back. She also has tics that increase when she is sick. Unfortunately, when the developmental pediatrician saw her, she just chalked all of her delays up to those of Down Syndrome. But I know that these are all signs pointing to a poor immune system. And that immune system causes inflammation. And most likely that inflammation is in her brain. But the skin problems, the gut distension, the tics, those things are signs telling me that something is wrong. But our doctors never put those things together and considered that the physical was affecting the mental. However the Autism physicians and homeopaths we’ve met with HAVE noticed, and they have helped her to start to improve. However we have a long way to go yet.
If you would like more information on Red Flags, go to the Thinking Moms Revolution and read more. I believe there are quite a few red flag posts. In the meantime, if you notice that your child with the same diagnosis as others is behaving very differently, take note of everything that’s going on with him or her. Write it all down, take note of all of the behaviors, mood swings, when they happen, all of the physical symptoms that they have (bowels, skin, hair texture, breath smell, posture, muscle tone, etc.) See if they have food preferences that are predictable, sensory sensitivity to light, sound, touch, smells, tastes. Are they having issues navigating their physical surroundings? All of these things and so much more can give you clues to what is going on. Your child might not have an official dual diagnosis like mine does. But if your child is presenting with several symptoms, and there are behavioral or cognitive issues as well, listen to those clues and heed them. Your pediatrician might just chalk everything up to “well that’s just CP” or “that’s just toddler diarrhea.” He also might say that certain issues are just part of the territory of your child’s diagnosis. Listen to your gut. If your gut says it’s not, then it isn’t. You know. You’re the expert on your child. Get the treatment you need for him/her. Don’t be afraid to leave a practice if they won’t or can’t help. Feel free also to check into other modalities. It might seem frightening to do so if you never have, but integrative practices, naturopaths, homeopaths, accupuncturists and craniosacral therapists can all help in different ways. Research and then listen to your gut. Some treatments may not work, some may. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But you will be well on your way to helping your child be the healthiest and happiest they can be. The sky’s the limit!