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My daughter hasn't started speaking yet; is she autistic?

Q: My daughter is 2 years and 4 months old. She has not started speaking yet. We have been confused by speech therapists and doctors about autism, ADHD and speech problem, etc. She is a happy child and generally likes to play around. She does make a lot of noise and says a lot of words like dadi, mama, etc. If I try to snatch away things from her or scold her she starts yelling. She flaps her hands when she is happy. She is not very attentive and we are not able to teach her new things. It seems she is not able to understand things and she sometimes phases out also like she is thinking of something. Yet she is able to do a lot of things like, she tries to pull me to the door to take her to the park, she shakes hands and hugs me. She does not respond to her name often but sometimes she does look back. She maintains eye contact with strangers. If I play with her she giggles. She is fond of playing with water. She cries when we remove her from there. She eats well. She tries to eat with her hands. She obeys commands like bring your shoes etc. While dressing her up she raises her hand to pull out her frock and even puts her legs in the shorts properly. She plays with all kind of toys. She might not be very interested but if we try she puts blocks, shapes etc. and I feel she is good at her age. One of the speech therapists told us to go for some lovaas technique for improving her understanding. We are extremely confused. Should we go for further evaluation of our child? We want to know whether she is autistic or not? If she is not, then how to help her and if she is then what is the cure? Are there any specialists in Delhi whom we can contact for evaluation and helping her?

A:Your daughter seems a happy, lovable and bright child. Where did you get the idea that she is autistic? She is definitely not autistic. It seems to be a word that people are pulling out of the net and using it to label a child who varies even a little, from their perception of the normal. From your account of her, it seems that only her speech is a little bit delayed. She hears well and understands everything, is affectionate, likes her food and her baths! What could be better? I am not clear what you are trying to teach her. She is only 2 years old. Please do not treat her like a six year old. A child of two learns through play. There is no need to have her play only with blocks and identify shapes and so on. Time enough for all that. Children of this age will play happily with a spoon and a katori or even with cardboard cartons, putting things in and taking them out, or rolling a ball on the floor. Since you seem worried about the childs speech, let me say that children vary a great deal in when they will start speaking. If they hear more than one language at home, they are likely to take a little longer to sort out the sounds and to speak. I have collected many case studies of delayed speech. One is of a boy who started to speak at age three, and now six months later, he chatters away. Another is of a boy who did not speak till he was four and then spoke all the three languages that he heard at home. Now, 25 years later, I hear that he is a brilliant scientist. Some of the activities that can be done by parents and other relatives at home: reading out stories, having her look at picture books in which she can identify animals and birds and everyday objects, singing songs to her and with her, playing a cassette of children's songs etc. You could make her ask for another biscuit or banana, instead of anticipating every need, but please don't starve her if she doesn't! Even playing hide and seek in one room, with the parent hiding in an obviously easy place, can be quite enjoyable for the child and she is likely to exclaim with joy when she finds you. I really do not think that you need to see any more specialists. Let your daughter's speech develop gradually. Give yourselves a 6-month holiday from doctors. If at the end of that period, she has still not started to talk, I will refer you to a Childrens Clinic in Delhi. Meanwhile, enjoy your parenting experiences!

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