By: Madiha Malik
Dr. Tasnuva Tunna is a Pharmacist, published scientist, and a mother of two. In this two part interview, she shares her courageous journey as she strives to find strategies to help her son, who is diagnosed with ASD, learn and grow.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
In simplest language it is a range of developmental disorders that is seen as symptoms of speech and communication disorder, learning and communication difficulties, unresponsive and eye contact issues, behaviour issues (self-harming, no understanding of danger, tantrums, meltdowns etc.), feeding issues, repeating words or gestures, sensory disorders etc. The symptoms are wide in range falling under these categories.
Scientists are finding connection to Gut health and autism these days. It is certainly very helpful to know the root cause of Autism which is usually the disorder starting due to the disturbance in the Gut- Brain axis.
What signs did you notice in your son and decide to have him assessed?
Signs vary from child to child, but these are common, and I saw them in my son starting age 7 months:
- Poor eye contact. Baby won’t look at you with purpose, neither when called.
- Not responsive to their names.
- Not having interest in a variety of toys, rather prefers a certain type (my son was and still is obsessed with cars)
- Too much screen time, use or interest.
- Sleep troubles such as resisting sleep, not sleeping enough, tossing and turning, or having nightmares and crying out.
- May not chew food rather just swallow or resist food and be extremely picky.
- Dialoguing on their own by repeating favorite characters.
- Lose track of time doing something they enjoy.
- Be in their own universe, you will know from their glazed, thinker expression.
- Getting bored very easily (I thought ADHD)
- Not knowing how to keep them entertained with toys.
- Might have excellent memory in non-age appropriate level of content (my 1 year old could say A to Z by heart and by vision too)
- They also might forget everything they have learned and have learning disability.
- Will not verbally communicate; ask for things or even point. My son only recently started calling me mom…around 3 years age.
- Might have trouble breastfeeding, mother may have frequent broken areola. Oh the serious pain!!
- May be very thin and underweight with dark circles.
What barriers are faced by parents in our community that prevent them from seeking support?
There are several issues, and they are as follows:
Lack of Knowledge of this disorder by parents– Usually parents do see signs very early but when they discuss with others then the parents are told it is a phase the child will grow up from. Also speech delay being a red flag is often pushed back by parents thinking about previous cases of speech delay solving with age that they have seen or heard.
Lack of information available or unawareness – The medical society and the government of many countries and the world in general have not yet decided to spend proper money and energy on this rising global proportion. 1 in every 55 children is having autism these days which is a 18-19% increase in the last 10 years alone. The autism community online is reaching the million mark. Medical doctors due to their own lack of knowledge disregard the importance of nutrition. They usually study human body parts as separate entities and not a system. An eye doctor won’t know much about ears although they are close beside! They are not taught nutrition as an integral and holistic part of treatment. Usually they learn about the disease and what medicines to give and what surgeries to perform.
Lack of proper understanding of root cause and treatment – Be it scientists, or medical doctors or the parents themselves the reasons are always blamed on genetics and also there is a wrong understanding that it is what the child is born AS. Meaning it is like race or skin color. This notion is absolutely untrue. Thousands of children are recovered through proper interventions. And to see the child self-harming, struggling with day to day life (forget about the parents troubles) are itself heartbreaking. The belief that they are “autistic” is WRONG! You can absolutely recover and bring them to regular life.
Lack of finance and simple knowledge- Finance is a very important factor and as we know doctors visit, speech therapies and other forms of occupational therapies, protocols and interventions are pretty expensive. Many therapies don’t work well too which disheartens the parents into believing they are unrecoverable or label them as “autistic child”.
Were there programs or support that you used to help him with the delays?
Well in many countries, Canada included, the government usually takes charge of Autism Testing and Therapy Intervention. I put my child’s name for the evaluation in late 2019 and I am yet to receive an Official Evaluation!! The speech pathologist gave me a virtual tour and that’s it. I actually took matters in my own hand as I saw my son losing himself. He was finding life frustrating and his communication troubles pained me to an extent that I stopped waiting for someone to help me and started researching to help him myself. He has recovered 70% of his age appropriate developmental milestone Alhamdulillah without a single therapy of any kind.
About Dr Tasnuva
Dr. Tasnuva is an Autism Health Coach, a neurodiverse herself and an autism mom. She advocates and coaches 1 on 1 to anxious autism moms in helping their autism children achieve transformative recovery and developments. She is a Pharmacist, published scientist, an educator, author, cooks and absolutely loves books. You can sign up for her newsletter where she shares massive transformational resources for mom mental health, autism health and wellbeing as well as nutrition and lifestyle.
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