Communicating needs, wants and feelings is a common difficulty amongst autistics. Our son is almost five and non verbal meaning our channel of communication is further limited. He has an incredibly high pain threshold and determining if he is poorly can be difficult if the obvious signs of vomit, diarrhoea, a rash, cough or fever aren’t present. Indeed, sometimes these signs may be there but he may still be bouncing around acting completely normal.
Here are some of the common tell tale signs we know might indicate he might not be feeling 100 percent.
1. He is off his food.
Our boy is an absolute machine when it comes to eating. He eats and eats and eats and eats….so if he suddenly becomes uninterested in food alarm bells start ringing. We generally start the process of asking if he feels ok, if it hurts anywhere etc.
2. He wants cuddles.
Whilst we do have lots of cuddles these are generally given when he is tired, has fallen over or if you bribe him with food!! When he is poorly he wants to cuddle up and lye with you. It’s the only thing I love about him being ill and I make the most of him being still and calm.
3. He is frustrated / aggressive and displays difficult behaviour.
Not being able to understand if I’m unwell and feeling different to how I normally feel would probably have a direct impact on my behaviour and mood too so it isn’t that surprising that he gets easily agitated, stubborn and lashes out. I find the link between these and him feeling unwell harder to piece together since these behaviours are also displayed at other times too. It is normally in hindsight that I realise that he may have been behaving in a specific way because he wasn’t feeling well.
4. He “tells” us he is poorly.
As I mentioned, he is non verbal so actually being able to tell us his tummy hurts etc isn’t possible. What he will do though is point to an area and say “oww”. Or if we have a hunch something isn’t quite right and ask him if it hurts anywhere. This is great for letting us know he may be in discomfort / sore or hurt but he doesn’t always tell us the right area (he possibly can’t pinpoint or understand what doesn’t feel right). He often tells us his hand hurts, there is a funny story behind that I must tell you sometime. More recently he has signed crying. He hasn’t been crying when he has imitated tears running down his cheeks, my immediate thought is that he feels upset…but upset about what?
5. He sleeps / doesn’t sleep.
If he sleeps a solid 12 hours we are always a bit surprised as sleeping through the night is a fairly uncommon occurrence. Sleeping more than 10/11 hours is a rarity. In contrast, we are used to broken nights but a night of being generally restless / tossing and turning also raises suspicions.
6. He just isn’t himself.
A combination of him being quiet, not interested in things that normally excite him, if he walks instead of runs, if he sits still for longer than usual and is generally out of character we can usually expect it to be a sign of illness.
This week it has taken 5 days of knowing something isn’t quite right with our boy before finally seeing any actual evidence.
– Day 1 he didn’t eat all day.
– Day 2 he was a bit perkier and ate 4 slices of toast for breakfast! He imitated “crying” to me several times and he had a red cheek for hours.
– Day three he had the same red cheek and a single spot in his cheek. He was ok in himself but school reported a bit quiet.
– Day four he came out of school with a red cheek again and what looked like a dribble rash on his chin. His behaviour was very aggressive towards me and he slept for over 12 hours.
– Day five he woke with lots of spots down his arm which prompted a trip to the doctors. He left three doctors perplexed by what it is and is off school with suspected chicken pox (already had them) or a virus.
Of course, every child is different and this isn’t in any way, shape or form to be used as medical evidence that your child is or isn’t well.