Regular IrishCentral contributor and author John Joe McGinley has launched a website AutismDad.ie to help other parents with children on the autism spectrum.
Due to increased awareness, diagnoses of autism have been on the increase in Ireland. The latest research highlighted that autism currently affects 1–2% of the Irish population, which is 1 per 100 children and 2 per 100 adults.
Unfortunately, many parents have seen support for their children reduce during the pandemic and also because of reduced government funding on additional needs services.
John Joe McGinley created AutismDad.ie to share the experiences gathered throughout over 14 years of raising children on the autism spectrum. He and his wife, Eileen, live in Glassagh, Gaoth Dobhair on the Wild Atlantic Way in County Donegal, and are the proud parents of four boys, two of whom are on the spectrum.
They are both very different individuals, which just highlights the famous quote about autism, that if you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism.
The autism spectrum is so vast that and contains so many variants that it is difficult for parents to educate themselves on the differences their children experience.
It is these very differences that inspired John Joe to develop AutismDad.ie to campaign for autism awareness and acceptance whilst also having the vision to help other parents.
Being the parent of a child with autism or any additional need can be an exhausting and lonely experience and John Joe wanted to show other parents they were not alone and create something where people can share best practices and learn new techniques to help their children.
The concept of the website is simple, it is just a father sharing 14 years of ups and downs, joys and frustrations of helping his boys grow and develop.
The website has useful links to both UK and Irish autism support groups, a range of videos on a number of issues that impact children with autism, and also a blog that shares the real-life experience of parenting children with enhanced needs.
John Joe urges everyone who has concerns about their child’s development to research the signs of being on the autism spectrum and this may help:
What are the signs your child may be on the autism spectrum?
The autism diagnosis age and intensity of autism’s early signs vary widely. Some infants show hints in their first months. In others, behaviors become obvious as late as age 2 or 3.
Not all children on the autism spectrum show all the signs. Many children who don’t have autism show a few. That’s why professional evaluation is crucial.
The following may indicate your child is at risk for an autism spectrum disorder. If your child exhibits any of the following, ask your pediatrician or family doctor for an evaluation right away:
By 6 months
- Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions
- Limited or no eye contact
By 9 months
- Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions
By 12 months
- Little or no babbling
- Little or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving
- Little or no response to name
By 16 months
- Very few or no words
By 24 months
- Very few or no meaningful words, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)
At any age
- Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills
- Avoidance of eye contact
- Persistent preference for solitude
- Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings
- Delayed language development
- Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)
- Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings
- Restricted interests
- Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)
- Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors
Again, John Joe reiterates that a professional diagnosis that may take time is vital if you suspect your child may be on the autism spectrum, as the earlier support is given the better.
The website, AutismDad.ie, is supported by both a Twitter account @Autismdad67 and a Facebook page autismdadireland. McGinley is also launching a podcast in the New Year.
This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.