A mum has described how she spotted some signs that her young daughter was autistic at just six months old.
Mum-of-two, Sarah McGill, said that her concerns began when her daughter Niamh, now aged six, did not want to interact with others from an early age.
Sarah, from Derry in Northern Ireland, said signs that Niamh had Autism Spectrum Disorder emerged when she was just six-months-old, however she was not formally diagnosed until the age of three.
The Mirror reports that her local GP turned Sarah away, ruling out the possibility of autism on a number of occasions.
She said: “At six months we started to notice that my daughter didn’t like to be around anyone except myself and my husband, she was constantly crying.
“At that time we thought it was colic as the GP had ruled out everything else. Although in hindsight I can recognize that it was sensory overload.
“Her environments were too overstimulating for her and her crying was the only communication tool she had at that time.
“Niamh hit all her infant milestones late and some not at all. She began flapping hands, lining her toys up and her communication began to regress, she stopped babbling and vocalizing.
“She was so content in her own little bubble. All this carried on for another year, with little to no change in her development.
“We saw a pediatrician at 18 months, and she said Niamh presents with autism. That was the beginning of our journey.
“I found I had to learn to think quickly on my feet and develop strategies to make life easier for my daughter.”
Last year, Sarah began to blog Niamh’s journey, through AutisticAlly, which now has over 3,000 followers online.
The Derry mum said it’s only since setting up the blog that she realized how other families across Northern Ireland were struggling to cope.
However, she said there was no need for families to fear the word autism.
She said: “Autism is not a word to be feared, it is a person to be accepted and loved. It is a word that explains why people behave and think differently.
“If you have questions about autism, ask an autistic person. The more we talk about autism, the more widely recognized it will become.
“Yes, autistic people share the same core similarities but how an autistic person experiences the world around them is completely unique to them.
“Understanding each person as an individual is key and realizing what works for one person may not work for another.”
Meanwhile, Sarah also recently revealed that she too had been diagnosed with the disorder, saying it had left her feeling numb.
“It took me a while to process the information and what it meant,” Sarah added.
“I’m still the same person I was before my diagnosis but it has brought clarity to my life.
“It is an explanation of why I behave the way I do and why I see and feel things differently from other people. It is a life-affirming experience that is teaching me to be kinder to myself.
“People often say, at my age why would I want to label myself as autistic, but what they don’t know is that I was already labeling myself as a failure, anxious, confused, not good enough, weird, and faking my way through life.
“I always felt like an outsider, looking into a world that wasn’t built for me. Not understanding why people behave the way they do and why people don’t say what they mean.
“I was a people pleaser that was riddled with anxiety and depression but still had a smile on my face because I wanted to ‘fit in’, I wanted people to like me.
“I now have this positive label. This is an explanation that answers my questions about how I’ve experienced my life. It fits, I fit here.”
She said it’s “paramount” that more awareness is spread about autism inclusion and acceptance.
“The more we talk about autism, the more widely recognized it will become in our society,” she said.
“Unless you have a child like my Niamh, who was luckily diagnosed so early in life. Many parents out there are fighting for their children to be heard, the only way that autistic people are going to be diagnosed quicker is for autism training to be made mandatory in all schools.
“With specific training on how women on the spectrum present differently to many boys.
“So many girls, like myself are being overlooked because they are quiet and don’t make a fuss. I want these girls to know that they aren’t alone.”
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