© MIke Carson/Journal Pioneer
Members of the Williams family take part in Swim for Autism fundraiser held Saturday at Credit Union Place. The swim has a special meaning for this family because Michael, second left, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. Along with Michael are his mother Faye Williams, Brandon Williams, Nathayle Walsh, P.E.I. Autism Society, Margo Williams, Jocelyne Sauliner and Shauna Barrett.
SUMMERSIDE – Faye Williams noticed early on that there was something different about her son, Michael.
The young child wasn’t communicating and shunned human contact. Williams learned early on what the problem was.
“My son Michael is seven years old and when he was two we knew that something was wrong,” she said. “He had eight out of the ten early signs of autism. I noticed the list on the back of my doctor’s door when we went for his two-year check up.”
Williams said there was long waiting list for help so she took matters into her own hands.
“The first thing I did was Google autism and a whole bunch of things came up,” she said. “So, I stuck to the Autism Canada website and the Autism Society of P.E.I.’s website. I wrote down all of the things they had listed that would help children with autism and I crossed out all of the things that scared me a little. I put the rest of the things in order as to how I could easily carry them out on my own to begin with.”
The first thing she did was change her son’s diet. She removed dairy products and gluten from his diet and noticed an immediate difference. Following that Williams started giving Michael high doses of probiotics.
“Within a week after starting probiotics he actually drew my attention to a plane flying in the sky and pointed at it,” she said. “Before that if I tried to draw his attention to anything, he would possibly look at my finger but not at the thing I pointed at.”
Up to this point, Michael had no speech.
“He didn’t understand any words and he didn’t speak any words,” his mother said. “Apparently, at the age of two, children understand upwards of 1,000 or more words and they can say 500 words or more. He said none and understood none. So, I started teaching him one word at a time.”
Williams started with verbs and words she could show him.
“When I taught him the word push we went all over town and we pushed everything we could push,” she said. “We pushed doors, we pushed cars so he would understand the word and not just memorize the word. Then he could use it in context in a sentence.
Every day I made a chart of the words he said and every day I made sure he reused them so that he didn’t lose them.”
From July to December of that year Michael had maintained 150 words.
“He was still far off from what was the expected norm for his age but he was definitely on his way,” Williams said. “After that, I removed yeast and sugar from his diet. It seemed like the clouds cleared. He started understanding a lot better.”
After being diagnosed with autism at age three, he began Intensive Behavioural Intervention (IBI).
“It’s basically breaking tasks down into simple steps so that a child that autism or any learning disorder can easily grasp each step and build upon it to eventually learn the entire step,” Williams said. There is an autism consultant from the Department of Education who oversees it in the early pre-school program. Then they give recommendations to and train an IBI tutor to work with the child.”
When he had that done he started building and building upon his skills.
“Where he’s at now is a lot of the times most people wouldn’t know right off that he has autism,” Williams said. “He’s doing amazing. He still struggles with social situations and his language but he’s definitely making progress and it’s notable progress. He’s not there yet and he’ll probably need intervention and assistance for a good number of years but it’s definitely working.”
Williams described Michael today as “a very happy child.”
“At the beginning for the first few years he didn’t touch,” she said. “He didn’t like human contact and now he’s very snuggly and loveable and seeks out interaction and seeks out peers to play with.”
Michael’s reading skills have improved immensely.
“He’s reading phenomenal,” Williams said. “On the other side of that his comprehension is lacking. So, you always have to look under the layers even if they seem to be performing a skill at, or higher, than there age level. There can still be dysfunction underneath that needs more assistance. Keep in mind that all behaviour is communication whether it’s positive behaviour or looked upon as a negative behaviour, it’s communicating something that the child can’t otherwise say in words or bring to somebody’s attention. It’s always looking at what we can do to improve his quality of life.”