Yesterday I spent some time with a friend I hadn't seen for a long time. She also has children, one of whom has special needs, so we always have plenty to talk about.
She was telling me about two young relations who she is worried about. She talked about the behaviour of one of the children and asked me if I thought the child might have autism. I have to admit that from the description I felt it was a significant possibility.
I hate these situations. I know that, for most children with special needs, early intervention brings the best outcome. Given the waiting lists of the NHS, the earlier a child is referred for diagnosis and therapy the better. Yet as a friend or a voluntary worker, we have to be so careful what we say. Many parents suffer from denial when they first suspect something is not quite right and even those who are more articulate with their fears will be very vulnerable. In some cultures, including that of my friend's family, any form of significant disability is seen as something shameful, to be hidden away from the community. Although she does not believe that, some family members probably do.
It is usually more difficult for first time parents to notice developmental problems in their child and to know where to turn for help. My friend spotted that something was not quite right with her own son, her third child, when he was just a few weeks old. He still has no specific diagnosis but with appropriate intervention he has made excellent progress. Her young relatives, however, will probably not receive any assessment or potential help unless a crisis point is reached. They are possibly being set up to fail.
Sorry, that was rather serious for a Saturday night, but it has been on my mind since yesterday!