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Parents urged not to delay autism testing

Parents should have their children tested for autism as soon as possible if they spot development problems, the parents of a child with the condition have said.

Alvina Brangman and Earl Basden, whose three-year-old daughter Eleah Basden was found to have mild to moderate autism in March last year, decided to speak out to mark Autism Awareness Month.

Ms Brangman said: “There are some parents out there who are in denial, who don't want to think that there is anything wrong with their child.“

“So I beg any person that feels that something is wrong with their child to go seek help.

“Don't wait until the child is four or five — if you notice that their speech is lacking, or they're not making eye contact with you, that is a sign right there, so seek help immediately.

“Get them diagnosed, don't be scared, don't turn a blind eye to it and say ‘nothing is wrong with my child', when deep down inside you know that something is wrong,” she added.

Ms Brangman and Mr Basden, who live in Warwick with Eleah and their eldest daughter, six-year-old Anae Brangman, began to suspect that Eleah was on the autism spectrum when she still hadn't started speaking after her first birthday.

“We didn't want to speculate at the time until we had a proper diagnosis, but we did have an indication because of the different things that she was doing at home,” Ms Brangman explained. “She wasn't saying anything, not even ‘mommy', there was nothing, not even babble,” Mr Basden added.

Ms Brangman fought to raise the funds to have her daughter tested abroad after she was made redundant twice in a year, and it was not until an article detailing her plight was published in this newspaper that her health insurance company agreed to fund the visit to the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto.

After weeks of hospital visits and tests, they were informed that Eleah is autistic.

Since receiving the diagnosis Eleah has been able to get the help she needs and she is progressing academically — her speech is now at the level of a one-year-old — and her behaviour is improving.

“Her speech has definitely progressed,” Mr Basden said, and Ms Brangman added that they both encourage Eleah to use her words at home as much as possible.

“She now allows us to comfort her, whereas before it would have been a real fight and struggle,” Mr Basden said, adding that the tantrums she used to throw have also calmed down.

Ms Brangman added: “She gets along with other children now, before she used to just play by herself.”

Eleah attends Chatterbox Pre-School in Southampton and receives about ten hours of therapy per week, which includes support from the Child Development Programme, in particular the Portage Programme, as well as Applied Behaviour Analysis.

Both parents are hopeful that Eleah will be able to attend a mainstream primary school, but both admit that it has not been an easy journey and insist that the earlier help is sought the more chance there is for autistic children to get back on track, progress and have a good life.

“I must say, it has been a learning experience and it's been a long, long road because we didn't know why she was acting the way she was,” Ms Brangman said.

Mr Basden added: “Dealing with it now is much better, we enjoy the positive things she does now, even if she makes her little mistakes and messes up, it is not as stressful for us as it was before not understanding what was going on and why she was acting that way.”

Making progress: Eleah Basden

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Published April 30, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 30, 2015 at 1:24 am)

Parents urged not to delay autism testing

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