This was not the first conversation I've had like this. I have had countless e-mails, phone conversations, and in-person encounters with mothers who have expressed this same gut-wrenching dilemma. What do you do when he stops progressing and nothing you or the doctors or the therapists can do will get him moving forward again? How do you keep hoping for improvement when all the professionals around you shrug their shoulders with a confused look on their faces?
There are many reasons a child on the spectrum may suddenly begin to backslide. It could be his physical health. It could be an emotional upset or trauma of some sort. It could be diet related. It could be environmentally related. It could be.........
So what do you do? Why was he progressing and then one day you suddenly wake up and he has stopped completely? It just seems too extreme to be something that no one can find an answer to, right? How could he be talking one day, and then wake in the morning without the ability to say a single word? Or forgetting words he has used for 2 or 3 years?
There is not any one set answer for any child. Sometimes it may be an illness he has been exposed to. Other times it may be an emotional upset someone close to him is going through and it is too overwhelming for him. With each child, the reason he begins to regress is as singular as are his fingerprints. I can't really tell you exactly what it is without a one-on-one session with him. But what I can tell you is this. Pay close attention to what happened yesterday that made today different. Or it may have happened a week ago and the meaning and affect of it is just now sinking in to his consciousness.
I have found that when a child is regressive, there is always a reason....which means there is always a solution. We just have to look harder (and for a NeuroTypical person, in the unusual places) to find it. I suppose this doesn't give you much to go on. I wish I could give more, but each case truly is so very singular. If it is diet related, that is fairly easy - put him on a GFCF diet. It is harder to have a child on that diet. It means more work for you and, if he's never been on it before and is a little older, it means possible tantrums when he doesn't get his regular meal that he loves so much. But there again, you have to weigh out the cost vs. the benefit. If he is healthier and happier more regularly, wouldn't it be worth two weeks of tantrums and meltdowns? Here's the secret. He's going to have the tantrums and meltdowns anyhow because his body isn't functioning in a way that he feels comfortable.
So the real question is, do you want tantrums and meltdowns with no end in sight, or with a light at the end of the tunnel? If his body is receiving proper rest, nutrition, activity, and emotional support, then you will find him a much changed child. His tantrums will be fewer and far between and meltdowns in the home will all but disappear. As long as his needs (as listed above) are met, the only time you will see tantrums and/or meltdowns pop up at home is if someone else is having an emotional explosion (inward or outward).
I guess what I'm trying to say about the backsliding is that it is probably due to one of his needs not only not being met, but being seriously neglected. He isn't sleeping well for extended periods of time. He isn't getting vitamins and nutrients that his body so desperately needs. He isn't being given enough one-on-one time and the attention he craves from those who care for him. He isn't getting good, healthy amounts of outdoor exercise with fresh air. Fix these problems and once they are all as they ought to be, if he still is not progressing, then you know it is an emotional issue caused by something he is picking up from someone else.
Then the task will be to filter out who it is. Is it someone in the home? Is it one of the children he interacts with at his social skills therapy? Is it one of his regular therapists or doctors? Is it his shadow at school? Is it a new neighbor you are interacting frequently with? Etc., etc., etc. Once again, yes, this is a lot of work for you. That is why it is nice to have someone who knows what they are doing and has done this before to walk you through it and help you learn the skills yourself. It will take some time, but then you will be able to adjust things for him, no matter how often his environment and growth demand adjustments.
Once again I feel like I'm not giving you a lot to go on, but without interaction with each individual, I cannot accurately state one positions for certain....well. Except this one. There is always hope. Don't give up.
This is yet another Mindy Gledhill song. There is something about her music that just speaks to me and to special needs people. This song is called "Hourglass" and it is very touching for those little ones who are so tender and precious to you. I found this video on YouTube and loved it, so I posted this version rather than just one with the lyrics. :)