How do you know the difference between your child being 'different' or there actually being a problem?

(19 Posts)
PitteryPattery Sat 31-Oct-15 21:58:25

My DS is nearly 6. He's always been very sensitive and easily overwhelmed, particularly by noisy environments. We hoped that he'd eventually grow out of it, but he hasn't. He's very articulate and chatty in environments where he is comfortable, including the classroom. But in most social situations with me or his dad he is an utter nightmare.
For example, at a recent big birthday party that we went to in a hall with a disco, all of the children were joining in, having a great time, playing with balloons or dancing. DS was crawling around the edge of the room, hiding under chairs, or would come to me and hit/push me. I offered to take him home, but he wanted to stay.
I've always been an introvert and my mum always hated that I never joined in with anything, so I do get it - some kids don't want to join in. My problem is the way he behaves. When I didn't want to join in, I would just sit out, normally on my mum's lap. But he seems to regress to being a toddler, and it just doesn't seem to be normal behaviour at his age.
We went to a small birthday party at a friend's house today, and from the moment he steps over the doorstep, it's like a switch is flicked. He is like Jekyll and Hyde. Suddenly unable to have a normal conversation, talking in a baby voice, hysterical behaviour, disruptive - basically a pain in the backside. I get down to his level to speak to him, and it's like I can't get through to him - the 'real' DS just isn't in there, if that makes sense. He's known these friends his whole life, so it's not a new and unfamiliar environment. The moment he leaves the party, the 'switch' flicks back and he's back to normal again.
More examples - I can't take him to visit family. At my elderly grandparents' house he'll jump all over the furniture, crawl around the room, throw things, and no matter what tactic I use - talk-throughs before we go, consequences, stern telling-off when it's happening - absolutely nothing has an effect. He does things that he would never do at home - like climbing onto and walking across a full dining table at another relative's house. When I have to stop him mid-act, he completely freaks, full-on meltdown, hitting, and biting me.
We dole out consequences such as losing tv privileges, or confiscating his favourite toy, Lego, but he could not care less - it has no effect on his behaviour. If anything, he forgets about what's happened the moment we finish the conversation.
It's all just totally age-inappropriate behaviour. My other DS is 3 and doesn't behave like this - how can he manage social situations but my nearly-6 year old can't?
I'm at my absolute wits' end with him. Both DH and I just do not know what to do. Waiting for him to outgrow this behaviour is not working and he is just getting worse. What do we do? Is he just a bit different/easily overwhelmed, or is there actually a problem? Where do I go for help?

PitteryPattery Sat 31-Oct-15 22:31:13

Anyone? Does your child do this? <hopeful>

IlanaBroadCity Sat 31-Oct-15 22:35:45

Speak to his school SENCO or your GP?
Good luck, I understand how worrying it is, been through something similar ourselves.

FusionChefGeoff Sat 31-Oct-15 22:45:48

I'm afraid I've got no specific advice but if you are worried enough to post here, I definitely think you should trust your instincts and seek help in real life.

I would probably try school and GP appointment as a dual pronged approach to get things moving.

PitteryPattery Sat 31-Oct-15 23:41:13

I had some dealings with the school SENCO before (with something unrelated), and I'm not sure that the school will be much help as he is so well-behaved at school. I broached the subject with his teacher when he was in Reception, and just got a 'well he's fine at school' comment.

What would the GP do for behaviour issues like this? I just don't know where to start. I suppose I'm on here for some sort of indication of what the issue might be/what it might point towards.

Maki79 Sun 01-Nov-15 00:41:13

Just thought I'd let you know that you're not alone!
My 6 yr old dd is for me in the 'something is not quite right' camp. Yet it could possibly also be that she's really naughty in an acute Jekyll/Hyde way.

We do know that she has very slow verbal processing and the sheer frustration of not being able to keep up with games/play as well as school being academically challenging for her is enough to have meltdowns or there could be something else. Dd hurts herself and verbally attacks herself during meltdowns which is just hideous.
Things I have done (in case it's useful to you!)
- Had several meetings with her teacher and SENCO. School say she's doing fine academically and socially but admitted she has anxiety. Every time we have had an update from another agency or another incident has happened, we've had another meet with school.
- We went to our gp. Were referred to camhs. Our referral was declined. We wen back to GP the first time she hurt herself and we were referred again (6 weeks ago). Gp informally said his first thought would be aspergers. Last week she purposefully stepped in front of a car so I marched straight to GP and asked to add on a note to referral just in case they were considering declining it again. This gp said would almost definitely be behavioural. So I've contacted the hv team to try and get on a parenting course they run.
- In desperation we employed an Ed Psych who has so far done half of an assessment. She conducted an IQ test and found dd has good general intellect with depressed working memory and very slow verbal processing. This has been the most helpful thing we have done so far as it has meant the school recognise she needs a lot more time to complete tasks to the level she is capable of, and I no longer expect her to remember to grab a jumper, turn off the light and clean her teeth in one instruction!

I feel for you OP, the worst bit is not knowing what the cause is and the fact that (to me anyway) it feels like a battle to get anyone to properly listen.

One thing I firmly believe is that if they could behave well at say parties, they would!

steppemum Sun 01-Nov-15 00:50:57

Op - to be honest, your post flags up loads of hints of high functioning autism.
You need professionals to assess him, and you can ask for referral through the gp.

Your part about being well behaved at school and struggling in places out of school is actually common, holding it all together until they get home, and then melting over their parent is a common theme, and can mean school is unhelpful.

Can I suggest you repeat this post over on the special needs section, as there are brilliant folk over there who don't use the rest of the site much, and they are good at knowing how to get assessment and lots of tips on strategies to use in the meantime

steppemum Sun 01-Nov-15 00:55:03

by school being unhelpful, I mean that they aren't willing to help much because they don't see the problem.

steppemum Sun 01-Nov-15 01:07:59

reading back, you talk about behavioural issues.

It may help to think in terms of things like-

1. sensory overload. this applies especially to parties
2. difficulties in unfamiliar social settings, eg visiting relatives
3. anxiety causing meltdowns
4. displaying regressive behaviour when in a unfamiliar setting

this helps to get away from the naughty kid/bad parent, to be specific about the difficulties he has.

my friend's son is autistic and she talks about when he has temper tantrums, they aren't temper tantrums.
They look like them from the outside, but they are actually much more like a panic attack. Your description of ds 'not being there' when he is kicking off, and crawling under the chairs at the party reminded me of it. The panic is due to sensory overload, too much new information, too much uncertainty (parties are very scary because they are so unstructured),

all the tricks you use with temper tantrums (ignore, time out etc etc) actually make the situation worse.
Her ds for example, needs her to hug him firmly, sometimes to put his head under her cardigan. This reduces the sensory overload and helps him to calm down.

WildStallions Sun 01-Nov-15 01:22:43

I agree with the excellent advice you've had above. Lots of signs of aspergers

It differs in different areas but here you'd want a referral to a child development paedetrician

WildStallions Sun 01-Nov-15 01:25:10

Also lots of other things it could be (sensory processing disorder etc) but I'd start with a referral to a paed.

steppemum Sun 01-Nov-15 01:44:20

yes, wildstallions is right, lots of things it could be.

nightsky010 Tue 03-Nov-15 09:16:05

I agree with everything others have said above.
Get a referral from the GP to see a Paed so they can diagnose.

TheFormidableMrsC Tue 03-Nov-15 09:28:23

OP, bless you, I've been in your shoes. I knew my DS wasn't quite right from birth (he was my second child) and it was only thanks to an "on the ball" HV at his 2 1/2 year check that she immediately referred him for assessment for autism. He has Aspergers. What you describe sounds very similar.

I used to have to tell visitors not to look at DS nor attempt to speak to him or make eye contact...if they did, he would smash his head on the wall or harm himself or have meltdowns. I could go on and on about the things he did. Fortunately, the diagnosis opened many doors to support and professional help. I have done several courses which have changed our lives frankly. He is a different child now. I know how to deal with things and how to parent him in the way that he needs. I now have a much more social and happy little boy who copes well with school and is very much "high functioning".

I don't know where you are, but your GP can refer you to your local Child Development Centre" for assessment.

Good luck, you can get through this flowers

PitteryPattery Tue 03-Nov-15 10:48:12

Thank you so much for your replies, all of you. You've been incredibly helpful. flowers
We've got a meeting with his teacher next week and I'm going to get a GP appointment arranged.
Thank you steppemum for breaking it down into more specific issues - much more useful for me to go in armed with a list like that.

nightsky010 Tue 03-Nov-15 11:06:19

Good plan OP!

Theformidablemrsc
Could you tell us what courses you've done?

TheFormidableMrsC Tue 03-Nov-15 11:07:17

nightsky, yes I did two sensory courses, which were hugely helpful and then an 8 week course during the summer called "More Than Words"...although my son is not non-verbal, it was fantastic and I learned a lot!

Titsywoo Tue 03-Nov-15 11:15:57

Since my son was 3 I thought there was something not quite right but none of us could put our finger on it. He has just been diagnosed with ASD at the age of 8 when someone suggested it last year.

nightsky010 Sun 08-Nov-15 13:12:17

Theformidablemrsc

Thanks!

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