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Reception teacher says DS1, 4, is showing signs of autism

(37 Posts)
Gangle Wed 05-Dec-12 17:26:50

DS1 is 4 years 8 months and started reception in September. Before starting school we were away for 2 weeks and I found DS1's behaviour difficult to manage. He was having at least 1, or sometimes 2 big tantrums a day, usually because I refused to buy him something when we were out, so ended up having time outs etc. He would then say things like, “I don’t care if you punish me” or “you don’t love me, you’re mean to me etc.” We also had some incidents where DS1 became upset because his best friend (who we were holidaying with) said he didn’t want to play with him or be his friend anymore. So when DS1 started school on 10 September, I mentioned to his teacher that we had had some issues with tantrums over the holiday, that there was a divorce ongoing etc, and so to please let me know if there were any problems with his behaviour. I then checked in with his teacher at least twice a week (she never contacted me to raise concerns about his behaviour) and the only problems mentioned at that stage was that he was hitting other children and sometimes not following instructions. e.g. running in the corridor. They did not seem overly alarmed by this and we discussed strategies to manage this which behaviour which now seemed to have worked as he has not hit anyone this half term. The week preceding the half term break was his worse and our nanny said his teacher said his behaviour had been bad on a couple of days. We had a parents’ evening just before half term and his teacher said he was very bright but seemed to have issues with anger. We asked about whether or not we should consider a referral to a child psychologist and she said to wait and see if things settle down, which they now appear to have done. She raised no concerns about his learning and did not mention autism

I then dropped DS1 off at school last week and asked his teacher how he was doing. She said fine, he was settling down etc but then went onto say that she and the classroom assistant had some concerns that he was displayingsigns of autism. I was surprised and asked what and she listed 3 things: 1) he can sometimes takes things literally, 2) eye contact and 3) he likes construction. I think 1) and 3) are completely wrong as he rarely if ever builds things at home, he's not into lego or blocks, and he does not take things literally in the autistic sense but often asks questions about thingsand will say, does that really mean that etc, and I will say no, that's just an expression or he himself will say, of course that isn't really true or it doesn't really mean thatetc then has a good laugh about it so I think they have totally missed the point as he completely gets humour, sarcasm etc whereas an autistic child wouldn't.His eyecontact with me and his friends and nanny is great. His nanny and close friends all agree although perhaps he is more shy or more distracted at school. I then asked if he was struggling or not learning and she said no as he was picking up letters etc and there were several other boys who don't yet know all their letters. She then said not to worry but that she wanted to mention to me. She also said that the teachers had just had an inset day on autism so she was seeing autism "everywhere."

I am obviously very concerned as although I had been worried about DSI in terms of being naughty/angry, this was settling down and autism had
never ever occurred to me. In fact, he is almost the complete opposite of what I thought an autistic child would be as he is very aware of his emotions and quite manipulative. His speech is excellent (he spoke very early) and shows no other signs of autism in terms of repetitive behaviour, liking of routines etc. He is very imaginative and loves dressing up and pretend playing and highly sociable. If we go to the park and noone is there then he will say, I am sad because there is noone to play with. The main things I have been worried about are his attention span and ability to concentrate. DS2 is 2 1/2 and will ask to do puzzles and is already counting and trying to learn letters and numbers. He knows several numbers and letters already whereas I have been trying for over a year to teach DS1 numbers and letters but he was simply not interested so I started wondering if there was a problem with focus/attention span. He started to be much more interested now that they are doing the alphabet at school (I had always hoped this would be the case) and he can recognise at least half possibly ¾ of the alphabet and knows the sounds.

My only other concern is on the emotional side. Most of the time he is a happy, funny, loving little boy but if I tell him off for some reason or don’t let him do something/have something he wants, he will say things like, you don’t love me, I wish I wasn’t your son, no one in my family loves me. He has also said, I am going to kill myself, if you are mean to me I am just going to kill myself. Once he also said, I wish you had never made me. It going without saying, he has never heard these things from me or anyone else he would have had contact with, so I do find it worrying that a child of 4 is saying things like this. It may be that this is a reuslt of the divorce.

I then went back to the teacher this week and said I disagreed with her views and, although there might be other problems, from what I had read it isn't autism. I also pointed out that his language and vocab was very good and that he had not had any speech delayat which point she said oh, I actually thought it was aspergers. She then said she was 95% sure there was no problem but seemed to have informed the special needs teacher and the head teacher about it so I am getting really mixed messages. I am seeing the special needs teacher tomorrow so will hopefully find out more then. Just so worried in the meantime and would appreciate any views or experiences.

piprabbit Wed 05-Dec-12 21:04:37

The teacher is an arse - she shouldn't be diagnosing anything as she isn't qualified to.

Your little boy sounds a lot like mine, especially the tantrumming. It also sounds like he has got an awful lot on his plate at the moment, a lot of changes and upsets and adjustments to make. Maybe he does need some extra support to help him settle into school, I hope you can work the special needs teacher to find a way to help him settle happily...but that is not the same as diagnosing a medical condition.

I would take moment during the meeting (maybe at the end, so it doesn't become the focus) to raise the class teacher's unprofessional actions. Someone needs to make sure that your's is the last family she upsets like this.

lisad123 Wed 05-Dec-12 21:11:48

She isn't qualified enough to suggest anything! shock

He doesn't sound like he has autism at all, and sounds like a four year old. We all have autistic traits, it doesn't mean we all have autism.
She should be checking for autism and seeking advice but should not be advising parents. angry

Gangle Wed 05-Dec-12 22:01:57

Thank god for Mumsnet. The voice of reason. I really think it isn't that but I am now thinking, what does she see that I don't see? I am worried that I will walk into the meeting tomorrow and the special needs teacher will say that she has seen him and thinks he has autism. Either way, the way the teacher raised it and the lack of substance and accuracy of what she was saying is just to upsetting. Had she said, he has a very short attention span and that suggests autism then maybe but the "signs" she has suggested are ridiculous and not even accurate.

KnittingChristmas Wed 05-Dec-12 22:06:07

Your SENCo shouldn't be diagnosing either Gangle - if they have concerns the most they can suggest is you take him to your GP to be referred to a specialist but if you don't think there any issues you are totally within your rights to refuse.

Your DS1's class teacher should not have mentioned the word autism - very unprofessional.

HumphreyCobbler Wed 05-Dec-12 22:07:21

Teachers are not qualified to diagnose autism.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Wed 05-Dec-12 22:09:32

Liking construction is a sign of autism? Who the Dickens told her that I wonder? In all my years as a teaching assistant in a special school with lots of autistic pupils no-one ever told me that one.

I was thinking that it sounds like he might have low slf esteem, not autism, based on his poor eye contact and some of the sad things he says. As someone said, he has a huge amount going on at the mo, is it any wonder he is emotional?

I hope things settle for you both soon.

FlojoHoHoHo Wed 05-Dec-12 22:13:45

Your teacher should never have said that shock
He needs a referral to the psychology team first off.
From your OP and I'm in no way qualified to judge other than I work with autistic children, he doesn't seem to fit the criteria.
If I was u, I would take someone with u to then meeting, maybe a grandparent or something. They can be quite full on and u might need someone to take the reins if it gets a bit much.
But get a referral and take the teachers opinion with a pinch of salt.

FlojoHoHoHo Wed 05-Dec-12 22:15:20

I agree hellhas I've never heard that liking construction was a sign of autism.

Dededum Wed 05-Dec-12 22:16:14

As one with and one without, think you sort of know if there is something wrong. By the sounds of it you don't so trust your instincts. A divorce is going to be a huge change for him.

Good luck tommorow.

I agree that they are not qualified to diagnose anything. I did just want to correct you on your statement that children with autism don't have a sense of humour or get sarcasm as many do.

Hopefully you will get an asessment if you are concerned.

LynetteScavo England Wed 05-Dec-12 22:20:12

"She also said that the teachers had just had an inset day on autism so she was seeing autism "everywhere." "

Oh, don't get me started on this, it's a bit of a sore point.

[Huge generalisation here, but a specific experience has lead me to beleve]Teachers either seem to have absolutely no idea about the signs of autism, or go on a course and then think half the class is autistic.

Your DS obviously has some issues, but for the teacher to even mention autism is not only unprofessional, but down right ridiculous.

HotheadPaisan Wed 05-Dec-12 22:23:29

Most obvious explanation is unsettled due to the divorce. Is there anyone in the family who struggles with understand everyday information, or communicating and interacting socially with other people?

The sensitivity and rigidity over play can just be age or personality, ditto for the manipulation, but there is PDA which is form of autism that could explain these things too. www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/related-conditions/pda-pathological-demand-avoidance-syndrome.aspx

If your gut instinct is that all is well then I'd go with that, if not the strategies for these things, if needed, will help whether it is ASD or not.

MrsDeVere Wed 05-Dec-12 22:23:36

I cannot tell you how much this sort of thing annoys me!
I hear it a LOT.

Nursery workers, Sencos, Teachers and TAs drawing mums (it always seems to be the mums) and telling them they think their child has autism (it always bloody autism).

It is a good thing for schools and nurseries to be aware of the possible signs of SN. It is NOT a good thing for them to approach the parents with a specific diagnosis.

If they are concerned they should have a meeting with you outline their specific worries WITHOUT mentioning Autism.

If the special needs teacher (is that the SENCO) repeats this tomorrow I strongly suggest you ask them directly 'are you diagnosing my son with autism?'

Dx a 4 year old with aspergers is ridiculous.

They need to outline their concerns and then make a plan with you to address them.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Wed 05-Dec-12 22:24:20

To be fair if you are looking hard enough you could find at least one sign sign of autism in 99% of the population. I think the fact that she's just had an autism awareness day speaks volumes.

HotheadPaisan Wed 05-Dec-12 22:25:59

Low self-esteem, high anxiety and controlling behaviour are indicative of PDA too, but like I said, some kids are just sensitive, some mature a bit later, either way there should be strategies for helping with any issues, whatever the underlying cause.

steppemum Netherlands Wed 05-Dec-12 22:26:23

I read your post carefully, and to be honest he sounds like a little boy who is coping with a divorce. i think that one sentence quite easily explains everything else.
Children coping with situations like divorce, often have anger issues, he is doing really well with them most of the time, which is great, but not all the time because he is just a kid. The tantrums sound like they are a worse than normal because it is a way of expressing emotions.

Added to that reception kids do often get 'badly behaved' at home as they are being 'good' all day and when they get home they can't keep it up.

You sound as if you are doing all the right things, being consistent, enforcing boundaries etc.

HotheadPaisan Wed 05-Dec-12 22:29:55

The other side of the coin is that ASD gets overlooked or not recognised for what it is, especially if it's not classic autism. It was a huge relief when DS1's YR teacher realised things weren't right and started a CAF and so on, we would have taken a lot longer to seek help if she hadn't.

DS1 would not be in school without a diagnosis and support, I'd keep an open mind but stay in control of any referrals, strategies or support offered.

Pooka Wed 05-Dec-12 22:38:01

My advice would be to let them set the wheels in motion for assessment, no harm done if they're wrong.

My ds1 is 7 and is being monitored at the moment and due to be seen by the borough ed psych in January. He became increasingly unhappy in year 1. Is very bright but I just felt that socially he was struggling. He just seems so sad about himself, so self critical and lacking in confidence. We got private ed psych assessment - came back with query re: possible aspergers/NVLD. Eye contact not great. Patterns of speech rather adult in tone were two things highlighted by the edpsych, as well as WISC scores that show a clinical disparity between his verbal and non-verbal abilities. I told the school beforehand, and provided them with the report.

At no point had the school teachers mentioned the words autism/asd/aspergers but once provided with the report they agreed with much that had been written. The senco is terribly careful not to diagnose or alarm parents by making a diagnosis they are not qualified to give. I think the teacher has been rather indiscreet and npunprofessional in suggesting that your ds has a specific sen. They should not do this. But at the same time, it is worth, IMO, covering all avenues.

Ds1 is on school action. He is in year 2, but is so advanced in literacy that does some activities and lessons with year 5. This helps with his self-esteem, but also at the same time within the normal year 2 classroom his work is differentiated and allowances are made wrt another aspect of the report that showed slow processing speed.

I think that it is possible that he has aspergers or NVLD. But if he doesn't, well in the meantime the differences he has have been acknowledged and incorporated into lesson planning and while he still dislikes going to school, I feel that we as parents, and the teachers, are more unrstanding of his quirks - which may just be quirks (quite a lot of quirkiness in my family).

So in general, having a potential 'label' has been a good thing. It's meant that a lot more thought has been put in by the school, and we are much more capable of working round problems he might have and making allowances.

He's going to be fine. Yes, he may not be the most socially adept adult, but he has so much going for him, particularly in his maturity in other respects and his fabulous quirkiness as well as his intelligence. I've certainly been more tolerant and he has become incredibly affectionate and and cuddly in the last year as we're not locking horns all the time or head butting (metaphorically speaking) in the way were were pre-getting assessed. Doesn't mean that I'm not still hoping that the borough ed psych says all fine though.

Sorry - has turned into a screed.

I'm not for a moment saying that your ds has asd, or that he hasn't, because I don't know him and I'm completely unqualified (as is the class teacher for that matter). But just wanted to say that IMO assessment and monitoring can be an excellent tool to smooth things and to provide insight and ways to work round any problems, or to discount problems iyswim.

Pooka Wed 05-Dec-12 22:42:16

Ds1 has a FANTASTIC sense of humour though and loves jokes, particularly puns and plays on words. Though he can be a bit like uncle fester in this cartoon grin

www.google.co.uk/search?q=addams+family+cinema+cartoon+horror&hl=en&client=safari&tbo=d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=K82_UJ7mKqnP0QXBnIHYCw&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1024&bih=672#biv=i|5;d|5TtY8gHpAGK9QM:

Pooka Wed 05-Dec-12 22:44:19
puddock Germany Wed 05-Dec-12 22:53:05

The manager of my DS's nursery made similar remarks to me when he was 3; basically saying he was "aspergic". Now though he was an anxious boy, able academically but struggling socially, we really didn't - don't - think that fits, and we also thought that he was too young, and she was too unqualified, to make a diagnosis. And were unsure what the point of it would be, too.
Our health visitor made a referral to community paediatrician, whom we met and she had a much more sensible, nuanced perspective. We're going to consider the next step of referral to the multi-agency group who would make an assessment in a year or so, but he's made a lot of progress since moving from nursery to school and we may decide to postpone/decline this when it comes.
Your post has reminded me how angry the nursery manager's remarks made me. Hope your conversation with the SENCO goes well, and you get some good knowledgeable support whatever your DSs needs turn out to be.

duchesse Wed 05-Dec-12 23:06:56

DS's reception teacher made the same remark to me, except that being a July birthday he was in fact only 4 years 4 months. It still makes my blood boil to this day. I didn't leave him in the school, he switched at the February half term back to nursery. What it boiled down to was he was a shy, academic boy, small for his age and young for his year group, and did not like rough and tumble. From that his numpty of a teacher felt qualified to make a "diagnosis".

ChookKeeper Wed 05-Dec-12 23:08:18

I agree with everyone who said no way can a teacher make that kind of diagnosis. DD1 was 17 before she was diagnosed and that was only after 10 months of sessions a CAMHS with a clinical nurse specialist, SALT and a psychiatrist.

You're little boy has such a lot going on that would make anyone sad, so try not to worry too much about there being anything 'wrong' with him.

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