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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.

Gangle Wed 05-Dec-12 23:49:34

What is a SENCO?

FrogsgoLaDiLaDiLa Thu 06-Dec-12 00:12:23

As a teacher I think she has way overstepped the mark, firstly with the diagnosis which she is not in a position/clearly not qualified to make but especially with the mixed messages that she has given you over the course of the year.

I will slightly stand on the fence however by adding that I am convinced that an adult close to me has Aspergers which is becoming more pronounced as he gets older. When he was a child, all of things that could have been flagged were explained as being due to the horrible divorce that his parents were going through. It was horrible and he did suffer but I believe that 'writing it off' has done him a massive disservice in the long run.

MrsDeVere Thu 06-Dec-12 07:31:02

Special educational needs coordinator

HotheadPaisan Thu 06-Dec-12 10:35:51

I'm really interested in the reactions to this, is it that it's broached badly or the idea of autism is worrying? If so, I think that's a lot to do with misinformation or lack of understanding of the various issues that autism presents and how it affects people.

I'm all about the facts, understanding how DS1's brain is wired is essential for working out how to work with him to help him deal with the difficulties he has.

MrsDeVere Thu 06-Dec-12 14:20:37

I can only speak for myself on that hothead smile

I think that it is a very Good Thing that schools are alert to the signs of SN including ASD.

Lots of children are not going to be dx at a young age because they do not display the signs of classic autism. Many are recognised at primary age as their peer's social skills etc take off and they are left behind.

What bothers me is people talking about ASD in the playground or school gate. Its just not appropriate and they are not qualified.

It would be like them saying 'I think your child has an enlarged heart'. (not a brilliant example but...)

It causes anxiety and distress and can not be followed up swiftly enough.

HotheadPaisan Thu 06-Dec-12 14:31:30

Understood, we were ready to hear anything at all that helped, we had no idea it was ASD given the way it presented for DS1.

Also, the school gate/ society chat has to be had, it's not a shameful thing, it's a fact and there needs to be compassion and understanding, not hushed convos, appreciate I am a whole year and a bit down the line though.

I bet America has this a bit more sussed, not that it stops kids with ASD being targetted of course. It is interesting how many people we know have taken it in their stride and have felt able to tell us about their kids too.

Of course I have no idea what people are saying that I don't hear and I am very mindful of DS1's privacy, it's really hard to balance his needs and consideration for his privacy with others' need to know and my need to talk about it. Tricky.

MrsDeVere Thu 06-Dec-12 16:33:04

Its not about shame, its about confidentiality and appropriate space for discussing something very important.

I have a son with ASD and other SN.
I also work with parents with young children with SN. Coming to terms with a dx for many of them is very, very hard.

They feel like they have lost their child and are having to contemplate life with a different child and they are bereft.

The school gate thing...with my NT children I would not be happy if a TA or teacher had a discussion about anything significant whilst people are rushing past me and my child wanted to get home.

And teachers have no real training regarding SN. It is fine for them to raise concerns about learning or behaviour. It is not ok for them to put a name to it.
What is a parent takes that as a dx? They then go through a complicated process with professionals disagreeing with the teacher.

Who do they believe? They are often left feeling let down and fobbed off by the team that has told them that their child does not have ASD. They may have spent months coming to terms with a 'dx' only to find that it was incorrect.

I have seen too many families thrown into confusion and hugely stressed out by a well meaning member of school staff to think this sort of disclosure is a good idea.

I had someone tell me they thought my son had AS without even meeting him! She had also been on a course hmm

I very much agree with your last point. It IS very hard to work out what and who to tell.
TBH that is another bone of contention for me. Some of families do not want to tell and yet their wishes are not respected.

I am like you I think...I am open and do not feel the need to hide my DS's condition. I work with families who really, really do not want to disclose.

HotheadPaisan Thu 06-Dec-12 16:56:47

Yes, I agree with the confusion when development isn't as it should be, and the amount of time it takes to understand it all yourself, let alone others. Also hate being grabbed to talk about things 'quickly', especially in front of others.

OTOH I know of teachers who suspect developmental problems with other kids and feel unable to act, especially if the parents will not accept there's a problem. It's not easy to navigate.

Lougle Thu 06-Dec-12 21:57:25

It's not easy to navigate. I find this thread interesting, because I am at the polar opposite stage with the OP. DD2 is in Yr 1 (August baby, so just 5) and my DH and I suspect a social communication disorder and/or language disorder.

I have approached the teacher, who is explaining everything as 'August baby' 'quirky' 'individual' 'independent'. Even the very adult precise nature of her language as being 'much more articulate than other children in the class'.

It's hard, whichever side of the fence you are on.

orlakielylover Thu 27-Dec-12 22:58:54

Everything Mrs DeVere and others said. I'm a clinical psych and I meet parents scared out of their wits at teacher and TA diagnoses of autism.

Kats2 Wed 17-Apr-13 17:38:27

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