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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.

handerson91 Mon 18-Nov-13 18:32:29

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

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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.

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.

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.

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 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 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 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 07:31:02

Special educational needs coordinator

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.

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

What is a SENCO?

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.

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".

puddock 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.

Pooka Wed 05-Dec-12 22:44:19
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 22:38:01

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.

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.

steppemum 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 22:25:59

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.

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.

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.

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.

LynetteScavo 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.

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