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Head Teacher wondering if 7 year old might have Aspergers. I am a bit suspicious of seeing the autistic spectrum everywhere.

(46 Posts)
Longstocking2 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:36:49

Now I'm NOT a professional and I have Aspergers in my family so I know exactly how challenging autism can be for everyone around it.

But I have a good friend who has a boy in school who is a bit of a fidget and a bit naughty and now the school are saying he may have Aspergers.

Of course he may; but I wonder whether a percentage of these boys may just be absolutely dead bored with the primary setting as driven through by successive governments? Classrooms are almost like edulabs where we fine tune kids to perform for Oftsed and there is little excitement and not enough (in my opinion) celebration of difference in development type and speed which doesn't suit all this constant assessment. I don't blame the schools for this and certainly not the teachers. They all seem to be under this terrible Ofsted cosh which has created these weird exam prep factories (2ndary schools) and Lets Make Kids All The Same so we can analyse them on spreadsheets to make us look good (primary schools). In this sort of lab, difference is bad and the drive is towards a kind of homogeneity.

Call me a cynic, but I really wonder whether some of these 'diagnoses' aren't just a way of saying its the child who has the issue not the stultifying environment. Great if you're a good little girl who is in heaven sitting still and listening/writing etc but for an active boy a day at school must be like a prison sentence I sometimes feel.

no offence to anyone intended and for those with Aspergers, I mean no disrespect. I just wonder whether there is any over-diagnosis these days because our education seems to be being dictated by politicians who don't really know anything about the actual process of education on the ground and that they've made the environment deadening for our liveliest boys who could be in a much better place to stimulate them in a way that is appropriate for where they are now, not where we want them to be for our end of year spread sheet for the ofsted judges wielding doom or blessing.

coffeeisnectar Sat 06-Feb-16 15:40:19

Yabu. Schools do not diagnose. Getting a diagnosis can take a very long time.

And you are being very judgemental about this. Children fidget all the time. Most of them don't come home and have a complete meltdown from bottling everything up all day.

coffeeisnectar Sat 06-Feb-16 15:41:00

Ps. Girls have aspergers too.

Aspergallus Sat 06-Feb-16 15:43:13


The school environment is very unforgiving of difference. We expect adults to be extremely varied in ability, interests, personality, tastes, introversion v extroversion etc etc etc....but still expect children, stuck in what is actually quite an unusual environment, from 5-18, to "fit" within fairly narrow parameters.

Seems like if they don't fit, some label gets attached to them whether it's ASD, Asperger's, or Anxiety.

Jollyphonics Sat 06-Feb-16 15:43:38

I know what you mean about the tedium of Offsted/SATs-driven learning. And I agree that it's possible that a large number of children who aren't on the autistic spectrum are being referred for assessment. However, I'd be surprised if children got excessively diagnosed. It's a difficult diagnosis to make, and requires complex assessment by several professionals, and I would hope that that process would eliminate the kids who are just bored with the syllabus.

LarrytheCucumber Sat 06-Feb-16 15:49:33

YANBU Longstocking, I have often thought this myself. However when DS was diagnosed with AS we did have to provide evidence of what he was like at home and he was seen in different settings by Community Paed and Ed Psych, so although the Head could be seeing AS everywhere, it doesn't mean the child will get a diagnosis.
Looking back to my childhood when 'boys will be boys' was still the prevailing viewpoint, boys walked, or ran, to school every day, as did girls. At Primary school we had a boys' playground (the larger of the two where it was expected that quite a bit of rough and tumble would go on) and a girls' playground where we skipped and played various playground games. Although children sat still a lot during school hours, both sexes had plenty of opportunity to let off steam and a lot of the boys' behaviour was tolerated in a way that it would not be today. We also played out in the street after school when the weather permitted.
This at least meant that children had plenty of outlets for burning off energy.

Longstocking2 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:50:30

Of course the schools don't diagnose, I was perfectly clear about that. It's the culture of seeing difficult behaviour as always being about the child having a condition of some kind not ever looking objectively at the environment.

It's about being genuinely scientific, not just being intellectually sloppy. I think schools have become very driven by an ideology of results and that is making some children not fit in.

Some of those children may have meltdowns or problems because of an inherent condition. While some may have meltdowns or problems because of the environment. Some may have multi causal issues. You can't study the spread of ebola, for example, if you do not frankly assess the environment in which it spreads.

I don't think you can assess the behaviour of children if you do not frankly assess the environment in which they spend years of their development. Saying schools don't effect children is like saying water doesn't make you wet.

I know girls have Asperger's, my sister has that profile but I don't believe that everyone who someone says has a condition definitely has it. It's not like having chicken pox is it? These things are hugely open to professional interpretation and I don't think we can examine the mental health of children objectively if we are not allowed to examine the strengths and weaknesses of our schools.

Mayor22 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:50:57

YABU - I have a "good little girl" who follows rules at school who has a diagnosis of Autism. I think professionals who assess children can tell the difference between a child who is bored and unsuited to a traditional school environment and a child who has traits of Autism. It's school's job to ensure they are doing what they can to engage all children, so ruling out/in a diagnosis is very helpful for this.

mouldycheesefan Sat 06-Feb-16 15:57:42

I don't recognise your description of school being like edulabs as anything at all like the primary school my kids go to! Have you spent any time in schools?

Longstocking2 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:59:16

I am thinking of the film director Steve McQueen who was written off as an eejit by his 70s school (he had undiagnosed dyslexia) and Mark Rylance who was not obviously a genius at school. i look at some of these boys in primary school as unnaturally situated. I genuinely think that troubled behaviour can be caused by the school environment to some children.
I wonder whether putting some children into a classroom that requires huge conformity of behaviour is the equivalent of putting an agoraphobic in a massive field or a claustrophobic in a cupboard. I just look at some of these kids and I think, 'get them out of here, this isn't right for them!'.
Now of course that isn't a practical or realistic option. But that's where I think the system needs flexibility. And I remain sceptical about how little we genuinely interrogate our school environment for those it doesn't suit. In a way we write them off like we used to write off anyone who didn't get into a grammar school. But it's more insidious if we pathologise it, isn't it?

manicinsomniac Sat 06-Feb-16 16:00:39

Not sure but I suspect YANBU.

SENCO (colleague as I teach in same school as my children attend so a bit awkward) told me she wonders if my oldest DD might have ASD. I see no signs of this myself. She has some mental health problems and is slightly 'different' for want of a better word but I cannot see any reason to think she needs a diagnosis of ASD. I just don't see it.

I don't think that children without ASD get diagnosed with it. But I do think non medical professionals assume ASD as an easy explanation for a child not being as they would expect.

Longstocking2 Sat 06-Feb-16 16:04:59

I've spent loads and loads of time in schools.
I'm happy so many of you say improper diagnosis is unlikely.
I think for some kids sitting still for long periods of time is a real issue and we don't look at what putting a kid in an unsuitable environment can cause/trigger/generate.

Secondary schools are absolutely exam factories. What choice do they have? Containment and results. Teaching kids total uniformity even in the words they use, the quotes they use. I mean it's very impressive but it is, when you stand back, a little like Chairman Mao would say 'Fabulous! Train them to be all the same and obedient. It's more efficient. And kill the rebels while you're at it.....'

Longstocking2 Sat 06-Feb-16 16:07:37

but seriously I value hearing other experience and I feel so sad for my friend, I feel like we are not brave enough to really look at how ill suited our schools might be for so many children. And what is the result? There are many studies that talk about how kids lose their love for school after reception. Maybe that's just tough. But I wonder.

BlackEyedPeas Sat 06-Feb-16 16:14:11

if a child is very smart, is autistic.
if a child does not concentrate on a particular task, is autistic.
Sorry, God created us all different, not as Peppa Pigs on a conveyor belt.

bigmouthstrikesagain Sat 06-Feb-16 16:14:32

Op I can't agree with your assessment of the situation. The way schools are being pressured to perform is a serious issue. I agree test passing, bench marking and getting good ofsted assessments is taking priority over well rounded and lively curriculums.

But I disagree that an increase in ASD diagnoses are directly related to this. It is tiresome that so many unqualified people feel they know better than the medical professionals that make a diagnosis of Autism. I have a dd with ASD and her school were instrumental in supporting the request for a referral through our GP but they didn't diagnose her. Her issues are with social imagination, and anxiety mainly, she isn't badly behaved or particularly fidgety but she does struggle to interact with her peers and needs to be given clear instructions and a structure for playtime/ lunch ... she is vulnerable to bullying and will struggle with puberty. She is ahead of her peers in some academic subjects but a few years behind emotionally. These difficulties are not created by the school environment. But the school can help make her life easier with targeted support. The school doesn't benefit from her diagnosis, they don't get extra money for her and it is only down to pressure from me and cooperation from the dedicated but overworked staff at her school that she gets the support she needs.

So by all means complain about the politics around education, I agree that the government priorities are skewed and that schools are teaching children how to pass exams, but the children most often failed by the school system are those with SN - ASD, ADD, ADHD all diagnosed conditions not constructs. These children end up as adults many of whom struggle to work full time, to be fully independent, who may be more vulnerable to depression this continues after they have left school so how many years post school do the problems need to continue before you can accept it is a real diagnosis op?

Floggingmolly Sat 06-Feb-16 16:16:40

If you think the school environment is the cause, shouldn't you ask yourself why all the other children appear not to be affected in the same way?

Longstocking2 Sat 06-Feb-16 16:22:55

bigmouth well said, I have conflated the environment with the diagnosis.
Clearly a correct diagnosis is a wonderful thing and it's great that a good school supports individual children and their families to access what they need and I don't take these conditions lightly.

Flogging there may be all sorts of things that are caused by the environment that we can't see in the others' behaviour. The optimum situation isn't necessarily just humble conformity is it? You don't get our Great British Creative Industries from a load of obedient types who are great at passing exams but have had their imaginations atrophy in schools which are too sterile to stimulate.

bigmouthstrikesagain Sat 06-Feb-16 16:24:22

Btw my children love school - it is structured, they know what is going to happen, they like the teachers (as long as they are not shouting), it is the noise/ chaos/ unpredictability of their peers that cause many problems. My kids want the others to behave and learn they don't really understand why children are naughty. They can be difficult to teach due to their rigidity and pedantic thinking but this is just my children and my experience so I know there are many differences between the way autistic children present. But I do think the issues with the school environment which effects all children and the issues an asd child has interacting with the world in general are separate.

Longstocking2 Sat 06-Feb-16 16:26:12

That's a very good point.
Maybe one size just can never suit all.

TitClash Sat 06-Feb-16 16:29:44

YANBU. I think its easier for the Heads to label the kids/send a snarky letter home about'abscences'/yada yada than risk losing points.

Not everything is a syndrome. I think you would have noticed if your friends son was autistic.

Chippednailvarnish Sat 06-Feb-16 16:31:58

You lost me at "edulabs". You clearly have your own agenda rather than looking at what is best for the child in question.

3WiseWomen Sat 06-Feb-16 16:34:24

YABU to think that the school environment is influencing the number of children having autism.

However, YANBU to think that the way the schools are set up nowdays is making it very hard for them to fit.
I fully agree with with the fact they want all the children to be the same in some ways. Don't fall behind, be fidgety etc... but don't be too ahead either because we don't know what to do with you either.
The system is geared towards the middle of the bell curve so it benefits most of the children but will be detrimental to the ones at both extreme, ie those with some SN and those who are ahead.

It Is possible maybe that schools being so rigid in their requets from the children, the pace they are learning etc... that when children have some SN, then it's more visible so more children are flagged up and therefore more children are diagnosed (as in, before they would have gone under the radar iyswim)

HaveIGotAClue Sat 06-Feb-16 16:34:54

I don't know what is being taught or how, but it ain't working!

GruntledOne Sat 06-Feb-16 16:35:25

It's pointless for you to decide this head is right or wrong without knowing what has led her to raise the possibility. You may be aware solely that this boy is a bit of a fidget and a bit naughty, and if that really is all there is by way of evidence you may be right. However, what the teachers may be seeing is a boy who is distracted by the least noise, who can never sit still, who is rigid in his thinking, who doesn't seem to understand inference and jokes, who has major problems socialising with other children, who has trouble coping with transitions - and so on and so on. There's nothing to lose by checking it out.

bigmouthstrikesagain Sat 06-Feb-16 16:38:57

It is nonsense that a friend would know if their friends child was autistic, unless that friend happened to be a paediatrian or educational psychologist, I didn't know my children were until I got a diagnosis. But an experienced teacher may well be in a position to identify if a child could possibly have an SN and they should be helping any child that struggles in school regardless of diagnosis.

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