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normal.... anxious.... autistic... or spoiled? 9 yo dd

(40 Posts)
hodgehegs Tue 06-Nov-12 23:25:22

Feeling confused about my dd's behaviour and wondering whether to speak to our GP but don't want to be seen as making a fuss if these things are "normal".

Hard to put it in a nutshell but she has sensory issues about clothes and will not wear anything with applique or buttons that she can feel. Trousers must be elasticated only, no zips as she hates the feel of them. Refuses to wear tights as they are "uncomfortable", so finding clothes is challenging. She prefers to wear her old clothes that are too small for her eg tracksuit bottoms swinging 5 inches above her ankles! Also hates to change clothes, likes to keep her socks on for days and tells me she has changed her underwear, but hasn't, and it is often stained when it reaches the washing basket. When I have tried to talk sensitively as possible about personal hygiene she gets angry and storms off.

Cleaning teeth - nightmare, she hates the taste of all toothpastes, and will not clean them unless I nag, then makes a big deal about it. Also can/will not stand still at the sink to get ready for bed, has to be swinging about on one leg, flicking light pull etc

Has food issues - refuses dairy, can't stand butter, so sandwiches consist of dry white bread with a slice of ham. Not a great deal of variety, says she doesn't like most of what I cook, even though we have made a menu together of least-unacceptable meals (I am a decent cook btw!). I have a whole other thread on this, as she is currently underweight, possibly due to eating habits, or possibly genetics, since I am size 6 and weigh 7 and a half stone no matter how much chocolate, cake or takeaway I eat. Was sent home from school today at lunch (has happened a number of times before) saying she feels sick because of the food.

Can be quite controlling - a friend's mum said that she had noticed how much dd controls play when they are together. At home if things don't go her way she gets v angry (I don't pander to this, so put up with much anger directed at me when she can't have/do what she wants). Being moved down the reward chart has little effect, she just gets angrier!

Strange responses to events sometimes eg seemingly neutral when pets die. See v little sadness, mostly anger, and takes things v personally eg when there's a tangle when I brush her hair she says I have hurt her deliberately. Likewise, extreme rection to being brushed passed, says "ow, that hurt!" v loudly to only the lightest touch. I can't tell whether she genuinely feels some touch as pain or if she's putting it on to make some sort of point.

With homework, has meltdowns. Asks for help, and when I try to breakdown what she needs to do or explain, gets v worked up, tearful and angry at me til she's in such a state she can't do it.

Dad is v similar - controlling & vindictive towards people who don't agree with him, and divorce 4 years ago was acrimonious, and still is, with regular allegations from him to social services that dd is at risk. She is not, and SS go away happy every time they investigate. This is purely an attempt to have her removed from me and continuing punishment for me leaving him.

Sorry this is so long, there are so many factors involved! There are unusual (ASD type) behaviours on both sides of the family, plus the stuff she witnessed during the marriage and his ongoing manipulation of her, so she may have emotional issues, but the sensory things make me wonder about ASD.

Just wondering what to do next - whether this behaviour is normal (doesn't feel it), or because she is used to getting her own way with him and feels it is her right to dictate life and throw a strop when things don't go her way.

BTW raised concerns at parent's eve, but school not noticed anything. She is v quiet there and always well behaved.

SittingBull Wed 07-Nov-12 02:08:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SittingBull Wed 07-Nov-12 07:00:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hattie11 Wed 07-Nov-12 07:11:57

My 9 year has always had issues with clothes and still does. In fact she only wears leggings and they have to be inspected thoroughly for their texture first. She won't wear tshirts with sequins or extra stitching. She too doesn't wear anything new until its Hung in her wardrobe so long its a size too small and then she will wear it continuously.
I have no concerns for dd, I think its just part of her!
So can't help with sensory issues u discuss. But I can't help thinking that the anger you describe could be a result of the difficulties surrounding your divorce and presumably she picks up on her dads views of your parenting? This must put her in a very difficult place emotionally.
And for my dd I have noticed hormonal changes affecting her emotions.
Do you have other children? Do you ensure u get one to one time with your dd? And can you do anything to change the behaviour of her father e.g make him understand the impact it hasvon her?

sleepymum50 Wed 07-Nov-12 07:23:55

I agree with the above as well. Theres also a book called "the sensivtive child" which says about 20% of the poplulation are like this. Stuff which doesn't bother others, bothers them, and then it all spills out when they get home. (tho that also happens with average kids as well)

Often they find it hard to move from one state to another (even down to changing clothes). The controlling behaviour is probably just a way to stay comfortable - so I wouldn't worry that she's got problems like her dad.

The anger with homework etc is probably frustration, my dd when younger could be like this - I used to try to be very calm, and often a hug would help calm her down.

Its like they get stuck in one emotional state/or feeling and can't defuse it or move to another. I think of it like being stuck in one room and they need your hand to gently lead them into another room.

ref underwear and teeth - personally I would stand over her and make sure she does it. Ref hair, I know what you mean - can she do it herself or have short hair - it was years before i could cut my DD toenails properly.

Best of luck

yawningmonster Wed 07-Nov-12 07:48:32

check out
She does sound like she has what some would call sensory processing disorder and some would call highly sensitive person.
My son has extreme sensitivities AND is also autistic.
Hair keep short
Underwear experiment with different materials/ styles and then once you have found the least offensive option, mandate a minimum standard and stick to it
Toothpaste My son does just brush with water at the moment but we are about to try adding very very very small amounts of his most tolerated toothpaste (herbal alternative, not mint based at all)
Homework: we have backed off completely at the moment, he just can't cope with more on top of school.
Controlling behaviour: we use social stories alot, I basically write about a commonly occuring undesirable behaviour and model how to correct it so
DS played with Sam. DS wanted Sam to play all the games he wanted to play. DS wanted Sam to say all the things DS wanted him to say.....DS finds it hard when others have ideas that are different from him. When this happens DS cries, shouts and sometimes says things like "you are not my friend" Sam gets annoyed when DS wants to lead all of the play. Sam feels hurt when DS says he is not is friend. Sam feels unsure of what to do when DS cries and shouts.
When Sam comes over next time DS is going to take turns to decide what to do and how it is done. DS will have some things his way and Sam will want to come again.
I know it sounds basic for a 9 year old but it needs to be really explicitly spelled out for my son and you may be able to use something like a discussion that may be more appropriate for your daughter.

hodgehegs Wed 07-Nov-12 09:47:40

Thank you, SittingBull. I didn't realise sensory processing issues were recognised in their own right. I have been looking at the ASD characteristics and thinking she has some, but doesn't meet the 3 areas needed for a full ASD diagnosis.

Hattie, we too have a wardrobe full of unworn clothes which only become acceptable when too small. I wonder if I buy clothes a size too big perhaps she will start wearing them when they fit? She has been fed a whole lot of rubbish by dad and I'm sure it does have an effect on her. After our most recent SS investigation they wrote in the assessment that his allegations and the subsequent involvement of SS was having a negative affect on her. He just said he wouldn't do anything to upset her or me, which is rubbish - I went through years of domestic abuse at his hands. Unfortunately I can't speak to him about her behaviour, as he uses everything (even when she has a cold) to try and twist round and use it to back up his claims I am an unfit parent. When I tried to discuss her diet and weight with him he just rejected everything i said and makes allegations that I am not feeding her, even though she eats worse when with him - he actually told SS that she doesn't eat with them because I have told her not to eat there!

Dad has explicitly told her that I don't know how to look after her and she would be better off with him, and makes up nonsense saying I moved away to try and stop him seeing her etc, which is absolutely untrue, so she has a very distorted view of reality.

She is an only child here, but dad married his girlfriend and they now have a 1 year old child. Her behaviour here hasn't changed since the new one came along.

Thanks for the book ref Sleepymum, I will check it out. What you say is spot on. Sometimes I do stand over her in the bathroom, but feel a bit torn because she is old enough that I don't want to have to do that and feel she should have a bit of independence. She kicks off when I do it because she says I don't trust her. With hair (dry and curly so very tangly) we end up in a circular argument where she wants me to do it, but then it hurts, so she gets angry with me, so I suggest she does it herself, so she gets angry because she wants me to do it.... She was growing it long, but I insisted she have it shoulder length because it was such a problem. It's a little easier now, so will keep it that length. Was a battle to get it cut though.

I insist she has a bath daily so at least the dirty underwear can be prised off and removed to the washing basket, but often find a hoard of dirty socks under her bedcovers.

yawningmonster, thanks for the link. Btw I score 17/27, get distressed by sirens, cry at school plays, get migraines from perfume... and have always wondered why I am so sensitive. I put it down to emotional factors though rather than being overstimulated by my environment. Has reminded me of another of her sensitivities - hand-dryers in public loos, she will not use them because she hates the noise and gets v worked up about washing her hands because she is afraid the water will be too hot. We had a 5 min stand off in a busy public toilet recently when I insisted she wash her hands and she point blank refused. I don't want to push her beyoned what she can cope with, but at the same time, I don't want her to get ill, or let her get away with not doing things. I hate the sound of hand dryers to, but I know I have to get over it.

I used a social story with her a while back about communication, as she used to not always respond when I spoke to her, and would often squeak in front of visitors when they spoke to her, even grandparents, and hide behind me. She has improved since then.

I work with children with SEN and have noticed some similarities. Having done some courses on autism I found I was relating to a lot of my daughter's behaviour rather than the children I work with, but once you recognise the signs it's easy to start seeing them in everyone, so I didn't want to go overboard and label her. As she is a bit older it is hard not to make social stories sound patronising, and her issues seem to come out mainly at home, whereas the children I work with are clearly affected in all areas of their lives. Might be time to give it another go though.

Re homework, things have really stepped up this year as she is in year 5, and while she isn't too bad with sheets where you fill in the blanks, anything that is unstructured eg a blank page in literacy causes her to go into a panic that she can't calm down from, even though I know she is capable of doing the work. Because of my job I am used to breaking down tasks into small sections and taking it slowly, but I guess because I am mum rather than her teacher, she lets her frustration out at me in a way she wouldn't do at school. Am glad I brought it up with them at parents' eve this week, so they know when she brings in a blank page that it's not just laziness and perhaps they will be able to work with her there on it.

Have any of you with sensitive children had a diagnosis just regards their sensitivity, or is it a secondary factor that is part and parcel of ASD?

I think I will book a dr appointment to discuss it. Seeing it all in writing makes it seem more extreme than I had realised, though of course we do have "normal" days too.

ilikemysleep Wed 07-Nov-12 15:03:40

She certainly has sensory processing issues

However she sounds a lot like a girl with aspergers to me - they don't tend to present identically to boys - and DH sounds like an 'arrogant denier' aspie....

would you come and post on the 'special needs children' board as you will get a lot more advice and information there.

hodgehegs Wed 07-Nov-12 17:36:59

Thanks, I will see if I can cut and paste my original question to the other board if I can find it.

Hard to know with dad. He certainly had weird behaviour right from the start, reacted to half a coke like it was a class A, made funny noises etc, still takes everything personally and reacts aggressively. I tried to make excuses for him through the first part of our marriage eg his upbringing, lack of coping skills etc, then wondered if he had ADHD.

In the end after watching him switch his "charm" personality on for other people, but reserve all the anger for and blame for me, I put it down to psychopathy/narcissism and abusive nature.

lingle Wed 07-Nov-12 18:00:56

agree with everyone else - the sensory issues deserve attention in their own right.

I noticed with ds2 that the sensory issues were very plain when he was 2/3 but as he grew up they got more mixed up with learnt responses/psychological stuff - as with anyone I suppose.

So I think he has grown out of his sensory issues but is left with certain phobias. And even if he hadn't grown out of them the psychological stuff would still be important. This kind of ties in with the way you did your thread title - by 9 years old, nothing is a "pure" sensory issue any more I suspect!

I think ASD is a useful label for capturing the sense of someone struggling to "get" aspects of communication that others "get" more easily - the roots being in their neurology, not just their experiences. So I guess you will continue to think about that too.

Tiggles Wed 07-Nov-12 18:15:53

She definitely sounds like she needs her sensory issues dealing with, and in some ways she does sound a bit like DS1 who has AS - especially the reward charts not working, homework meltdowns (although DS is unable to ask for help).

adoptmama Wed 07-Nov-12 18:24:05

Sounds very like sensory issues, particularly the cloth texture and teeth and hair issues. Also obviously shares some characteristics with ASD as you have already identified. In rare cases her behaviours can also be indicative of other disorders too.

My advice would be to seek a referral and assessment with a child/ed. psychologist because it sounds like your DD would benefit from help. Even if it 'only' turns out to be emotional issues from the divorce etc. she sounds like she could benefit from intervention/therapy of some kind.

Good luck.

hodgehegs Wed 07-Nov-12 19:03:27

Thank you. I had thought that sensory issues on their own would not be enough to get a referral, especially as school say there is no impact there and they haven't noticed anything in her behaviour that would point to ASD.

Also someone spending only a short amount of time with her may think that she is quiet and a bit shy but not much else presents itself behaviourally in a typical situation. It's only recently that I have started linking together all the little things that I thought of as quirks or my own parental failings and thinking that overall they add up to more.

Have made an appointment to see the GP next week without dd present, so am hoping they will take my concern seriously. I have seen parents struggle to get a diagnosis or be taken seriously by GPs & Pediatricians even when their children are showing classic and very disruptive ASD behaviour, so assumed my quiet dd wouldn't even register on their radar.

adoptmama Wed 07-Nov-12 19:11:27

Good luck. Don't be fobbed off. Your GP is not an expert. Insist on the referral.

Goldmandra Wed 07-Nov-12 21:24:51

As other posters have said, your DD clearly has big issues regarding sensory processing and she needs to be assessed by an OT ASAP.

I think I would also be pursuing an assessment for ASD because apart from deep interests I think your posts tick most of the boxes.

How she presents in school shouldn't be taken as a reason not to diagnose. A really skilled observer might see lots of social communication and social imagination difficulties which are not apparent to teaching staff. Many parents of children with ASD are told that their child appears to be neurotypical in school. The problems come when keeping up that front causes the child so much stress that the end up in meltdowns on arriving home.

I have two DDs with AS and the homework issue is very familiar to me. Can you ask the teachers to be very specific about the tasks for her, giving examples or extra guidelines to help her with the open ended ones? TBH I gave up on homework for DD2 (9) last year and only let her do the occasional worksheet.

Don't stop the social stories because they seem patronising. If she has difficulties with rigid thinking some messages will take an awful long time to sink in and become part of her everyday processing. Also use visual timetables and prompts if they are needed to help her complete tasks even if it is counter-intuitive because she is able and articulate. If they help that is indicative of problems with executive function which is relevant to a diagnosis of ASD.

If you think she may have difficulties with auditory processing ask the school to arrange for a SALT to assess her. I was surprised how much was picked up in DD2's assessment and so was her teacher.

Lastly Google Tony Attwood and listen to some of his interviews about girls with AS. You might recognise your DD in his descriptions.

I will also PM a link which you may find useful.

Just to be clear and stop me from being flamed, I'm not saying she should be diagnosed with ASD because it isn't my place. I am just suggesting it might be a good idea to pursue an assessment.

hodgehegs Wed 07-Nov-12 22:45:56

Thanks Goldmandra

I just thought she was difficult - right from birth (screamed unless physically on me, and even then I wasn't allowed to sit down, had to walk with her constantly), and that there must be something wrong with me that I found it so hard.

Has only been since working with autistic/aspergers children the last 3 years that it has slowly dawned on me, and sitting in courses realising that what they were saying applied to her as much as the kids I worked with (and me too, to some extent). Plus my brother, who is undiagnosed, is classic aspergers and has food issues v similar to my dd. Growing up we just thought he was "weird" and awkward, and my parents thought his personal hygiene and eating issues were just laziness. When I spoke to my dad recently about investigating the possibility of ASD in my dd he said she was just manipulative. My new partner thinks her food/clothes/homework issues are spoilt behaviour and laziness, and my Mum says she is difficult and rude (to me) and I need to discipline her more effectively, all of which made me doubt myself.

Coming on here has given me more confidence to follow my instincts, and I have a close friend with a child with ASD who has also mentioned she sees those traits in dd, which prompted me to come on here.

She's also a hoarder - forgot to mention that in my list. Hasn't got a particular obsessive interest other than to acquire more "stuff" and never let any of it go, despite not playing with it and her room being full to bursting. Mostly it's a mess in there but sometimes she tidies - she made it into a library recently and every book had to be in alphabetical order and grouped by category, after which she freaked out when the cat went in, incase he knocked her books out of order. Also had obsessive tidying phase earlier this year where nothing was played with, only tidied and continually rearranged.

The social story worked when she was not acknowledging people who spoke to her and not looking at them. I managed to do it in an cartoon strip way. Perhaps a visual timetable in the bathroom would help our mornings.

Her homework was tricky - they had to watch a news report and summarise in a recount style. There were guidelines given to make sure they had the who, what, when, where, how, and why, and I suggested we take one part at a time and write one sentence about it, but converting that information was too much for her. She wanted to write the whole news story word for word copied off the computer and then anxiety took over and we had a meltdown.

She was sent home from school yesterday after "feeling sick" during lunch. This has happened quite a few times, she says it is the smell and the taste of the food. This morning insisted she was still feeling sick, though had normal temperature, and when I said she needed to try going in she point blank refused then got so hysterical she gave herself a headache and was in no fit state to go. Discussed it with the head this morning who will chat to the teacher and see if there are any anxieties that may be causing it. Think homework and food sensitivity could be the cause.

She is a great reader and finished the school scheme early, but I have doubts about her comprehension and the amount of work she gets done during a lesson is below what I would expect for someone in her year. She comes across as bright, and met her early development milestones well, but is in second to bottom group in her class.

Thanks for the link - I will just go check it out.

lingle Wed 07-Nov-12 23:10:59

all sounds positive - and much more constructive than thinking she has negative characteristics like her dad - I'm sure you self-monitor those thoughts anyway......

hodgehegs Wed 07-Nov-12 23:15:54

Yes, I try to be conscious of my thought patterns. It has been scary to see similar behaviour in her as in him, but they are separate people and I can't tell whether it is learned behaviour or a consequence of underlying factors such as ASD, so only way to go is get it checked out and see where that takes us.

Goldmandra Wed 07-Nov-12 23:30:29

The more you describe her the more she sounds like my DDs!

We have had very similar issues with homework and not being able to summarise. The teacher tried to help at one point by telling her to use different words to those in the book. We then had meltdowns because she couldn't use 'the', 'and', 'to', etc because they were in the book! So frustrating!

Sensory processing issues make it very hard for my DD2 to complete work in the classroom. She now takes it to a quieter room. Do you think the school would be willing to provide a space and support for her to do that?

hodgehegs Thu 08-Nov-12 09:20:42

The school is small - mixed year groups and the only rooms that aren't the main 3 classes are the dinner hall and staff room, so they don't have much space. She asked to be moved from her table a couple of weeks ago as some of the other children were distracting her too much, so I think putting her on a quieter table is about all they can do.

They already have one boy in the class with SEN who has no volume control and calls out regularly, but she says she tries to ignore him as best as she can. They are generally really good and have had lots of involvement with us over the problems with her dad, and seem very understanding and as supportive as they can be. I think if I asked, they would do what they could to accommodate her needs. At the moment they don't seem to think she has any, so support from the GP or a diagnosis would be really helpful.

Goldmandra Thu 08-Nov-12 09:42:10

Can I suggest that you spend some quiet time with your DD talking about school and how she experiences it?

I spent an illuminating morning with DD2 once designing her perfect school on a big sheet of paper. She took the lead and we drew the school she would attend if she could wave a magic wand. Many of the things she said gave away difficulties she had which she had never mentioned.

I used the information I gathered from this and from some reading about sensory processing and ASD to bring a list of suggestions to the school about how they could better support her. They didn't respond very positively until she started to refuse to attend, at which point they put lots of the things in place and she found school a lot easier to cope with until they got bored and started forgetting to do things.

It is entirely possible that your DD is experiencing high levels of anxiety in school whilst appearing to be happy and relaxed.

Don't make the mistakes that I did and try to force your DD to attend at any point. Use your normal behaviour management techniques and nothing more. If they don't work there is a problem in school which needs to be solved in order for her to feel able to attend.

One big positive I have found is that, when school provision is more appropriate and their anxiety levels have dropped, my DD's sensory issues and need for control and routine have also dropped significantly. This makes life much easier and more pleasant for all concerned.

hodgehegs Thu 08-Nov-12 14:09:08

I like your ideal school idea, I will try that and see what happens.

I realised yesterday after trying the soft approach to getting her to go to school and saying the teachers would call me if she felt poorly, then when that didin't work, trying, "well, you need to try", and finally "you WILL go in!", which resulted in flat refusal and meltdown, that it wasn't going to work. Of course my own anxiety gets mixed in because I panic when I realise if she says no there's absolutely nothing I can do to make her go, and then I can't go to work and support my little boy with autism there, so I feel guilty about letting him and my school down, and the possiblilty that if she cottons on to the fact that I can't make her go she might start doing this more often.

Have just been on the phone to my mum talking about my difficulties in processing and organisation and she had no idea that I and my youngest brother saw the world that way and struggled with things that she thinks are straightforward and simple. It caused a lot of conflict when we were growing up and I would like to avoid repeating that with my own daughter. At least I am starting to get on the case with it now, rather than 30 years time when it's a bit too late to do much about it.

Ineedalife Thu 08-Nov-12 17:45:54

Hi Hodge, your Dd also sounds alot like my Dd3, she was diagnosed with ASD last year when she was 9.

I would recommend keeping a diary of her issues/difficulties, what causes them and how you deal with them. Make notes about when she was little because some assessments ask for a detailed history and when you get your referral you will be prepared.

I do think you should join us on the sn childrens board it is really friendly and supportive.

Good lucksmile

BCBG Thu 08-Nov-12 17:57:10

Haven't had time to read the whole thread, so apologies, but def agree with the sensory processing disorder idea: my ten year old DD is very dyspraxic (as well as dyslexic) and has a recognised SPD that her school are brilliant with, otherwise she would be just like your DD. Everything you describe, the hair brushing over reactions, the toothpaste/teeth brushing, swinging legs, fidgeting, outbursts, organisation, clothes, textures, noises, food - you name it, we've been there. The good news is that once you undertsand what the problem is you can make a huge difference to behaviour very quickly indeed. DD also sees an OT every week which has given her school exercises for DD to do every day to 'warm' her up and desensitise her - for example sending her for the register while the classroom is filling, sitting her at the front on a wobble cushion, avoiding noisy environments (she wore ear defenders at the school bonfire night grin )and so on. HTH

BCBG Thu 08-Nov-12 18:00:08

Forgot to say that your DD has the symptoms of Dyspraxia rather than ASD to me (just my opinion, of course) and you might like to google Dyspraxia in girls. Many people think it is 'clumsy child syndrome' whereas in girls it is particularly hard to spot but produces the sort of frustrations and behaviour that your DD is showing.

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