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Worried about 4yo ds1

(23 Posts)
filthylucre Wed 08-Nov-06 16:41:05

I have a worry about ds1 which crops up every now and again, I have said to myself "Oh, don't be silly" so many times over the last 4 years but it still niggles away at the back of my mind.

He is a very, very verbal and articulate child. At his preschool open day a few months ago the headmaster sought us out and gushed at some length about how gifted he is, and he also made some comments about ds1's social interaction - he said ds1 tends to follow activities he wants to do rather than children he wants to play with, and that although he gets on OK with all of his peers, he doesn't make relationships with the other children, he prefers to play alone or with adults.

I know he's only four and that in itself sounds like nothing worth worrying about. But it fed into worries I already had about him, IYSWIM. From birth (he had a very difficult arrival and very nearly died, was in SCBU etc) he would not make eye contact during breastfeeding, I remember thinking that was odd. He has a slightly odd gait and mannerisms which remind me strongly of an adopted relative of mine who has severe autism, although ds1 is extremely verbal and bright, he is already reading and writing. He is a loving and affectionate little boy now, but I had to teach him about hugging and kissing and physical closeness. I remember when dh and I had had a bit of a spat on the train once, when ds1 was 2.5 - he put out his hand and touched my arm. It was the first time he ever spontaneously touched me. He does come for cuddles and kisses now, but as I said, I had to introduce him to the idea and literally teach him how to give/receive affection.

He does also have an obsession with trains - yes, I know all boys do, but this is a SERIOUS obsession. So much so that his preschool teacher had to ask me to find and print timetables for the entire London Underground so that she could give him truthful answers to his constant questions about how long it takes to get from Waterloo to Goodge Street, or Embankment to Whitechapel, etc etc. I would say that a good 80% of his play/pretending/conversation is train-based. He does have odd little rituals and routines which seem to make him happy, he will recite the familiar landmarks on the bus to town with a beatific smile on his face.

As I said, he is a very articulate, friendly, lovely little boy. If he does have an autistic spectrum disorder, which is what I am starting to suspect, it certainly wouldn't be the end of the world for me.

I am starting also to think, as I do more reading, that it might have something to do with me. So many of the things I read about HFA/Aspergers are familiar to me. I remember at the age of six being told off in front of the whole class for something, and the teacher snapped her fingers in my face and said "Oi! No you don't. You're staying right here!" because I was tuning out. I used to be able to unfocus my eyes and tune out the sound if I didn't want to be there. I had weird intense obsessions (knew the names and characteristics of hundreds of species of shark, for example, and plastered my room/schoolbooks with pictures of them), did odd repetitive things, was clumsy and scatterbrained and took odd things literally, and was socially very awkward, I have commented so many times that I feel as though everyone else was issued with a copy of the "rules" of social interaction and I didn't get one.

I know there are lots of parents here who know so much more than I do about the autistic spectrum. I would be so grateful if someone would read this and give their opinion.

The final thing that made me post this was yesterday, when I was chatting to one of the teachers at his preschool. I told her about some writing he was doing at the weekend that surprised me because although I knew he could write his name, I didn't realise he could write other words - he can spell and write simple words like "cat" on his own. I also told her that he had written "Daddy" completely in reverse, ie totally accurate mirror writing. She said "Oh, that's a sign of autism" and looked at me really pointedly.

I won't be upset if he does have some level of ASD, but I think it's probably quite important to know about it if he does, and to seek any advice we can get on how to do what's best for him.

filthylucre Wed 08-Nov-06 16:47:56

sorry, I know it's really long

JanH Wed 08-Nov-06 16:48:40

fl, I can't help you with ASD but it might be a good idea to post this also in the Special Needs topic - it no longer shows up automatically when you list the last 60 but it is here .

There are lots of parents of ASD children on MN. Good luck.

Overrun Wed 08-Nov-06 16:55:21

Well I have read it, but not quite sure what to say.
It would seem worth checking it out, but apart from this pointed comment, you would have thought the school would be more open with concerns if you thougth he might be on the spectrum.
It's hard not to pathologise our children sometimes when we are bombarded with so much information about various conditions or disorders. He could just be an ecdentric very bright boy.
The only thing I can say finally, is that if he was my son I would probably take him to see some one.

Overrun Wed 08-Nov-06 16:58:17

sorry about spelling and grammer mistakes, hope you can make head and tale of it

filthylucre Wed 08-Nov-06 17:21:57

Thanks Overrun. I'm not sure who I would take him to though. I don't think my GP would take these concerns very seriously.

Blossomhill Wed 08-Nov-06 17:31:08

Hi fl

To be perfectly honest I am no expert except my own dd aged 7 had Aspergers syndrome.

From what I have learnt over the years and going by the info you have given I would say definitely go and see your gp. Ask to be referred to a developmental paediatrician.

I am not saying your ds does have asd but it's worth checking out as he does have some of the "red flags" for asd.

Any more questions please feel free to ask

Judy1234 Wed 08-Nov-06 17:42:37

It sounds likely but it may not badly affect his life - depends on where he is on the spectrum. My sister has a son who may be a little like some of the things you describe. I think he's just been assessed but he's not withdrawn and strange. I think some children are clearly so and others just on the borderline.

A main question would be can he form relationships at school and interact with his peers or is he regarded as a bit weird by them and no one will play with him at break?

Also if he is very bright you need to make sure he's being stretched at school enough otherwise it's waste of his talents and he'll grow bored.

throckenholt Wed 08-Nov-06 17:44:20

talk to the senco (special needs co-ordinator) person at the school - they should at least be able to point you in the right direction.

Blossomhill Wed 08-Nov-06 18:00:15

obviously my dd has Aspergers, not had (unfortunately)

dinosaur Wed 08-Nov-06 18:20:54

Based on my own experience of having one DS diagnosed as having high-functioning autism (now aged 7) I am not sure I would rush to seek a diagnosis unless he is actually experiencing problems at school or at home or elsewhere (it doesn't sound as if he is at the moment).

A diagnosis is helpful as a means to getting help, sure, but if there isn't actually anything to help, then arguably there's not much point.

Hallgerda Thu 09-Nov-06 08:09:14

filthylucre, I can assure you that writing words in reverse in accurate mirror writing is actually quite normal. All three of my sons have done it and none has AS. (There are regular threads on backwards writing on here.)

I wouldn't worry about him doing what he wants rather than playing with children he wants to play with either. Wouldn't you rather he had his own ideas instead of just slavishly following the other children? I don't know that any of them exactly "make relationships" at that age.

I don't think the "tuning out" that you describe is abnormal either - I did it too. Have to admit, though, I'm such an utterly crap mum that I never even looked to see whether my children were trying to establish eye contact while breastfeeding. My DS1 was very uncuddly, unlike DS2 who was quite the opposite - I think it's just a personality trait.

Bright children quite often do have social skills that lag behind their academic abilities, and quite often become worried about matters that haven't occurred to their contemporaries. Nursery teachers often pick up on those difficulties and make far more of them than they should (I've been through it myself!).

silverbirch Thu 09-Nov-06 10:18:58

If your worried then do talk to someone, but I don’t see why spontaneously writing Daddy, forwards or in mirror writing, is necessarily a sign of AS in itself. My dd would spontaneously write words – forwards and backwards - even before I knew she could read (she was one of those children who apparently started reading spontaneously and fluently at 3 1/2) - I remember being astonished when my then 3yo wrote “wolf” then “wolves”, but I think it was a just sign of a good visual memory and good feel for words. She is a amazing speller now (unlike her Mum!), and only needs to see a word to know how it is spelt. She also has very good social skills (also unlike her Mum at that age!)

filthylucre Thu 09-Nov-06 11:24:13

I appreciate what's being said about many of the things I describe - particularly the mirror writing - being normal for young children. He does write normally as well. I grew up with autism in the family (adopted child) so I know a little bit about it (not as much as many of the mums on MN!), I do know many of the things which betoken autism in an older child are normal at toddler stage.

I'm not trying to build a case for my son having HFA/AS, if he does he does, and if he doesn't, fine. I just want to understand him better, because he is an unusual little boy, people misunderstand his behaviour a lot, and I worry about him. Just lately he does seem aware that he is a bit different from his peers socially. He talks about the other children in his class as though he worships them but doesn't know how to be included. It's so hard to describe what is basically a gut feeling I have had since he was really tiny. I don't have this feeling about ds2 at all, even though he is also very forward in his development - emotionally ds2 is much more "childish", IYSWIM. If I tell ds2 off he looks upset or cries. If I tell ds1 off he looks straight through me or giggles. When ds2 hurts himself he comes staggering over to me, howling, and calms down when he has had a cuddle and a kiss better. Ds1 at the same age would turn in on himself, and when I taught him to come for a kiss better, he really liked the idea - now, if he hurts himself he comes to me, and we have to do this specific little ritual of "rub rub, pat pat, kiss" and then he goes away happy. It didn't come naturally to him to seek physical closeness. It was the same with cuddling and affection - I had to teach him how to do it, and why we do it, and he seemed really charmed by the idea, and now he does ask for hugs etc but always in a very formalised way.....I am not explaining very well.

I'm not explaining any of this very well. It's a niggling anxiety I have, it's been there since he was tiny. I just don't know whether it is anything real or just me being silly. I love him to pieces, I wouldn't change him, he is adorable and charming and his own person. I'm really not trying to 'label' him just for the sake of it. But tbh whether it's a nameable condition or just his own little quirks, I'm equally concerned that he is going to feel left out and "different".

willowcatkin Thu 09-Nov-06 11:35:20

Although i am no expert, I think he sounds like a perfectly normal, highly intelligent little boy to me.

As he is bright maybe there is no one of his peers at preschool who can relate to him which is why he 'ignores' them. My ds is just 4, but is really mature for his age and used to playing with older children. He hated preschool becasue he just could not relate to the younger children - they were far too babyish for him as he was used to playing with his 17 mth older sister.

So he moved up, into the reception class and fits in like a glove and has really come out of his shell and interacts wonderfully with the others. He too, can read and write (altho not backwards lol) and amazingly jouins in really well with the class activities, even sitting still for the requisite times!

Maybe the 'obsessions' is just his way of getting the sort of high level attention he needs. If he is articulate and chatty, and of a mathematical frame of mind , what is wrong with wanting to know how long it takes a train to get from A to B? The fact he has concept of time at that age is excellent, he is probably trying it out in a manner that fits his knowledge.

Can you ask the teacher at preschool to try stretching him a bit - I assume he is one of the oldest so there is little chance of him mixing with older children? Can you find other groups locally where there would be older children so you can see if he fits in more naturally with them?

All kids have obsessions - my 5 yr old dd nearly drove us made with her Thunderbird obsession recently!

And personally i think it was incredibly wrong of the preschool teacher to comment on autism - very unprofessional - as only an expert can diagnose it.

figroll Thu 09-Nov-06 11:54:31

I have absolutely no experience of autism at all, but I feel that if your child is coping well in ordinary, everyday life, why label him as autistic? I feel it might be better to wait until there is a true problem before starting educational assessments, etc. You might make him start to feel there is something wrong with him.

I once saw a programme on the tv that suggested that quite a few men were slightly autistic - ie, didn't find social situations comfortable, etc, but still manage to cope in every day life.

fizzbuzz Thu 09-Nov-06 12:21:15

Where on earth did that teacher get the idea that mirror writing is a sign of autism? What a load of****!
My son did mirror writing for ages and only really stopped when he was about 7. The reason for this is because he is left handed. However he his not autistic! Hope this helps

Hallgerda Thu 09-Nov-06 13:12:03

I agree with figroll's labelling point. Your son may be "different", filthylucre, but is that necessarily a bad thing? If he's happy about being himself, what's the problem? If you are (or he is) concerned about him lacking confidence in joining in with other children, the school may run social skills lessons for children who are finding the social side of school life a bit awkward but do not necessarily have special needs - my children's primary school does.

Blossomhill Thu 09-Nov-06 16:31:43

I have to say I do feel for filthylucre and disagree with the comments going against getting a dx.

As the old saying goes mum knows best!

Asd is nothing to be scared of. It is a term used to describe a set of behaviours. It is usually more helpful then not. AS is not dx willy nilly. It takes a long time and a thorough asst to get a proper dx. It can open doors for many people. I know a few adults with AS who would have done anything to have been dx and helped when they were younger and understand the way they were.

At the end of the day my dd has a dx of AS but it is up to me, and eventually her, who she tells. If eventually she is so mild that she is leading a "normal" life then the AS label can go. At the moment it is helping enormously and I only tell people that I want to tell.

dinosaur Thu 09-Nov-06 16:41:11

Certainly I was very keen to get a diagnosis for DS1 and I do think that it is helpful to have one if your child is experiencing difficulties.

However, I found the process exhausting and emotionally draining and I wouldn't have started on it when I did if DS1 hadn't been on the verge of being expelled from nursery.

Filthylucre, I think that it depends on what you want to achieve, really. There isn't anything to stop you reading more about autistic spectrum disorders and, if you think it's appropriate, parenting your DS in ways which are ASD/autism friendly (and it sounds as if you are doing a really good job of doing that anyway).

Snowstorm Thu 09-Nov-06 17:00:15

filthylucre, I know nothing about autism but I read your thread (and I thought you explained yourself very clearly) and I wanted to say that he is your son and you know him best. If you have this niggle and it's not going to go away then why don't you do as some of the others say and try and get referred to the appropriate specialist - it sounds as though it would be worth it, if only to give you the peace of mind, no matter what the outcome.

frances5 Mon 27-Nov-06 22:07:00

My son isnt gifted or talented, but he has been under a community paediatrian because of other developmental problems. He had orthopedic problems and was deaf due to glue ear. He is now in reception and doing really nicely with his reading and has loads of friends.

However when he was at pre school we had a nasty pre school teacher telling me he was autistic. I asked for a community paediatrain to assess him. His play skills, speech and hearing were assessed. Autisim was ruled out because Andrew has excellent playskills and plenty of imagination.

We discovered that the problem was deafness caused by severe glue ear. Andrew had grommets and his adenoids removed about a year ago. He has gone from having very delayed speech to being a complete chatterbox. He can now read almost anything in sight. It is amazing how much of a difference being able to hear has made to Andrew. Some times deafness is not obvious. A reasonally bright child will teach themselves how to lip read.

It is wrong for a pre school teacher to suggest a child is autisic. They are not qualified to make a diagnosis

flightattendant Thu 28-Jun-07 08:47:24

I don't think FL is saying it would be a bad thing at all, but a 'label' or diagnosis, more accurately, might just afford her some assistance with how best to care for her son's needs.

Best wishes FL, I hope you manage to find out whether your thoughts are correct, it is so interesting reading about your wonderful son.

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