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Can a child be advanced/precocious/G&T without being ASD?

(47 Posts)
ReallyHadEnoughOfThisNow Mon 04-Feb-19 12:43:59

We have a very bright 10 year old DS (the school/CAT testing puts him in top 1-5% of children his age and gives him a reading age of 16+).

Since he started Y5, which is on a middle school system of changing teachers for each subject, school say he's finding it hard to cope. They say he chooses not to participate in some lessons, especially if he doesn't see the point (e.g. as an atheist he says he doesn't want to do RE - since we've told him he has to he has been better with this). They also say that he e.g. argued with the headteacher about why he had to do a piece of work he thought was pointless. He's also choosing to help teachers or read at lunch/break instead of socialising.

Ds is always positive/neutral about school, saying its 'fine'. Although he doesn't like the (huge) amount of homework he gets, he generally does it without a fuss.

School are now insisting that he is ASD. They've done a GARS assessment on him, which shows him as 'requiring substantial support' - he currently has no support, but apparently is still doing academically. We wouldn't agree with how they've scored many points - and when we scored him (trying to be objective/negative) his score was less than half of the schools).

From our point of view he is a funny and lovely little boy, but possibly 'quirky'. As he's always had a great vocabulary we've spoken to him 'as an adult' - which possibly explains why he is happy to argue with the head, as he doesn't see himself as less important? He gets on fine with people he knows well. He has 5 year old sister and they get on really well, playing random made-up games of 'let's pretend...' although he does occasionally annoy her by 'pulling rank' and telling her what to do, he also explains stuff really patiently and helps her. He enjoys a range of stuff - video games, reading, thunderbirds, Lego Nexo knights, drama classes, skiiing etc.

He's never had any sensory issues, is pretty well behaved (he was an angelic toddler - no tantrums after 1, as a 2 year old, when he looked round to check what reaction he was getting and got up again when there wasn't one), although he is strong willed, so will argue if he doesn't agree with us.

He finds it harder than most to make friends - if they're doing something he doesn't like then he'd rather be by himself than join in - but is fine with people he knows well and is confident to speak to people - e.g. in shops/asking directions. He has a friend from an old school, who he sees as a true friend, although they rarely get to meet up, but get on well when they do.

I'm sorry this is such a massive post - I'm trying to include anything that could be relevant - but can anyone suggest what 'could' be wrong. Does it sound like ASD to everyone? Or could it just be that he is clever, doesn't see the hierarchy as important/isn't suited to the school environment? I've posted this in SNs too - as I'm not sure whether its more a G&T or SN question.

LIZS Mon 04-Feb-19 12:54:45

He could be both, one does not necessarily eliminate the other. It may not be diagnosed as asd but one of a myriad of other associated conditions (think of them like Olympic Rings with overlaps) . If he needs support perhaps you need him assessed further to ensure his needs are addressed.

carrythecan Mon 04-Feb-19 13:46:59

This could have been my ds, who is now 16. He is very academic and doing very well at school, but he did have some difficulties when he was younger. He was also classed as gifted and has a similar reading age as your ds.

My ds did/does have some ASD traits (sensitivity issues; won't eat certain foods due to texture etc; he used to hand flap) but does not totally fit what is thought of as stereotypical ASD traits. He is perfectly sociable with people he knows and has plenty of friends; he would do imaginative play, although he generally preferred to read. He will make eye contact and empathises well.

We did move my ds to an independent school after he won a scholarship when he was 6 or 7, as he did struggle with the sheer number of children in his state school class and would find the stimulation too much. Also, like your ds, he did not see the point in being made to do work that he either thought was pointless (RS!) or that he felt he had already learnt/knew, so would refuse to do it again. The school didn't understand that he wasn't being uncooperative on purpose, it's just he was being very logical to a fault.

The independent school were much more able to push him as they had the time to tailor the work for his ability. The harder work, in conjunction with us explaining that sometimes you just have to do things that seem pointless 'just because', meant that he became much happier in school.

I think that ASD should be seen as more of a personality trait rather than a 'problem' and that we should just accept that people view the world in very different ways, rather than seeing it as the 'wrong' way. Children need understanding in how differently they view things and taught in ways that suit them as much as possible.

As my ds has got older, he is much better at accepting the things he has to do (although he still moans when he has to attend church in school as it is 'pointless lies') but he was very happy to be able to give up RS and all the humanity subjects and focus on maths & science for his GCSE's. He is now choosing his A levels and the maths and science teachers are all desperate to have him in their classes as he is a model pupil in their eyes.

I don't think it matters whether your ds has ASD or not, but rather you may need to get the school to understand and help your ds or else find a school that will work with him rather than against him.

user789653241 Mon 04-Feb-19 18:23:20

Whether he has asd or not, important thing is for him to get appropriate support.
Working with school to figure out how you and school both can help him is the priority, imo.

Stopwoofing Mon 04-Feb-19 18:31:54

It is a tricky one though as the school’s view is very important in an ASD diagnosis. They observe him with his peer group more than you do. They want the assessment because they want additional support resources for him? I’d think carefully, if the assessment led to extra support it could be worth doing.

ReallyHadEnoughOfThisNow Mon 04-Feb-19 22:04:34

Thanks so much for your replies. Definitely getting the right support for him is the key thing - although he is at a private school, so we'll be paying for any support he gets.

@LIZS - what are the myriad associated conditions? Sorry to be dense. Its just (when googling) ASD doesn't seem to fit him 100%, but I don't know what else to look for.

@carrythecan - that's really useful, thank you for sharing what worked for your son. I do feel with mine that if he could jump a few years to studying at Uni (having dropped all the subjects he finds pointless!) then he'd be absolutely fine). Our sons do sound similar and 'logical to a fault' is a great way to describe mine too. smile I definitely agree that we need to find a school that works 'with him rather than against him' - I hadn't realised that's how I was feeling about the situation with school, but you've summed it up perfectly. sad Did you end up getting a diagnosis for your son and if so did you find it helped?

We will be seeing a psych over the next few months, so I guess they'll help work out whats going on... I just wonder at what point "being bright so able to argue your point" becomes seen as an issue that needs diagnosing.

moominmomma1234 Mon 04-Feb-19 22:06:24

this reminds me of my nephew. At 10 yr old his school advised ASD assessment for v similar reasons to yours. I did laugh when he was given some homework - 'write a sentence beginning with 'I can't believe....'
he wrote 'I can't believe I have to do this' ...

anyway the ASD assessment didn't score him high enough and they said he does have ASD traits but not enough for a diagnoses but if any issues arise in the future it can be looked at again... he is 13 now and at high school - his difficulties are becoming more apparent and school have advised another ASD assessment.

so maybe you could go through the assessment and see what the experts have to say about him.

my high iq 10yr old has just been given HFA diagnosis but he isn't like the classic Aspergers kid and I do wonder wether the traits he does have are just linked to his highh iq. but I just have to believe that the experts know what they are doing and they don't give out these diagnosis easily. I have just really been led by the school and professionals around me, otherwise we wouldn't of sent him for the assessment.
we do have a 5yr old with classic ASD and there is no doubt with him.

you don't know how your 10yr will fair at high schooo, when there are more pressures socially and academically. it takes about 1-2 yrs from the beginning of the process to getting a diagnosis so you could start the ball rolling now.

LIZS Mon 04-Feb-19 22:10:18

ODD, PDA, ADHD, Sensory Processing, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia ... Such conditions may have traits in common such as social difficulties, literal thinking, slow processing, spiky learning profile etc

ReallyHadEnoughOfThisNow Mon 04-Feb-19 22:35:31

@moominmomma1234 - I did laugh when he was given some homework - 'write a sentence beginning with 'I can't believe....'
he wrote 'I can't believe I have to do this' ...

Ha! That's fantastic! I bet my ds would write that if he thought he'd get away with it. Its really helpful to hear about your experiences with your nephew and son. I worry that either we'll get a diagnosis that isn't right, or that he won't get one and will suffer later on when he gets to 'big' school.

LIZS - thanks for sharing. I'll have a look at those and see if anything rings bells for him.

ArtisanBaps Mon 04-Feb-19 22:48:02

I’m a secondary teacher and have noticed that as they get older a lot of pupils with a diagnosis of ASC or ASC traits suffer more with anxiety caused by the way they experience school than from the ASC itself if you see what I mean.

They can also have difficulties in practical subjects where there is more noise and movement (music, drama, PE) or potential for things going wrong, which they tend to overestimate (Food tech: food poisoning/cutting oneself on a knife is a theme) This isn’t something that would be noticed as much until they got to secondary or middle school where there are specialised subjects so maybe this is why school are more concerned.

ReallyHadEnoughOfThisNow Tue 05-Feb-19 09:25:12

Thanks @ArtisanBaps, that's useful to know. I definitely think that its the school environment that's causing a problem and its definitely worth bearing in mind that a larger school will make things even worse.

Stopwoofing Tue 05-Feb-19 10:07:04

I’d only caution letting bright children drop all the things they find relatively hard isn’t a good game in the long term. As you get older it’s helpful to have normal life skills as well as the things you are really good at. There are at least 3 very bright people in my family who’ve held themselves back from many opportunities due unwillingness to compromise or withstand some normal social interactions.

I guess the point arguing your case becomes more ASD is when your rigid clinging to your viewpoint hurts you more than it serves you. For example, I have a nephew that doesn’t go to funerals because there is no point as dead people are dead - the pain he’s caused to other living family through this though should outweigh his belief that funerals are pointless.

I wonder what support they are saying to put in place? If you are paying for it in any case, you could cut right to the support if they have an idea what they think is needed.

user789653241 Tue 05-Feb-19 10:18:39

My ds doesn't have diagnosis, but he was referred, tested and result was inconclusive. So, I think it's very difficult to diagnose if the child is on boarder line. He is very quirky and admit himself that he thinks and acts different from his peers. He was quite chuffed that he identified himself with Percy Jackson, the book character who has ADHD, and find it quite cool.
Luckily for us, he hasn't really had any difficulty at school in ks2. But I am always aware that it may change as he gets older, and willing to follow up if he started to struggle in some way.

Lisalisaandcultjam Tue 05-Feb-19 10:39:01

My daughter was diagnosed age 4 after nursery flagged up issues we were aware of (at first they said she was just naughty!).
She was seen by educational psychologist and they said straightaway they saw it.
From age 18 months onwards she seemed different to others. Would have proper off the scale tantrums for next to nothing. From being tiny she never cried for me or wanted picked up and for years I thought I was doing something wrong.
She knew her colours by about 19 months but wouldn't say Mummy or Daddy.
She could read when she was just turned two. I had family saying I caused it and was forcing her to read and I just wasn't. It was so hurtful when I already was in a difficult place about it all, shocking really.
She also didn't really play with things but lined them up and still does today.
Loads of different sensory issues which we now know lead to the meltdowns.
She's 9 now and does well at a mainstream school academically but it's very clear she is different from her peers and acts much younger than her age and is quite an outsider. She struggles alot with anxiety which we currently manage well. At the beginning we got alot of comfort and reassurance from the work of Tania Marshall who specialises in girls on the autistic spectrum. They are finding out more about the complexity of signs all the time. She was diagnosed ASD as they now no longer give individual diagnoses of Aspergers/HFA, etc.
My son has traits but is far more social than his sister. We think it's just things he's picked up from her but time will tell. I'm not worrying about it because what will be will be. The school have said previously they have minor concerns with him but it's never been more than that. At least they are mindful of it.
He speaks in a strong English accent too. My daughter was the same when she was tiny but this had left her as she's got older.

PenguinPandas Tue 05-Feb-19 10:54:09

My son is 11 and very similar and school want him assessed for ASD. When I looked round private schools they said they call them quirky but state schools push for ASD diagnosis. In my day it would have been quirky but its now been added to ASD. Mine is also fine at home - eccentric but fine - and very difficult at school. I expect he will get ASD diagnosis but do think too many kids who are very, very different are lumped in this category.

I also used to work in the City and in the back office there were loads of mainly men just like him. School also seem to equate diagnosis with extra funding for them though two aren't linked - its linked to needs.

PenguinPandas Tue 05-Feb-19 10:57:08

My daughter is 13 and very bright - got into very selective grammar (top 1%) and top of year there in Maths and French and definitely not ASD so possible not to be both. She would never miss a lesson though and socialises easily and doesn't have his obsessions. Not all bright non ASD kids socialise easily though.

user789653241 Tue 05-Feb-19 12:37:19

PenguinPandas, I don't think its nothing to do with state or private. My ds is really quirky. But they don't think there's nothing wrong with him.
The issue is if your child is having difficulty or not, I think.

fleshmarketclose Tue 05-Feb-19 12:59:35

I have a real mix bag of dc so I have ds who is profoundly gifted, dd who is gifted, ds who has dyspraxia and ds and dd who have autism. Ds and dd are most definitely NT, ds and dd who have autism are high ability academically and particularly able at Maths but socially and emotionally they are a world away from their older siblings.

carrythecan Tue 05-Feb-19 13:19:10

@ReallyHadEnoughOfThisNow my ds was assessed and found to be borderline, and as he was not having significant issues they decided not to give him an ASD diagnosis. I was concerned at first and hoped he would get a diagnosis in case his mental health suffered as he approached his teenage years. In fact he has become much happier as he has got older as he feels less bothered that he is different. He is also in a fairly academic school and has more people on his level to bond with.

Despite the lack of a diagnosis, the school were very helpful in ensuring he had extra support in areas that he needed it. (Eg. His handwriting was a real issue) and treating any meltdowns in a very factual and practical way. They also let him avoid things that might upset him, if they weren't important, such as at the end of term he hated watching films as he doesn't like the feeling of suspense, so they let him go to the back of the class and play Lego. But they took time to explain why other things would have to be done even if he didn't want to do them. E.g. reading poems out loud, as communication is a life skill that he needs to have.

I do agree with the previous poster about limiting options and regularly talk to ds about the importance of pushing through the mental barriers sometimes. We do also force ds to do things that we deem necessary to learn important life skills. It's a tricky balance and very much a case of picking our battles. Having said that, I do think that very intelligent people with a narrow field of interest are needed for society to make advances in whatever area they specialise in and should be encouraged.

PenguinPandas Tue 05-Feb-19 13:28:52

There's nothing "wrong" with my child either thanks. It was a private school head who told me that.

user789653241 Tue 05-Feb-19 13:47:42

Penguin, I wasn't meaning to offend you a all. Only thing I wanted to say was there is nothing different between state or private school , that's all.
Like I said, my ds have lots of traits, but teachers in my ds's state school doesn't see it as something different from norm, that's all.

PenguinPandas Tue 05-Feb-19 14:08:44

It's fine - I'm having a terrible day with DS's secondary so a bit grumpy today grin. We looked round private and state secondaries - state secondaries wanted us to get an ASD diagnosis, private didn't - said it was fine they would adjust anyway as long as in mainstream and said they had lots of kids like him and private school head said they use word "quirky" as code in school reports. Our state primary was OK without diagnosis (occasional pushing only) but secondary is really pushing it to get EHCP or says we need to find another school. It's not legal to tell SEN kids to leave but its what happens in some schools. Very depressing article from BBC about rise over past year in SEN kids having to be home educated - think it was 77% rise in state secondary kids and about half that rise in primary.

user789653241 Tue 05-Feb-19 14:15:23

Penguin, I do hope everything works out for you and your children.
It's true that my ds isn't having any problems at the moment now(he used to be a selective mute for over 2 years, so, you can see it's nothing like hunky dory for us too), but I am always aware things can change in the future.

PenguinPandas Tue 05-Feb-19 17:03:54

Thanks very much, hope things continue to go well for your DS.

Racecardriver Tue 05-Feb-19 17:09:22

I was a child who was an early bloomer so to say. I didn’t socialise much for a few years (starting around time we puberty) bevause everyone else was boring AF. I then slipped back in with no problems when other started to catch up and we were more on level so to say. Quite frankly I still find a lot of people boring. I am sociable, I enjoy the usual banal social interactions. I have no particular indicators of ASD. I think the issue is that a lot of people equate social difficulties with ASD but they’re really not. Yes ASD can cause social difficulties but do can other things (like ibeing miles ahead of peers).

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