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DS (5.8) with mild Asperger's? Dx useful/possible now?

(6 Posts)
FossilMum Wed 22-May-13 21:15:51

Sorry it's sooo long…

DS is 5.8 and in YR. I think he may have mild Asperger's -- or perhaps he's 'just' a bit socially awkward and unpractised (like his parents…)? We deliberately haven't mentioned our concerns to school yet so they can develop an unbiaised opinion. His academics and behaviour at school are currently fine. I worry mainly that he doesn't seem to know how to play with other boys his age.

Good bits: Quite bright. Very good at maths. Handwriting good. Reading OK -- knew alphabet at 2, but still only an average reader for his age [think he became frustrated over illogical spellings and so lost interest for ages]. Reasonably well coordinated. Usually chats away clearly and happily with adults, and sometimes with other children. Good vocabulary. Loves group activities IF they are organized by an adult.

Worrying bits: Main one is he says he prefers to be on his own at playtime. He says he has lots of friends at school, but those he lists are all girls, and I can't help but suspect that he fancies them rather than is really 'friends' with them! When I asked who he actually spends time with in the classroom, he -- after a bit of thought, and with a tone of bemused surprise -- named 3 boys he hardly ever talks about. When I watch him after school, his attempts to play with others appear to be mainly of the "watch me!" variety. He will join in sometimes, but then drifts out again partway. Usually he ends up separate from the main group doing his own thing. If directly asked to play a game by the others he will nearly always say "no", even though it's something he might normally enjoy, apparently because he was "already busy doing something else". But maybe I'm watching with an over-paranoid eye.

Yesterday he freaked out after school when another child kicked a ball away from him. He just didn't seem to get that the others assumed that a ball in a crowd meant group football; when I tried to explain about tackling (he's had no practice with this at home, but has seen it on a DVD) he kept repeating over and over again that he didn't want to play football, so why did they take it away from him when he'd asked them not to? I later managed to engage him and 3 other boys in a circular game of "throw and catch", which went well for about 30 seconds before falling to pieces when DS threw the ball to me instead of to the next boy along, then freaked out when I (having missed the catch) let the other boy run to get it.

My worry is that this sort of behaviour, if it continues, could easily result in him being bullied in the future, though I don't think this is a problem now.

He also freaked out 2 weeks ago when everyone took off their sweatshirts at school because it was hot. Normally his behaviour is perfect at school [we get the aftermath at home…!], but he flatly refused to take his off and started crying hysterically. Eventually the teacher concluded it was because he was afraid it would get lost, like another boy's had on the previous day. I gather they eventually wrestled it off him with a promise he could put it in his own special drawer, insead of the group jumper box. This [and a very similar incident a few months back] is probably the only indication his teacher has had of him behaving oddly. At home we often find that little things that we claim "don't matter" result in a "YES it DOES matter!" But again, maybe this is just an older example of cutted-up pears…

He seems to take things very literally, but perhaps this is normal for his age? He responds extremely well to "how would you feel if I did that?" arguments, but I don't think he understands the concept of an analogy at all. Last week he asked for something, I did what I thought he wanted, but due to lack of clarity in his original request I did the WRONG THING. Cue very angry meltdown. When I suggested that his anger was as unreasonable as, say, me asking him to get my shoes, and then getting furious because he'd bought the wrong ones -- he went and fetched my shoes, and asked if they were the right ones. I really could not tell whether he was doing it as a joke, or because he took me completely literally.

He sometimes blanks other children or adults who say "hello", yet on other seemingly similar situations will happily respond.

He used to put hands over his ears for hand dryers, hairdryers, any loud noise, but has improved a lot and will now use a hand dryer. He put his hands over his ears on his first few days at nursery when they were singing [my heart sank], but not since.

It won't have helped that I have no nearby friends with children his age, so he hadn't had much practice playing with others until starting nursery at 4. I worry that my own inability to make "mummy friends" either caused or exacerbated his problems. His own reticent behaviour doesn't invite playdate invitations, and I'm rather shy myself. I've managed to make 5 playdate invitations, 4 taken up, and so far only 1 (a younger girl) returned; I don't know what we did wrong as they actually seemed to go well at the time.

DH's brother and nephew both have AS, and DH's niece has PDD-NOS. DH and I are both rather geeky. DH is very non-sporty, but I've been taking DS to lots of gymnastics, swimming and tennis lessons to try to counter this. I personally got on fine at primary school, but early on found 2 good friends and stuck to them like glue; DH reportedly wouldn't talk to anyone for the first few years of school, though has no clear memory of this, but blossomed later.

Presumably if lack of practice with socializing is DS's 'only' problem, he'll figure things out for himself eventually and find a counterpart friend -- but if he does have AS, then presumably he is likely to need some extra help from someone other than us.

Do we continue as we are for now and see if things improve next year, with a bit more practice? Should I mention my concerns to his Y1 teacher right at the start of next term? Or now to his YR teacher? At what age do mild AS cases usually get diagnosed, and is any intervention actually likely to be either provided or useful at this stage? Am I just being a bit paranoid because of our family history?

Many thanks for any advice and for reading all this. I've already ordered 2 books on AS to read more about it, following recommendations from these boards.

cathan Thu 23-May-13 16:53:53

My son was diagnosed as having "borderline" Asperger's at aged 6 and he had some quite similar behavioural issues to those you describe in your son. Like you, we also have family history which make ASD more likely. At the time we were horrified when the school wanted to refer him for assessment because they were concerned about his lack of friends etc, but in the long run it was the best thing for him and I'm glad we agreed to let him see the educational psychologist. I don't know what your son's school is like, but mine had a really good Special Needs coordinator. The most important thing that they did was to arrange controlled play sessions (him and 2 or 3 others with a classroom assistant) so that he learned how to play with his peers - a really vital skill which he just didn't seem to get. The friends he made through this continue to be his friends and it has really helped. Obviously, your son's case will be different but I would advise you not to panic if at some future date the school raise concerns about him. They want what's best for him too so try to work with them. Hope this helps.

FossilMum Thu 23-May-13 21:32:45

Thank you, Cathan. Frankly, 'controlled play sessions' sounds like just the thing for him at this point. Is your DS in a UK state school? If so, it's reassuring that this sort of thing might be available here if DS is Dxd at some point. His cousins with ASD and PDD-NOS both benefited greatly from something similar, but they're in California, so I had no idea whether or not this sort of thing would be on offer here.

cathan Fri 24-May-13 05:56:20

Just read your question and yes, my son was in an ordinary state primary school in the UK. That said, his school has a very good reputation locally! Hope everything works out for your DS.

Kleinzeit Fri 24-May-13 09:17:07

It could be cutted-up-pears, he’s still young and I think it’s pretty normal that what matters to him isn’t the same as what matters to you! And he could have a slightly Aspie-ish personality without it ever really becoming a problem. It really depends on how things go… I’m sorry -- that’s no help is it? smile

How about talking to his current teacher, maybe not saying anything about autism, but just ask how he’s doing socially and whether everything is OK and whether she has any concerns? Maybe mention one of his oddities at home and see if she’s seen anything similar.

My DS’s school did an assortment of thing to help his social abilities. (He’s also in a UK state school, he does have AS, but had stronger signs than your DS – more frequent and bigger meltdowns for example.) Among other things they set up a rota of friendly kids to sit with him at lunchtime.

As for structured play, do you have Enjoy-A-Ball lessons or something similar locally? Before my DS was diagnosed a friend recommended a local teacher, my DS enjoyed the sessions and they helped him learn to join in games.

FossilMum Fri 24-May-13 13:21:01

Thanks Kleinzeit. I think I will talk to his current teacher.

He does like structured play with an adult in charge, but seems to have trouble translating that to playing with others in the playground without the adult. I let him play after school for an hour every day, so I've watched him a lot (too much!). He shoots himself in the foot by refusing offers to play tag or hide and seek with other children, but will nearly always join in on the rare occasions when another Mum initiates it, and enjoys it if he asks me to play with him and then others subsequently join in.

Another oddity is just how annoyed he gets if I start playing "I spy" or something without him suggesting it first. He's usually fairly good-natured, fine with doing whatever he's asked to at school, or even at home (so long as we let him finish examining the current Lego instruction manual first…), but apparently this is one of several surprising things I'm "not ALLOWED to do".

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