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Asperger's or adolescence?

(20 Posts)
BlogOnTheTyne Sun 23-Mar-14 12:22:29

Can someone please tell me whether this is DS's Asperger's manifesting or adolescence or something else? DS (12) has Asperger's traits but never got a full diagnosis. Been always at a mainstream school. However, his assessment was years ago and as he's grown older, I can see that he probably would meet the criteria for Asperger's at least in lots of areas.

He's fully in puberty now and been like a teenager for at least 2 years. So here are 2 recent scenarios - but very typical/daily situations. Does this sound like Asperger's traits manifesting or what?

Scene 1: DS, his brother and I all playing a boxed game. DS is losing, after a few minutes. He immediately wants to leave the game. He 'can't' do losing and has never been able to. He reacts like a much much younger child. If we commiserate, he gets more angry and upset.

Suddenly, he begins to win and I'm losing. Again, typically, he begins to sneer and jeer at the loser, delighting in his own success. If anyone had done this to him when he was losing, he'd have exploded and stormed off. So we now all know we have to expect this if we ever try to play a boxed game, praise him hugely if he's winning and keep very quiet if he's losing and expect him to get furious, upset and storm off. Not 'normal' behaviour for a NT child of 12?

Scene 2: Out at a community recreation ground and playing tennis. DS v keen to go but says he 'doesn't want to interact with people' (this again is 'normal' for him. Suddenly, a man and his son arrive on the other court beside us and start to kick a football over the net. All of us are slightly put out but realise that it's not doing any harm to our fun and no one else wants that court anyway. DS's brother and I happy to play on.

DS, however, immediately wants to leave. He gets tearful which makes him even more embarassed. He keeps muttering to me that we should go now. This has happened before and we always give in to him and his bro. and I want to play on. So I say I don't want to go but he can sit out or go back and sit in the car. He becomes intensely furious, swearing at me under his breath, tears in his eyes.

He is beside himself with angst and embarassment if I smile at or comment at the other people or say anything like, "good shot" to him or his bro. or slag off myself for being so pathetic at tennis. He 'needs' me not to draw any attention at all and assumes everyone is looking.

Further furious mutterings follow from him for the next 30 mins as we play on. I ask him what's wrong and he says, "I TOLD you I wanted to go. You KNOW I want to go! I didn't think we were going to be out so long". I say that yes I'm aware he wants to go but I don't and nor does his bro. and remember the last time we played here and as soon as we arrived and he saw other people in the park, he wanted to go and he cried then and ruined it for all of us. I say he can sit out or in the car but his bro. and I want to play on.

Rest of entire time is hellish for his bro. and I, as DS is furious but plays on. Afterwards, it's MY fault for not taking his cues to go. It's MY fault for being so horrible. His bro. says, "But she'd done nothing at all wrong. She said you could go if you wanted to. What's wrong? Nothing bad's happened". NT bro. can't understand why DS is beside himself and even in tears.

Again, this is a typical scenario - massive over-reaction to not getting his own way, to feeling self-conscious, to having to be around others who are strangers, to his mum making normal family remarks that might be overheard, just as we can overhear all the other families in the park.

So I guess I'm asking - are these traits very typical of a 12 yr old with Asperger's? - the inability to cope with losing/ jeering at others if they lose and he wins; the inability to do an activity alongside others, socially and the over self-consciousness/desire to run away; the complete inability to accept he's the one in the wrong and always to have to blame the other; the expectation that the world still revolves around him and his needs, even at nearly age 13; the intensity of his anger that even brings him to tears (and he mostly never cries expect when angry)?

I think I need to hear from other parents of teenagers with Asperger's, as none of his NT peers would be like this nor his NT brother either and nobody knows how hard it is to manage when he's with his family, as he behaves more 'appropriately' at school and when away from me.

Sorry this is so long, but can I add two more typical scenes? We visit friends. DS decides he wants to go. Cue, DS muttering to me about how it's getting late isn't it time we went home now - hint hint? Sometimes this might even be overheard by friends and is reminiscent of a much younger child at a playdate who states bluntly that they want to go home - but DS is nearly 13 and this is inappropriate. His bro. squirms in embarassment that the friends will overhear.

Final traits - DS hates being out of the house for too long, if not on a school day and won't go out 'late' in the day - ie after lunch as it's 'too late now'. Even if where we are is a 'treat', he always, always starts to feel we've 'been out too long and wants to go home now' but can't explain why.

Anyway, please can someone talk to me about their teenager with Asperger's, as I'm realising more and more, as he gets older, how out of synch he is with NT peers and even now his younger cousins. Are all these things the usual manifestations of Asps?

BlogOnTheTyne Sun 23-Mar-14 12:34:20

OK, I'm on a roll here, so can I add a few more daily, typical things about life with DS and see if these are also typical of other teenagers with Asps? HE hates watching films he's not seen and that go on 'too long'. He can't follow a plot-line. He has to look it up online first.

On the other hand, he'll spend hrs of his life watching again and again episodes of his favourite and latest obsession - eg cartoons or 'Police'Camera Action' or 1980s Youtube of Crimewatch. He will literally watch episodes tons of times or he'll learn off by heart endless facts about certain TV shows.

Again, this is so hard when his bro and I want to watch a film as a family but we know DS will at best tolerate it and at worst, refuse to watch with us or ruin it for us.

Then there's all the physical stuff he does - like poke and flap and repetitively make crude jokes and shriek etc etc. I think I'm asking about this today as we've sort of been living as if he's really NT - but just a bit quirky but more and more I realise that I don't know any other 12/13 yr old boys like him and maybe I just need to hear from parents of children with Asps, although every child is different - just to offload a bit and share.....

PolterGoose Sun 23-Mar-14 12:59:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BlogOnTheTyne Sun 23-Mar-14 18:55:38

Thanks PolterGoose. May well get another assessment. In the meantime, do these incidents above sound like fairly typical manifestations of 12/13 yr olds with Asperger's.

I'd be very interested to hear from people who have children of that age or thereabouts. I've got a clearer idea of how it manifests in younger children - eg the lack of eye contact, obsessive interests, lining up objects, lack of pretend play, lack of pointing etc etc polarised thinking etc etc - many of which DS had as a younger child - but less a sense of how things develop later on, when puberty hits.

Anyone else willing to share or comment?

youarewinning Sun 23-Mar-14 18:59:59

There does sound like there's something there. As you've already had professionals involved and the mention aspergers was raised it seems worthwhile using that as a starting point.
Camhs should be involved as he does sound very anxious.

youarewinning Sun 23-Mar-14 19:07:00

I can't comment on teenagers as my DS is only 9yo and we are currently going through assessment process for AS.

He would notice if someone was using the tennis court for football and be incensed because it's not a football pitch!

He couldn't give a toss if he wins or loses a game - but lo and behold anyone that doesn't follow the rules to the button!

He would ask to go home form somewhere if what he wanted/ expected to happen wasn't.

He is noticeably much younger than his peers socially and emotionally when he's around them - however around just adults you wouldn't notice that so much iyswim?

He likes to watch films he knows however lately has been going to the cinema with me quite a bit - but only if he can chose the film and he decides it's one he wants to watch. He worries about films he hasn't seen trailers for and decided he likes it. He also hides his eyes at any blood or anybody kissing grin

But as you know all children are different and that includes those with ASD. Have a look at Tony Attwood website. Polter directed me there and I found it extremely useful.

Ineedmorepatience Sun 23-Mar-14 19:15:08

IME, the traits that become apparent when children are little become much bigger issues as they get older, you example of him in the park and of not being able to cope with losing ring bells for me and I agree with polter that it might help him to feel more comfortable with himself if he knows why he is different.

Of course he probably has raging hormones too but that will only make him struggle more. The thing we found hardest with Dd1 when she was a teen was her total lack of ability to see things from another persons point of view or to be able to recognise the impact of her actions on others. Of course these behaviours are common with teens but usually when you confront them they do actually know they are being a PITA but with aspergers in the mix you have no chance.

Good luck smile

PolterGoose Sun 23-Mar-14 19:33:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mumslife Sun 23-Mar-14 22:41:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Naelith Mon 24-Mar-14 08:12:05

I have a 16 year old lad with aspergers. What you are describing does sound fairly typical of my son at that age and even now at 16 he gets frustrated at losing (although much better at it as he has got older) And the not liking to be out too long is spot on for my sons behaviours too. Now at 16 i am lucky if I can get my son out of the house for 10 minutes at a time as he is much happier in his room.
The comments around people is also quiet common it was explained to me that an aspergers child will have trouble understanding consequences of what they say or do and they don't understand that others will have feelings just like they do. Their world tends to be focused on them. They can learn these skills though but it takes a lot of time and effort to teach them and some concepts they may never grasp. I have to agree with other posters regarding being dx'd it was like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders when he knew why he was different

Jacksterbear Mon 24-Mar-14 09:08:27

Hi, my DS with ASD is much younger (7) so feel free to ignore if this isn't helpful, but I just wanted to comment that he displays none (other than the last one) of the behaviours on this list:

"lack of eye contact, obsessive interests, lining up objects, lack of pretend play, lack of pointing etc etc polarised thinking"

and all of the behaviours on this one:

"the inability to cope with losing/ jeering at others if they lose and he wins; the inability to do an activity alongside others, socially and the over self-consciousness/desire to run away; the complete inability to accept he's the one in the wrong and always to have to blame the other; the expectation that the world still revolves around him and his needs, even at nearly age 13; the intensity of his anger that even brings him to tears"

streakybacon Mon 24-Mar-14 10:03:24

I sympathise, OP. I have a 15 year old ds with AS and ADHD and I'm constantly walking a fine line between the conditions, hormones and potential side effects from his medication. It can be VERY difficult to tell the difference, and of course, every child will present differently and puberty can turn them into a different species.

If you have concerns that your son may have autism it wouldn't hurt to pursue assessment and diagnosis. It's always a positive thing to have, even if you/he don't disclose it. There may be occasions when you're both glad to have an explanation for some of his behaviours.

mumslife Mon 24-Mar-14 12:11:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Swanhildapirouetting Mon 24-Mar-14 12:56:53

We've started leaving ds2 at home sometimes! He is 12, and it is a relief that he is now old enough to manage at home by himself for an hour if he doesn't want to come with us.

He has Asperger's and would do all the things you describe, probably to a lesser degree, especially the wanting to leave situations he considers "boring". Luckily we tend not to take him many places he finds boring grin as we know what will happen. He likes trips to museums, outings very much, and visits to someone's house if there is a computer game he wants to try out, but otherwise he will quickly get very agitated and pick holes in something or complain he is being mistreated, not played with, people are mean to him. He needs an adult (or small child will do, he loves playing with 1-8 year olds) to chat him through boring situations. He has no patience whatsoever with hanging around.

He hates films that we like, but we're beginning to find as he gets older his tolerance of fantasy is improving. So he likes Dr Who, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Merlin, whereas 2 years ago he refused to watch them as they were "boring". We still struggle to get him to watch mainstream drama. We really like to watch family films so this is difficult and stressful, and we hate him going off by himself and fixating on Dr Who episodes. We made a point of trying to watch things he liked With Him, so he got into habit of chatting whilst watching and commenting.

Games - terriblly immature over boardgames but improving. We try simple games like Monopoly or Ludo. Takes offence very easily.

Takes against physical aspects of people, refers to his brother as a "gorilla" and he hates his "hairy legs" shock Then wants his brother to like him and be nice to him. Upset when brother is rude to him, and thinks insulting him back is best solution. Very rude, working himself into frenzy over perceived wrongs. But rest of time quite sweet and friendly grin Very polite to grownups and children he likes, less polite to his family confused

Loud outbursts and screaming fits when anxious, about homework for instance or being told off by teacher, or missing his favourite tv sport because we are out somewhere.

ANXIETY is cause of most of his problems I would say, although some is inability to behave appropriately.

Actually it feels good to have made that list! Ds2 is a very lovable fun loving boy, but it is a strain to put up with all that, I agree. We do deal much better with it, when we think of anxiety being the trigger for a lot of his bad behaviour, and think how we can make him less anxious, without destroying our family life.

I think the aim is not to have a tyrant controlling your life, but to think of him as a someone who thrives on positive structure, which YOU provide. Expecting him to be flexible isn't going to happen unless you reduce his anxiety on some levels.

I think it can be as simple as reminding him before you go somewhere when you are going to leave, and sticking to it, or being aware what the limits of his tolerance are and allowing for that to be part of your planning or reminding him that these things might happen. SOCIAL STORIES are a way of talking through scenarios before they happen.

Explosive Child by Greene is another way of thinking through problems before they happen.

It doesn't matter if he is well behaved in school. For your sanity and your happiness might it be worth accepting he is not going to behave like an Nt child and lowering your sights for his communication skills but upping the rules for his behaviour in terms of not reacting violently or rudely; perhaps giving him some way of telling you he needs to go home, or leave the room before he gets upset?

Swanhildapirouetting Mon 24-Mar-14 13:07:00

I think one of the worst things you can do is start trying to remind them what the other person's point of view is, in the middle of a crisis. That never works.
However, you can sit down [a long time later without reference to original crisis or situation] and almost in a theoretical way discuss people wanting two different things and how they resolve it, and see what he comes up with. That sometimes sinks in, and they can use it next time the problem comes up, it is a like a blueprint in their mind. It is like they can solve the problem with intelligence but not emotion. It is like you can train them to be desensitized to certain situations. If I get bored, I will do x y z to pass the time. If I lose, I will win next time. If I win, I will show sympathy with loser. I will watch some of this film for 20 mins without complaining and see if I like it, and then if I don't like it, there is not problem in leaving the room and doing something else.

Swanhildapirouetting Mon 24-Mar-14 13:21:54

We've noticed the jeering too, in small ways. I think it is a release of the anxiety that ds2 sometimes feels when in a competitive situation. I think if you quietly tell him how much you enjoy playing the game with him, whether you win or lose, he might begin to understand that it doesn't matter to you if he loses, you will not judge him on it. You could remind him it is very exciting to not know the outcome. You could reinforce all those elements of the game which make it exciting but unpredictable, so that he begins to feel that unpredictability is the fun bit of the game not actually winning or losing. Skill and chance together make the game fun. Like a logical explanation of what the point of the game is. He may think it is a test of his skill, and that he is being in some strange way judged and held accountable even in games.

And that's why he wants to win. So badly.

horsetowater Mon 24-Mar-14 13:26:01

I don't know a lot about AS but... where children respond differently, outside our version of normal for whatever reason (illness, autism, other disability) all we can do is change the way we react to that.

One of the things that runs through all teenagers is their perception of what we say to them alters for a few years. They see our slight irritation as a huge rejection or a massive affront. It's a neurological thing. So AS or no AS, it really does help to put on the 'nice face'. They will be expecting at least friendliness and reading it as normal. To you it will feel like a charade, which it is really. Anything less they will read as hostility.

The other thing is they expect clarity from you. My DD was refusing to get out of the car because there had been a tantrum and she was exhausted and frustrated, she was also in an unfamiliar place which was putting her on edge. I forced her out by just waiting with the door open. I think I had a little rant as well. We had a great day and that made up for the previous stress. I do think that the process of seeing something through is important to them. If you don't do that it re-affirms their opinion that it's just a game and doesn't matter really. By really insisting (obvs it doesn't always work) they see you differently.

OP I think you are doing the right things but perhaps you need to feel more confident about it. You also have to consider that when you're not around they will need to behave appropriately, so better to let them practice on you first.

horsetowater Mon 24-Mar-14 13:26:57

I think one of the worst things you can do is start trying to remind them what the other person's point of view is, in the middle of a crisis. That never works.

Absolutely agree with that.

Swanhildapirouetting Mon 24-Mar-14 13:54:41

I think maybe, whether he has ASD or not, after a long day at school, he just feels anxious and tired and wants the safety and security of what he knows best. Maybe he spends a lot of his time talking to pupils and teachers, and has to be on his best behaviour. Maybe he just does not have the mental energy to deal with any other social interactions.

Maybe board games are too stressful, maybe what he needs is a walk in the woods and a quiet chat. Maybe you should take away all the competitive element from his weekend, and scale back everything, until he chooses to ask to go out. If necessary send other son to play with people by himself. Leave shy son whilst you drop sociable son. Return home. At this age he will be fine at home for an hour, really he will.

BlogOnTheTyne Mon 24-Mar-14 13:55:32

Many thanks to everyone. Haven't much tiem to reply right now but this is all v helpful. The thing about logically explaining things to DS, outside of the situation and deciding what's expected of him and of the situation is v helpful. I think I've forgotten things like this that I might have applied when he was younger.

I remember, before he was fully assessed, his childminder telling me about taking him to a music group. On the first occasion, he wouldn't join in at all, had his hands over his ears and stood away from everyone. She told me that the second time they went, she explained to him beforehand (none of us really knew he might have Asps at this time) that he'd be expected to join in and do what everyone else was doing. From then on, once he knew the expectations, he joined in - but of course perhaps not as much as a NT child.

It's the same thing now about him needing to know what's expected of him - in a calm logical way - and not just expecting him to know how to be. I forget so much that he's not NT like his bro. - well not really forget but as he's so much more sophisticated and mature now, I unconsciously assume he'll know how to be and what to do.

I still need to sit down with him then, don't I and talk to him in advance about what we're about to do, what might be expected of him, how to manage his anxiety, how to reach a compromise so all of us feels happy - eg not go out for too long.

By the way, I'm in no doubt at all that he has Asperger's traits and that he almost - but not quite - filled the criteria by age 6 and that he's mostly likely hovering around the diagnostic mark. I think it's a bit of a continuum anyway and that it might depend on the day and who assesses him whether or not he'd get a full diagnosis.

One big thing holds me back having yet another assessment for him (he had 3 different assessments for Asps from age 2.5 to age 6 - the last one a private one and the first 2 NHS). He is indignant and furious when we talk about his traits and I've always had to couch it in terms of, "we all have something/ some traits...we're all on a continuum...."

He will sometimes talk sneeringly about another child at school who he believes is even 'weirder' than he is and has "full blown Asperger's", without seeing how incongruous this is, given he knows he has Asperger's traits. He makes a big distinction in his mind between 'traits' and full diagnosis. So he'd be really affected if he were to be assessed yet again and this time deemed fully in the Asperger's category.

His school know he has traits but he's never been perceived as needing anything extra special to help him, compared to some of his peers who need a lot of special input. In some ways, maybe it's ME at the moment who needs confirmation that he has Asperger's, as I blame myself for so many things about him which are probably just the way he was made and not my fault.

I also don't really have anyone in RL who I can talk to about his more unusual behaviours or those who know in the wider family, don't really see it and don't understand what it might be like to raise a child with Asperger's and perhaps see it as naughtiness. His brother also finds it hard to see why we always need to make allowances for DS and then I find it hard to cope with NT DS, who is also surging with teenage hormones at present too.

So I suppose I'm just looking for a bit of shared feeling that yes, it IS Asperger's and it IS different and it IS hard and once they're adolescent, and you throw those hormones into the mix too, it can get even harder at times.

There's another trait that he's got which I'm wondering if anyone else's teenage Asps child might have - he gets totally hyper in the evening - very noisy and physical and sort of whoops and jumps around and makes inappropriate crude jokes and is generally really difficult and then it all dies down minutes before he goes to sleep. Occasionally, he seems to be the opposite - withdrawn and depressed - again only across maybe an hour or so. Is that Asperger's or adolescence or tiredness plus both those components or just DS?

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