Could it be ASD

(6 Posts)
Lunchpacker Mon 24-Jun-19 09:00:59

My SD is nearly 10. She doesn't live with me and DH but we have regular contact. She's always come across as quirky and I've always thought there's something about her that's just a bit different. Her mum had also previously mentioned she thinks she might have ASD and said she's pursuing an assessment. When we've asked about the result of it since she's ignored the topic which makes us think she's not gone ahead with the assessment after all. Her son (from previous relationship-SDs brother) has Aspergers-diagnosed. I'm looking for others experience so that we can have an indication whether some of the behaviours she displays may be ASD.

For example:
She's very clumsy, legs covered with bruises.

Fear of heights. This includes stairs (not even that high!). Not long ago we went to water park and she only wanted to go down the small slide which the security said she's banned from as it's for under 5s only! She never tried any of the bigger slides, most of which weren't that high at all.

Doesn't seem to realise consequences at times. E.g. Me and DH have had a baby and when we let her hold him we reiterated how careful she needs to be, she can't let go etc. Well she very nearly dropped him and didn't seem to have any regard for it. As in, didn't seem worried or cared. Just sort of laughed.

When we're in social situations she doesn't interact well with other kids and saying "like a fish out of the water" comes to mind. She often sits by herself separately from other kids in this sort of situation despite us trying to make her included.

She often ignores instructions, particularly if we're telling her not to do something.

Doesn't seem to have much consideration for others feelings. For example, would step on her dads feet on purpose.

When taking photos she'll purposely look elsewhere not at the camera.

Her mum and my DH and I all agree she acts much younger than her age.

She comes out with some unusual things which makes me think her mind works in a different way as I've never met anyone like her.

DH says she was a 'very good baby'. Very easy, would be happy just sat watching TV for ages, didn't cry or fuss much at all.

She is also very chatty, seeks lots of cuddles. She gets excited about a day out and trying new things but often when we arrive where we had planned to go she becomes uncomfortable and just wants to sit with DH and I as opposed to enjoying herself (e.g. At a play park). She watches my DD who's the same age making friends with strangers (kids) and instead of joining in sits with us.

She's fine at parks she's familiar with and been to many times. She seems to have friends at school.

Reason why I'm posting is I think knowing she might have ASD would help us manage her behaviour better. We wouldn't want to label some of her behaviour as naughty if she can't help it so to say. Or continue with encouraging her to make friends etc if it's ASD that's stopping her and not confidence for example.

Sorry for the long post!

OP’s posts: |
LightTripper Mon 24-Jun-19 10:42:14

Nobody can diagnose over the internet. She sounds very similar to me as a child and my daughter is autistic so I might be, though obviously in my generation have never been diagnosed.

The problem with Dx for non-professionals (and honestly for some professionals too!) is most autistic traits are human traits - just magnified or showing up in different situations.

E.g. the water slide, clumsiness and treading on people could be proprioception issues.

Laughing when she dropped the baby or ignoring you is unlikely to be because she genuinely doesn't care. Laughing can be a stress response (I still tend to giggle when I'm in very tense situations e.g. if somebody is having a massive argument near me - it's awful but literally nothing I can do about it). Lots of autistic people are actually hyperempathetic (i.e. get so flooded with emotion when something stressful happens - like nearly dropping a baby due to clumsiness - that it becomes impossible to express it normally or to talk about it. You might find that with the benefit of time elapsing she'd be able to talk about how she felt about it now. More generally we do a lot of "feelings talk" with my DD to help her think through her emotions and how she is feeling about things, have lots of feelings books, write a diary with her ... maybe you could encourage her to write her own (private) diary to help her process her feelings?

Zoning out/not listening is something my DD does and I do. It can be frustrating I know. I find often if I put myself in DD's line of sight and show her the thing I want her to do/think about that can really help (autistics are often visual thinkers so a visual prompt is helpful). From the inside, I'm aware that people are speaking and even that they are speaking to me, but if my brain is busy/focused on something else then it gets kind of "parked" to one side and my brain just doesn't process what I've heard until I've finished what I'm doing. It happens particularly with people I love and am comfortable with I'm afraid (sorry! Though means it is actually kind of a good sign she does it to you grin) - less so at work (and similarly we find DD ignores us quite a lot at home - but much more likely to respond to people she sees less often and to her teachers at school).

In terms of friends, from what I've read autistic girls often have a smaller circle of more intense friendships, rather than a big network of loose friendships - and are often very happy with that (although it can make them quite vulnerable if friendships go wrong - so it might be worth talking to her about friendships and things that can go wrong, and just try to get into a pattern whereby she is comfortable to talk to you or DH about these things).

What does your DH think about it? Does he want to pursue a diagnosis? It seems something for him and his ExW to agree? Generally I think Dx can be helpful if they have concerns, as the transition to secondary school can be very difficult (a lot of demands on executive function and an increase in the complexity of friendships at the same time), so it's ideally good to have a good understanding ahead of that if you can.

But whether she has a Dx or not I think that pushing kids to do things they are not comfortable with just for the same of "normality" or fitting in is rarely a good idea. If you think she's missing out on an experience she'll genuinely enjoy, and a little bit of a nudge towards having a go or breaking things into more manageable steps might make the difference, then that's one thing. But if she is genuinely scared of heights or doesn't get pleasure out of chatting to randoms at a playpark and would rather sit with you, or doesn't want to have her picture taken, then I would be inclined to let her do things her own way. With photos it was only when I was in my 20s at college complaining there were never any good pictures of me that somebody pointed out I never let anybody take a picture of me, and that it was basically a numbers game (only X% will be nice, so unless you let a lot be taken you'll never get a nice one). It really hadn't occurred to me to make the link. But until that point the only nice photos of me are candid ones - in posed ones I'm always awkwardly looking off to the side.

You might find it helps her with new experiences if you sit down together and e.g. do a virtual tour on their website or Google Streetview (if available), or look at lots of people's photos online before you go (or look at a map and make a plan for what you will do in the day). That should help her "rehearse" the day in her head, and be more relaxed and enjoy it more when she gets there. Having said that I often find my DD remembers things and says she has enjoyed things that at the time she may have seemed quite zoned out of and not to have been paying attention to at all.

More generally you might find that if you just let her do things her own way instead of expecting her to behave like a neurotypical child the same age then a lot of the "behaviour" problems could melt away.

There are a couple of good books on autistic women and girls if you want to learn more - e.g.

Lunchpacker Mon 24-Jun-19 14:15:16

Thank you for your reply, I've found it very helpful 🌺
Initially when DHs exW shared concerns he dismissed them and told me he thinks it's her parenting (more lack of) that's caused his DD to be behind. That's a separate issue though. He didn't tell her that obviously. To be fair I don't think he knew enough about ASD and also didn't want to acknowledge that something might be wrong. However more recently when I mentioned again about some quirks he agreed that he's also noticed things. My DH is quite a passive parent when it comes to things like that and won't push for an assessment. I would but it's not my place.

What you've described is exactly what we've been doing-letting her do whatever she feels comfortable with. Sometimes it is quite sad though. For example, we did show photos of water park before, she was genuinely so excited and couldn't wait to go. When we arrived she just sat there not enjoying herself because she couldn't go on the baby slide. There were other things she could do but she just froze. So she was missing out. There's been lots of occasions similar to that so we're very wary now if we want to take her anywhere new. Strangely though afterwards she'd tell us she had a nice time

OP’s posts: |
Lunchpacker Mon 24-Jun-19 14:17:56

It's also interesting you mentioned talking about feelings. It is only now it got me thinking-she never talks about her feelings! That's something to explore definitely

OP’s posts: |
LightTripper Mon 24-Jun-19 15:17:07

Specifically on the water slide thing, it might be worth thinking about whether there are any smaller slides available where she could give it a go in a less overwhelming setting or where there is less pressure on her to do it. E.g. our local swimming pool has a slide they sometimes open at the weekend that isn't very big, but might be a stepping stone to trying something bigger.

It is just the kind of thing I would have done though - to be dead keen on going and love the imagined experience, but then find the real experience too scary and overwhelming. And I don't think pressure would have helped me try it - so while a bit of encouragement is no bad thing, I think you're doing the right thing not to push her too hard. To be honest that's probably true regardless of whether it's parenting or "just how she is" but I think some kind of sensory difference does sound quite plausible as an explanation for the kind of issues you are talking about.

Parents of kids on the spectrum often get accused of poor parenting I think, because we end up parenting differently and our children behave differently, so people say "ah behaviour X is due to parenting Y". But actually I think it's more a case of "parenting Y is caused by behaviour X" .... and often "behaviour X" is only a problem in the eye of the beholder in any case.

Maybe if she's uncomfortable talking about feelings some mindfulness exercises she could do by herself might be a good start? In Laura James' book "Odd Girl Out" she talks about using a "feelings wheel" (something like this I think: which might be a starting point?

Lunchpacker Mon 24-Jun-19 20:25:02

I love the feelings wheel, thank you so much for the link. I'll make a conscious effort to ask her how things make her feel and introduce the wheel if she struggles (which I have a suspicion she will). Up until now I've just resorted to "are you ok" to which the answer is always a nod or "yes". I now feel really silly about this.

OP’s posts: |

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