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Wondering about Asperger's and my Son
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Wondering about Asperger's and my Son

Hello.  This forum has been very informative and it is time for me to take the plunge.  I wonder if our 5-yr-old son may be on the mild-side of an Asperger's diagnosis and wonder if treatment/help will even be available for him due to a possible 'mild' status (of course, he's not even been assessed yet!).  His personality traits include:
-no real friendships/friends
-not alot of eye contact (but does use it)
-not great at reading others' social ques  
-socially inappropriate behavior (too much hugging/kissing, 'chasing' others even when they want to stop playing)
-very intelligent (reading, math skills)
-poor language skills, but improving! (has a hard time saying what he means, might give an inappropriate response - he is enrolled in a language clinic)
-obsession w/ video games/computer (which are essentially now off-limits)
-we've seen him cover his ears at loud noises, or conflicts/tension on television
-tends to want to be the leader/bossy (but so do I!!)
-sweet, loving, generous nature!
-very athletic/coordinated (competitive)
We plan to have him assessed, however, my actual question pertains to 'treatment' and 'intervention'.  If my son would not fit into a category requiring medication, what types of treatments might be used as 'early intervention'?  I'm thinking maybe a behavioralist to help him socially?  I really don't care if he does/doesn't walk away with a 'diagnosis' or label of Asperger's.  I *know* in my heart/head, that he could prosper from a little help.  Does he need to be diagnosed to get that help?  This was a rambling mess, thanks for reading it through.  God bless~
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Getting diagnosed is a step in the dierection you're looking for. By treatment I'm not sure if your motives fall in the lines of trying to address his concerns or prevent/cure autism. There are members here on the forum who can address those kinds of "treatments" I think more along the lines of acceptance, but do what can be done to help with certain key issues such as communication and meltdowns.  Otherwise there are some strengths with autism as well. Those strengths need to be nurtured.

Also once he becomes aware he is "different" it helps to get him aquainted with other people like him so he can know he is not alone.  It helps to get aquainted with people who have a positive attitude with their autism. That will help with his self esteem.  It made a difference in my life at age 11/12 getting aquainted with some autism advocates.  (Google up Autism network international)
http://ani.autistics.org/

I'd advise ging with speech therapies and early intervention. It's important to help your son become able to communicate his thoughts and what he wants to say. By developing better communication skills, that also helps cut down on a number of meltdowns too.

About the competition thing, that brought something to mind I read earlier this week:
http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/71669

It's interesting some autistic people are non competitive and some, that may not be so true. With me I can be either or...highly competitive or not competitive at all. Generally I hate competition unless I know I can be at the top, but if it is a constant battle to be at the top then I may lose interest after becoming very frustrated...
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I think a diagnosis can be helpful to your family and your son.  His 'odd' behaviour will be seen/noticed by other people, and as he is probably mildly affected he will also notice himself that he isn't 'getting' some things.  In the absence of a diagnosis people will make up their own labels which could be worse than a diagnosis of Aspergers or your son may develop low self esteem because he thinks he is 'stupid/weird/a loser' etc etc.  Will a diagnosis help him at school?  It really depends.  Children with Aspergers are considered to be better able to cope with the academic side of things and therefore he may not need/or get academic help.  However he will struggle with things such as language processing/unstructured social time such as dinnertime/playtime etc and if he has a diagnosis then you and school and the professionals involved with your son (eg. Educational Psychologist), should be looking at ways to make his days easier to navigate and cope with.  So he may need a daily printed/visual timetable printed out for him so he knows what his schedule is.  He may need instructions during lessons printed out instead of having to listen to what the teacher says.  But that will depend on his ability to process language and sequence instructions correctly.  Alot of children on the spectrum have problems with Executive Functions.  Google this to give you an idea of some types of difficulty he may have.  But if these problems are relevant to your son then again he is going to need help with organising/time management etc etc.  Considerations will have to be put in place regarding examinations ie. can he write and if so can he write fast enough to complete an exam in the time allocated or does he need to be allotted extra time.
Regarding social time, he could be teased or bullied at school especially if he doesn't know how to socialise or socialises inappropriately.  Therefore he should have access to things like a dinnertime club or access to the library or computer suite.  Ideally his freetime should be structured, someone (an adult) should be there to oversee all is okay and ideally it should also involve other children so that your son is not being isolated.
As spectrum disorders affect each individual completely differently, it is usually a case of seeing what are their strengths and weaknesses and then getting supports as appropriate.
As you will see from this forum, some parents have had brilliant support from professionals, whilst others have not.  Alot will rest in your hands as your son's advocate so it is important to get clued up on the educational systems and supports available.  I would recommend getting in touch with the National Autistic Society in your country and I would also advise joining a parent support group as they will have lots of information and it will be a chance for your son to socialise with other children with a similar diagnosis.
If he has language processing difficulties he may also have auditory processing difficulties which might be worth looking into.  If he does (as my son does), then he may find it hard to follow verbal teaching in the class because his ears will pick up and be distracted by other kinds of noise.  He may not even 'hear' letter sounds as we do.  But this is a processing problem and not hearing loss.
As you say he covers his ears he may have some sensory differences.  If you google the name Olga Bogdashina and read an article printed by her in Autism Today this will give you an idea of how different your child's sensory experiences maybe compared to ours.  If it sounds relelvant then she has a very good book called Sensory and Perceptual Differences in Autism and Aspergers which would show you ways to recognise problem areas and how to help with them.
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I forgot to ask how he is doing in his current nursery/school.  
There is no 'cure' as autism/aspergers is down to how the brain is wired up, but there are many things that can help them develop in areas they struggle with and their areas of interest can be used to teach them all kinds of things.  If you are concerned about his social skills you could look for a Play Therapist who specialises in children on the spectrum.  You could also involve him in things that involve more one to one stuff rather than team games (unless he likes and is good at team games).  For example I tried trampolining/horse riding/rock climbing/swimming/fishing etc are all hobbies that involve some socialising and are ones that those on the spectrum tend to cope with better, alot of these also have therapeutic benefits that can help with brain development/co-ordination.
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Avatar_f_tn
i do not have a professianal opinion on this topic, because i do not play doctor, the only thing i can do is offer personal experience
i spent 30 yrs living with asp. without a diagnoses
so it is not a must
however my 9 yr old was diagnosed by the school district, now he recieves some help at school
what i do to help with the symptoms you listed is this
i take on problems at a time, if i look at everything me and my son do in one day it becomes over whelmingps.
oh, i have tried @ 40 different meds for it, nothing really helped, the only drug that did helped caused me to gain 100 pounds, my son has tried a few, adderax not adderal (adderal is a strong narcotic, i will not give my child narcotics) he takes adderax at night sometimes, or melatonin, he has dificulty falling asleep
here is your list (childs symptoms)

no real friendships/friends
-not alot of eye contact (but does use it)
-not great at reading others' social ques  
-socially inappropriate behavior (too much hugging/kissing, 'chasing' others even when they want to stop playing)
-very intelligent (reading, math skills)
-poor language skills, but improving! (has a hard time saying what he means, might give an inappropriate response - he is enrolled in a language clinic)
-obsession w/ video games/computer (which are essentially now off-limits)
-we've seen him cover his ears at loud noises, or conflicts/tension on television
-tends to want to be the leader/bossy (but so do I!!)
-sweet, loving, generous nature!
-very athletic/coordinated (competitive


each of these have practical solutions, no medicine needed

my childs main issues was

socially inappropriate behavior (too much hugging/kissing, 'chasing' others even when they want to stop playing)

i signed him up for swim team, everytime i saw him get grabby with other children i made him sit out, i did this without drwing more attention

i am out of time, please stick around, no problem is every to big
there are several people on here that have lived with aspergers for a long time
you should find some help here

hang in there, i know its hard
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583775_tn?1219970088
Your son sounds very like my boy who is "mild" Aspergers.  It took us till he was 9 to get a diagnosis, but that has made a huge difference, because it gives us options, and the school knows why he is behaving the way he does, and what to do about it.

the inappropriate hugging and chasing other kids when they want him to stop is identical to what my son was doing, he also makes some eye contact and has good gross motor (but poor fine motor) skills.

You may come across teachers or professionals who won't take his problems seriously, just keep trying.
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Avatar_n_tn
Firstly, thank you to all who have commented.  After re-reading my post see that I am "afraid" of my son being "labeled" (negatively), however, we all our labeled (I'm sure I wear 'controlling, opinionated, etc"...!).  Thank you for pointing this out gently.  I am grateful for the time that each of you took to address my concerns.  My son has VOLUMES of assets. After meeting him and after shaking their heads, most people walk away with a smile.  It breaks my heart to see a kid throw a ball at him, or roll their eyes at him, but by educating myself, I have been able to step back, toughen up, and see where people's motivations stem from.  Damn, if I haven't learned more in a couple years with my son than I did in the decades prior to having him in my life.  Tonight I completed paperwork for his assessment and I'm not as 'afraid' of the outcome, but more excited to take a positive road.  I appreciate the encouragement.  (again, I ramble!)
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I hope all goes well with the assessment.  Let us know how it goes.  Do get in touch with the National Autistic Society because you can get so much information and advice from them.  If at any stage of the process (which is life long!), you do not agree with what professionals are saying or doing or the level of support your son receives etc don't be afraid to question it, ask for a second opinion, disagree and challenge them or even go to court about it.  Find out how the educational system works in your country so that you know what you need to do for the benefit of your sons education and future.  For example in the UK you need the local educational authority to agree to assess your child and once assessed, if it is agreed by the LEA, your child will be given an Eductional Statement.  You need to have a Statement for your child to access any special educational needs systems, even those within mainstream school.  However the LEA will tell you that 'all your child's needs can be met without a Statement'.  That may or may not be true, but the fact is that having tried that route, if you find/feel that your child needs to be in a specialist educational setting you will need a Statement and that takes at least 26 weeks to get a decision on.  Once you get the Statement you can then start to look for available places in school which could all be gone by then.  As I say, I don't know the system in your country, but you need to find out how it works and start to be thinking about where your son is going to be happiest and learn more.  That maybe in mainstream or it might not be.  
In my own case I wanted my son to remain mainstream because I didn't think he was severe enough from an autistic point of view.  I still think that he is quite mildly affected although he is autistic as opposed to Aspergers.  However he cannot read or write at all eventhough he has been tested as being gifted in some areas and at least of average intelligence.  His mainstream school simply do not know how to teach him.  He maybe severely dyslexic.  So I have moved him to another mainstream school which specialises in autistic spectrum disorders.  At least 5 children per class are on the spectrum.  But I am still going to an Educational Tribunal because I want my son to go to a local Specialist School that is private.  I have a fair to good chance of winning the tribunal and getting my son into one of the best private special schools in our country that deal only with high functioning autistic/aspergers children.  Whether I win or not will depend on whether the LEA can prove that they can meet my sons educational needs in one of their own state schools.
Regarding labelling, I too was very concerned about getting a diagnosis for my son.  I felt guilty about it as if I had betrayed him in some way because the diagnosis will affect the rest of his life and he had no say about whether he wanted it or not.  But you have to work with the system we've got and without the diagnosis he didn't have access to many things he needed.  However having got the diagnosis I am still having to fight tooth and nail for what he is rightfully entitled to.  Remember that all services/provisions/supports have to be paid for out of a limited budget.  But, as you say, we all have labels and we all give labels to those we meet and know.  It is therefore better to get the right label rather than a more negative one.
If your son does get a diagnosis I would recommend starting to talk with your son about it in simple terms.  Emphasis his strengths to him and what he is good at.  Talk about his differences eg. sensory differences because he is probably unaware that he experiences things differently from everyone else.  As he is verbal get him to talk about things that upset him and explain things to you.  Don't expect any kind of communication in the middle of a meltdown!  But afterwards talk it through with him so that you can both begin to learn from the experiences eg. if going shopping overwhelms him get some strategies in place like giving him a list of where you are going so he can tick them off and can see that he is working down the list and getting nearer to the time he gets back home.  Let him wear a peaked cap and sunglasses if he doesn't like being looked at.  If he has problems with noise, especially sudden unpredictable noise you can use DIY ear defenders, or if older ear plugs that people use during shooting practice or he could listen to music with an ipod.  Something to hold or fiddle with is useful, it can be small enough to keep in his pocket.  And ask him how he is doing at regular intervals.  If he can learn to warn you that he has had enough that is a great step.
The diagnosis seems like the end result, but actually it is just the start of the journey.  Remember that you do know your son better than any of the professionals.
Anyway, good luck.
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I'm wondering why his obsession of video games and computer are totally off limits?  Aspies tend to have an obsession, and alot of times it is computers/video games.  Aspies are the reason we have computers (Bill Gates!).  My Aspie daughter's mind is contstantly going--searching for knowledge.  I am amazed at what she has learned from computers.  As long as an obession isn't hurting anyone, but could actually be enhancing them, I don't see why it would be totally off limits to them.
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Regarding obsessions, I think it is really useful to use them to teach all kinds of things.  My own son doesn't really have what you would call classic aspie obsessions.  But if I want to teach him a mathematical theory I would do it during a war game of soldiers eg. letting him count out soldiers for him and me; letting him count how many get killed etc.  I think there can be conflicts around stopping or starting things whether they are obsessions or not eg. turning off the TV or computer, but you need to use a time-timer to visually show your child 'when' the TV/computer is going to be switched off.  You can also use a traffic light system of 'green card' = it's okay to continue/ 'amber card' = get prepared to stop, 'red card' = stop.
Having said that we do occasionally go camping and when we do that he has no access to TV or computers.  During these occasions he always participates and interacts much better than he does at home because he has no option of going indoors to turn the TV on!  During our recent camping trip he learnt to climb trees and made friends with some other children.
So I wouldn't stop or deny access to things that he likes/is good at.  I would use them to teach him things.  But I do sometimes stop access to them completely for a break and we do something completely different.  There can be two extreme ways of thinking about this subject.  Some think that they should be allowed to follow what they like and are good at (afterall that is what we do!), and that we shouldn't try to teach or train them to function in our world other than the basic things they need to learn how to do because when they are adult they will automatically arrange their own life to what they like and what suites them.  The other extreme is that all obsessions/distractions are removed and they are forced to remain 'in our world' 'with out values/beliefs' all of the time.  
I suppose I try to work with how I would like to be treated myself.  I have lived in a foreign country for a number of years and I remember how frustrating it was not to understand the language and  how anxious it could make you feel just 'not knowing' what was going on all the time.
If your child is verbal I think you have got a brilliant opportunity to learn from eachother, rather like a bridge between two worlds.  Not only is it the autistic persons responsibility to try to cross the bridge, it is also ours because if we fail to even attempt this then it is us that are lacking in imagination, empathy, theory of mind and not the autistic person who is supposed to have those deficits as part of their diagnosis.
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