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Asperger's Flapping
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Asperger's Flapping

Hello there,

My son is 4 years old and has been doing "Asperger's Flapping" with both hands with running/pacing back and forth, his mouth open and breath held for quite some time. But he has great personality, interacts extremely well, makes and plays with friends greatly, is intelligent, physically very strong and expresses himself very well. So other than the hand flapping that concerns me, he is a great NORMAL kid. We have talked to Peditirician about it but she seems to say nothing is wrong considering his other developmental graph and behavior is very much normal which I agree. I don't want to scare my wife by bringing Autism issue but I can let it slide it either. I am kind of not really burning inside but it makes me think about my son a lot.

What are my alternatives?

Regards
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Typically developing children can also display some of the repetitive behavior that is displayed by children with autism and aspergers. If you do not have any other concerns about your son's skills or behavior, I would not be particularly concerned about the hand flapping. I am glad that you shared your concern with your pediatrician, and it is important to continue to share any and all conerns as your son continues to develop.

Given that hand flapping will make your son stand out in some social situations, it is appropriate for you to make your son aware of this behavior and to encourage an alternative way for him to show excitement or to relieve boredome (whichever applies to the situation in which the handflapping occurs).
4 Comments
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470168_tn?1237474845
I am not a professional, I am a parent of a child on the autistic spectrum.  My son hardly flaps at all.  It is only if he gets very excited for example watching a DVD and it is at the most exciting part of the film and then he might bounce up and down on the sofa and flap his hands.  Or he might do it if he got extremely frustrated.  So flapping is not a big issue with my son eventhough he is on the spectrum.  He used to spin when he was a toddler and he still regulates his sensory system by using movement.
Have you looked at the DSM IV criteria for aspergers/autistic spectrum disorders?
To get a diagnosis your child has to get a certain level of the characteristics out of each section.  You may find your son doesn't have enough of them or in all sections to get a diagnosis.
But if you look at the DSM IV criteria you will see that they fall in sections eg. speech and communication, social interaction, imagination/rigid routines/obsessions etc.  Are you happy that your son does not have any difficulties in these areas?  Sometimes it is hard to see the difficulties, especially at that age.  For example my son also likes to play with other children, but as he has grown (he is now 7+), it became clear that although he wanted to play he found it difficult to join in imaginary games or to alter his role within a game.  He tends to want to play rigidly usually relating to things he has seen on TV (and all children do that to some extent).  So I was told that although he does want to play his social interaction is compromised because of his 'quality' of play.
You have posted about the hand flapping.  My understanding is that this is mainly a sensory issue.  Does your son have any other sensory behaviour eg. what is his response to sound, touch, taste, smell, visual stimulus?  Also what is his balance and co-ordination like.  Does he ever fluctuate with perception eg. appear deaf sometimes and then complain of noise or cover his ears at other times.  Is he fussy about clothes/shoes/socks and having tags removed and yet at other times appears not to feel pain?  Does he complain about tastes/textures of food or about smells?
You don't mention having tantrums, especially around change of routine or expectations, so I presume that isn't a problem.  Is he okay with transitions eg. having to stop doing something to move onto something else, or would he get upset and insist that he finishes what he is doing?
Have a look at Sensory Integration Disorder and see if that sounds relevant?
But the only way to know for sure is for your son to be assessed by a multi disciplinary team that has experience of autism and aspergers.  This will involve them talking with you, his nursery, and also observing him to see his behaviours and also assessing him to see what his abilities are.  This usually involves a Speech and Language Therapist to assess receptive and expressive language as well as semantics/pragmatics of language, a Clinical Psychologist, Clinical Paediatrician and maybe a Neurologist and Occupational Therapist.  These assessments can take some time from a referal point of view and then assessments are carried out over a period of time.  From the age of 3 I began to have concerns with my son, and when he started school they called me in because of the avoidance behaviours he was showing.  The assessment process started when he was 4+ years old and it is only now at 7+ years old that he is in the right educational environment (still mainstream), and professionals are BEGINNING to put programmes of therapy into place.  So that took 3+ years!  So, if you do have any real concerns I would say start the process of assessments, because if he isn't on the spectrum he won't get a diagnosis, but if he is on the spectrum you need those supports and therapies in place asap.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hello there,

Thank you very much for taking time to answer my concern. The time you took to write the response made me learn a few important things.

My son has no rigid habits, he is creative and interacts very well with other kids. He has very good imagination e.g. he will make his own games and give them names and makes his own rules which last a few moments and then he changes them........and so on. He has extremely well eye-hand coordination because I have playing catch with him since he was two year old.

Very rarely he has a tanturm. He is not fussy about anything in particular. He expresses himself very well, verbally and physically. We are 100% vegetarian but still he very strong physically because my wife or me (mostly her) take him to a park for extensive physical play everyday. He like creative and literary works and even geeky (if that is a word) stuff like me. Overall he has very rounded personality.

We are training him to "Breath Deep" whenever he feels like flapping his hands and he seems to start to responde to that very well because he seems to do it by himself also now. This is a meditation technique that I know works on people of any age to calm down emotions because it lowers heart rate and relaxes mussles.

Hence, after doing a lot of research and reading, I don't think he is in any kind of danger. Only thing left for me to do now is to talk to his preschool teacher about his flapping. Otherwise his teacher says that he is an extremely good boy.

Anyhow, thank you very much for taking time to write an answer to my question. May God bless you and all the parents.
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470168_tn?1237474845
The breathing technique is a good one.  It sounds like he is just getting over excited and you are right to be thinking about and showing him ways to calm himself down.  And whilst he is doing those calming techniques he isn't flapping.  But I was just thinking about 'flapping' in general recently, and it must be relatively common because in the UK we have sayings like 'getting into a right flap' etc, so I do think that to some extent we all do it.  
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Jason C Bourret, Ph.D., BCBA-DBlank
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