Autism & Asperger's Syndrome Expert Forum
Autism?
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Questions in the Autism & Asperger's Syndrome forum are answered by researchers at the New England Center for Children. Topics covered include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Antisocial Personality Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Autism, blindness, bullying, clinical depression, deafness, dyslexia, mental retardation, and social alienation.

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Autism?

I have some concerns with my 5 1/2 year old son. He started Kindergarten this year, and seems to be doing really well, other than his handwriting, which is slowly improving. His teacher has told me that he has very low muscle tone in his hands, which we have been working on each night with activities that his teacher sent home. I have noticed that he switches back & forth between both hands when writing/coloring, and can do well with each hand. Also, when he gets excited, he 'flaps' his hands. He has done this since he was a baby, and we thought it was cute and he would grow out of it. Now, I've been told that flapping, ambidexterity & low muscle tone in the hands are all signs of Autism. If he does have Autism, I know that it's a very mild case, but I want to do everything possible to help him now, rather than waiting for more signs to appear. Any advice is appreciated!
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Autism is diagnosed based on delays in social interaction and language skills and highly stereotyped or repetitive behavior.  It doesn’t sound like your son really meets these criteria.  You did mention that he flaps his hands when excited, but plenty of typically-developing people engage in little repetitive behaviors, so that alone isn’t necessarily call for concern.  Low muscle tone or ambidexterity are not diagnostic criteria for autism – there may be a higher prevalence of either/both of those issues in this population (I’ve never heard of it, but it’s possible), but they certainly don’t indicate a diagnosis.
If you are concerned about his muscle tone or his fine motor skills, I’d encourage you to bring that up to his pediatrician.  He/she may refer your son to see an occupational therapist, who can provide direct therapy and strengthening skills to help with that issue.
Best of luck to you
2 Comments
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None of those signs are any more than signs, it won't give an autism diagnosis. If your son doesn't have problems with social relationships and language (either in development or in use), autism isn't a right diagnosis.

Normal kids may also flap with hands and have ambidexterity without it being pathological so, as well as autistic may have neither of them and still being autistic.
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Jason C Bourret, Ph.D., BCBA-DBlank
The New England Center for Children
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