Autism & Asperger's Syndrome Expert Forum
Could my child have AS
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Could my child have AS

My daughter is 12 1/2. She does very poor in school, never has friends of her own age. She has a lot of "wierd" behaviors. She cuts things up, sheets off bed, clothes, curtains or anything else she can get hold of. She can't seem to get along with peers and seems very emotional all the time. She has facinations with rocks and animals. She has a very strong sence of smell and can hear things that people around her don't hear. She writes on walls, and will spend 2+ hours in a tub of water. She hides most of the time. She loves art and is very well at it. A friend said she could have Aspergers but I had never heard of it. I know as her mother something isn't right.
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Asperger's disorder is characterized by deficits in social interaction and restricted or stereotyped behavior and interests, but no general language or cognitive delays. I recommend that you have your daughter evaluated by a professional with experience in diagnosing Asperger's. A thorough in-person evaluation is necessary for diagnosis. In the meantime, I recommend that you work with your daughter's pediatrician and school to identify services that will help her be more succesful academically and socially. It is important to recognize and encourage each child's strengths, and it sounds like science and art are areas of interest that you might expand on in a positive way while encourage her to make progress in other areas as well.
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If you google 'DSM IV Aspergers', it will bring up the clinical criteria for diagnosising Aspergers.  This is a list of behaviours that the professionals will be looking at to decide if she has enough of those behaviours to get a diagnosis.
I am a parent of a child who has High Functioning Autism.  Alot of the things you mention as being 'weird' could be down to Aspergers.  But you really need to have your daughter assessed by a multi disciplinary team experienced in diagnosing autism.  Go to your doctor and ask for her to be referred to specialists that have experience of Aspergers.
You also mention alot of sensory seeking behaviour.  The cutting of fabric and fascination with water could be sensory.  What is she like with her clothes.  Do they have to have tags removed or be of a certain material.  She rocks, which is also sensory based, with a strong sense of smell and acute hearing.  That would indicate that she is experiencing things differently to you and others.  For example a 'normal' environment for you might be so loud it hurts her ears, with smells that are too strong.  She may have difficulties with 'feeling' where her own body is and so she rocks.  To avoid all these unpleasant sensations she may hide, or the hiding maybe to get into a small place to 'feel' squashed.  The professional to do an assessment would be an Occupational Therapist and you would want one who also has experience of Sensory Integration Disorder and Aspergers.
She also has interests that are not 'typical' and which maybe classed as obsessions.
You say she never has friends of her own age.  It is quite typical for those on the spectrum to seek company with either younger children or older adults.  This is because younger children don't question and will go along with an older child, so they are really choosing a peer group that they can socialise with.  If they prefer adults it is because adults have patience to listen to them and their interests whereas their peers don't have these skills yet.
What was your daughter's speech development like as a toddler.  Did she acquire langugae as other children.  What is her ability to communicate and also understand what is said to her.  Does she take language literally.  Does she understand humour and sarcasm.  Her speech and social communication skills should be assessed by a Speech and Language Therapist and again, one that has experience of Aspergers.
From your post it sounds like your daughter is quite high functioning.  But she is obviously having alot of difficulties and with some input from professionals she could become much more able to socialise, because she needs to be taught all these skills.  She won't learn them by watching other people.  It won't make sense to her.
The emotional side of it, is simply that she doesn't understand many situations and maybe the implications of language.  She maybe getting totally overwhelmed by incoming sensory stimulus.  She may also have big problems with changes in routine, or unpredictable outcomes or changes to things she expected to happen.  
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Thank you for your post on my question. Yes, she will only wear sertain clothes of color and the tags are a big problem. She has a time understanding things that I say to her. And it is hard to joke with her and make comments because she doesn't seem to know how to respond. She learned to speak and everything ok at a good age, but it seems as she gets older, the more problems she has.
Thanks for your help.
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I don't know if it makes a difference, but I had high blood pressure during delivery which caused complications when she was born. She had two convultions just before birth. They told me it was due to my high BP and she would be fine. But now I wonder if it might have done something to her brain developement. She has always had these behaviors, they have just gotten worse as she gets older. When she first started school, which wasn't until she was almost seven because of health problems, her teacher and reading aide wanted her seen by a doctor because they felt there was a problem. But, I refused due to bieng stuburn. I didn't want my child put on meds. just because the teacher didn't want to deal with her behaviors. Her doctor now, is going to send her to Samaritan Behavior Health for evaluation. I want several doctor oppinions before I accept a diag. It is a scarry thing for a parent. And I was grateful for finding this site. It gives me hope because I see I am not alone.
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The reason you feel she is getting worse is because she hasn't reached some foundation learning blocks.  That has a knock on effect on higher abilities, rather like a pyramid effect.  
I would suggest that she is also assessed by a Speech and Language Therapist because although she developed speech you are saying that she may have problems processing the meaning of language and that she also doesn't understand some types of humour.  This is typical of Semantic Pragmatic Disorder which can accompany high functioning autism or aspergers.
The Sensory differences need to be assessed by an Occupational Therapist who has experience of Sensory Integration Disorder and autism/aspergers.
Having a diagnosis of autism or aspergers doesn't automatically mean that they have to have medication.  If your daughter is in a school that understands her diagnosis and supports her in her areas of difficulties then she won't be so stressed or anxious at school.  If environmental changes are also made so that the classroom (and home, and outings) are planning to be low sensory stimulation then she should be able to tolerate and function at a much better level.
But it is important that your daughter is assessed and receives help in acquiring skills that won't come naturally to her.  She needs to learn how to recognise her emotional state and how to calm herself down.  The 'tantrums' she has now are classic of aspergers and remain for life.  So she needs to learn how to monitor herself as she becomes an adult.
It is hard to get any kind of diagnosis.  But if your daughter has aspergers, she has it regardless of whether someone diagnosis it or not.  If she is not supported the situation is not going to resolve itself.  She will need therapies and support, and may need support throughout her adult life.  This is not because of low IQ, which can be normal, advanced or gifted.  It is because, for them, it is as if the 'rule book of life and social interaction' was never handed out to them.
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Does the Samaritan Behavioural Health centre have experience of diagnosing autism or aspergers?  If they don't then they may not recognise it.  You need a group of professionals to assess her who have experience of diagnosing aspergers because they will have a much clearer idea of whether she does or doesn't have it.
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Sally, you have been so helpful in your post. And I am taking my daughter tomarrow to meet a team of doctors who work with these disorders and are familiar with all my concerns. There are 5 doctors who will be evaluating her. And yes her school tries very hard to meet her needs and stay in daily contact with me. The school therapist sees her daily also, which has been very helpful getting her through her school day. Two of these doctors work with Autism, another with sensory. So, I feel very confident about the evaluation. They are seeing her at a hospital that works with only children with disorders. Again, thank you so much for your support and post. I will post again after we meet her doctors.
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We have more appointments to go to this week. Two doctors are telling me she has PDD NOS. I am still trying to understand it all. She goes to the doctor this morning. The doctor she is seeing, has twenty three years of working with Autism Spect. children.
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Let us know how it goes.
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