My son's teachers are concerned about him. He is 8. Crawled 6m, walked 9m, talking, counting, naming animals & their traits at 2yrs. Passion for animals continued from then & it is all he would talk about, now it’s Star Wars too. He’s affectionate especially with us.
He’s fussy about food. He withdraws when people are in our home even close family. He cannot take the radio loud & 'shuts down' when someone shouts, he covers his ears when a voice is raised & hits his head. Academically he’s advanced. Reading ahead of his age, Does very well in maths & science. However he cannot ride a bike. He is unable to use a knife & fork properly & can barely hold them.
His PE teacher has noticed a problem with is gait. The teacher says he’s uncomfortable in class as if in pain. He’s physically awkward; he often refuses to play with other children in groups opting to play alone. After school his classmates often say hi to him & he ignores them until I point it out to him. I realise I've always done this & repeated in his ear what to say, otherwise he'd say nothing or rant about an obscure subject. I say "hi [classmate's name]" & he repeats.
He avoids eye contact, but is desperate for friends. He responds well to a list of work & continually writes lists. He often marks his own class work before handing it in, he responds well to a list of chores at home. He withdraws to books / toys & continually makes noises whilst playing with the action figures (a noise made by sucking & blowing air through his teeth). He makes this noise in class & playground. He answers rhetorical questions. The teacher was angry with the class & asked: "How many of your parents will I tell have good children, on parents' night?" He put his hand up, turned to the class counting & calculated an answer!
He says 'the wrong thing' to family members like, "are you pregnant? you have a fat tummy so that's why I ask" & cannot see their shocked, hurt reaction. Please help.
The patterns of behavior you noted are consistent with Asperger’s Disorder. However, I recommend that you contact your pediatrician or a qualified professional who can conduct an assessment and make an accurate diagnosis. In addition, for the social difficulties you described, I recommend that you contact Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to address some of the behavior problems that you are seeing. You can find a BCBA in your area at the BABB website (http://www.bacb.com/consum_frame.html).
I have seen my GP since I posted this question and he thinks that Asperger's is a condition my son may have but he was reserved about saying anything more. My son has been referred to a child psychologist in a week and we'll take it from there. Thank you for the BCBA info, I'm going to do this now and make contact. I really appreciate that you've taken the time to reply to this, thank you so much.
I thought I'd post about a couple of things that have helped my son (age nearly 8) with socialising and playing.
At his school I have asked them to give him an option of what to do at playtime (this happens during afternoon play). He has a choice of two activities and chooses what he wants to do. Then he has a choice of two classmates and who he wants to do the activity with (these classmates have already previously agreed to play anything with him). This has helped him enormously because playtime would come, and he would go into the playground with nothing planned and all the other kids would start playing and he didn't know how to join in. This has built his confidence, and also given him the structure to be successful in play. During afternoon play there is always a teaching assistant in the playground keeping an eye on things.
My son also goes to a school that is for mainstream children as well as those on the autistic spectrum. So most of the classes have a number of autistic children in them. There is also a specialist unit where there are more severe children, and the staff expertise and experience is passed onto the teachers and assistants in the mainstream school through training etc.
The school also have a number of different dinnertime clubs. So 2-3 times a week he goes to one of the clubs. Again this helps because his time is structured rather than him wandering around the playground repeating film dialogue to himself.
The school also has a weekly Social Skills Club, where social interaction skills are taught in a group with lots of role play.
As part of his IEP, he has a target to initiate conversation. The school have done this by sending him to another member of staff to ask them a question (this question has been told to him eg. Ask Mrs Harris what her favourite TV programme is. Then he will go and ask her and has to come back and give the answer. This helps to teach him conversation. He tends to talk at people and not ask them questions or pay attention to what they say to him.
I also found a very good Play Therapist who had experience of children on the autistic spectrum and she did something similar to Greenspan Floortime with him. This is working one to one with the child and using their interests to interact. This really helped him find that communicating and playing with another person could be very enjoyable. This has made him motivated to interact. Alot of the time these children have negative outcomes from trying to socialise or communicate. In those circumstances, because of repeated failures, they are not motived. We wouldn't be motivated to attempt something we always failed at. If you can work through his interests in situations that are one to one rather than large groups he will have more success.
As a family we also found it very helpful to join a parent support group. The one we go to is held once a fortnight in a local community college. All the children go to play in the gym. They put out all the equipment, as well as a trampoline and blow-up bouncy castle. They have 2-3 adults to supervise. This group is open for children on the spectrum, their siblings and their friends (so they can invite school friends to go along as well). The parents meet in the staffroom and have coffee/biscuits etc. You get alot of advice and support from groups like this.
As you have found yourself, it is not that these children don't want to communicate or interact, they just don't have the necessary skills to do so successfully. They need to be taught these skills because they don't pick them up automatically like we did from watching and learning. A Speech and Language Therapist is usually the professional who would assess social interaction skills. But having a school where all the teachers are aware of the difficulties and strengths that these children have is extremely important.
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