Autism & Asperger's Syndrome Expert Forum
My son is "not quite right"
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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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My son is "not quite right"

My son is 8 years old and ever since I can remember his personality I can only describe as not quite right and something that I cannot put my finger on.  He has had different fixations on things from watching the same dvd over and over, to now playing his computer games obsessively.  He does not like change in his routine and becomes very stressed if things do change, he used to put himself on the medical couch at school if he got anxious about something new coming up that day.  For example, a circus was coming to the school and he got so anxious about the change of routine that he felt sick through worry.  At bedtime, we have to go through the same routine of saying the same thing, in order, and exactly right, otherwise he will insist that we start over again.  He has to have his duvet cover the exact way he likes it, any change and he notices straight away and insists it is changed back.  He is anxious when he is in bed and demands to know when I will be going to bed and constantly comes back downstairs to ask how many more minutes until I go to bed.  He is very sensitive and really has no sense of humour unless it is something that he himself has done which makes him laugh.  He always seems never to be happy, he constantly moans about the unfairness of any given situation.  Even on days out to the beach and a family holiday to Disney he constantly complained about something.  He is very bright at school and his teacher tells me he is a popular member of the class and has friends to play with.  He writes constantly about his sister in his writing journal at school.  When he was small he hated the hoover being switched on as it was too loud and now he does not like any loud music, he just cannot cope.  We went to a party with a band playing last year and he literally hid under the table the whole time and demanded to go.  Is this just his personality or is this possible aspergers??  How can I manage this behaviour effectively?
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I like the way your question was worded. You asked about diagnosis and about how you can manage your son's behavior. You recognize that diagnosis is not the solution. I recommend that you have your son evaluated by a local professional with expertise in diagnosing autism spectrum disorders. If he receives a diagnosis, the next step will be identifying services and getting recommendations. However, even if he does not receive a diagnosis, you will want to help him make some progress in the areas that you mentioned. It is interesting that your son shows some difficulties at home that he does not show at school. It is common for children to behave differently in different situations, and this reminds us that the environment has influence over children's behavior. It is likely that your son exerts more control over his physical and social environment at home because he can. His teacher cannot possible accomodate his preferences given that he/she is responsible for a large group of children, and he has learned to handle this situation. You are inclined to make your son happy and so you do what you can to accomodate him. You might consider identifying some rituals, routines, preferences that are problematic and then addressing those. For example, your son should not control when you go to bed. Teach your son to tolerate change by gradually introducing change under supportive circumstances. You can support your son by teaching him some strategies for dealing with unpredictability (e.g., relaxation or distraction) and rewarding his cooperation with these changes. At the same time, try to minimize attention to negative reactions to change. Please work to find a local professional who can help you to identify situations to target and work with you on a plan for supporting your son.
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Jason C Bourret, Ph.D., BCBA-DBlank
The New England Center for Children
Southborough, MA
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