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Is my 3 year old son Autistic?
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Is my 3 year old son Autistic?

So my Husband and I are at our wits end with our son. We know something is going on and we have noticed before18months something was not quite right. It started at at about 14 months he started smearing feces every chance he could. Mainly at nap times I would think he was sleeping and would peak in his room to check on him and in no time at all he had smeared feces everywhere all over him, his walls, his bed, floor ect. This went on everyday until he was about 2 and 1/2. Then it stopped... He is still fascinated with his bottom and poo (sorry if this is kinda gross). He also has been diagnosed by an OT for sensory problems both with touch and hearing. I noticed this about 18months he was obsessed with water especially the toilet and was always sticking his head, his feet and hands in the toilet bowel. He also loves sand and dirt. I know kids do but he is a little obsessive about it. He would also when meeting new people cover his ears and we went to a county fair and he covered his ears at everything even semi loud. He had chronic ear infections as a baby and had tubes placed at 7 months.
He has major agression and defiance concerns. He will hit, kick, bite, break things, throw things unprovoked or if the smallest thing doesnt go his way. He has no sense of danger and he has a high pain tolerence. He will hit his head on objects and throw himself into walls (all though not as often lately). He will climb everything and has started 3 fires with the microwave. He hardly sleeps and its a 2hour routine every night just to get him down. He doesnt ask for help ever and tries to do EVERYTHING by himself. He lately has been using hurtful words and cussing. He tells his dad and I he hates us, were stupid, cusses us out, tells us he wants a new family. I have no idea where he gets any of this. It breaks my heart. He has almost been hit by several cars and will 99% of the time run away if he gets even a second. The only thing he isnt really doing anymore is the feces smearing. The agression/anger/defiance is overwhelmig. He also has for as long as I can remember been a screamer too me its more like squawking but its hard to explain the loud scream sounds he makes and he makes them all the time if I am on the phone, in the car at the store. Randomly he does these screams for no reason.

He has been diagnosed as ADHD and with Conduct Disorder/ ODD as well as having the sensory. He is sooooo smart its amazing and he speaks very well you can totally understand him however he has a pretty bad stutter. He has ranked close to 5years old  for his academics. He will look you in the eyes for a short period of time but is more comfortable it seems just looking around you and not focusing direct eye contact for mor than 15 seconds and will snuggle but only on his terms. He will tell you what he wants even if its not the best way to express him self. But when he is upset he will attack you physically verbally and then when he is calm enough to try to talk to him abbout what happened he will shut down not make eye contact turn away from you let his body go limp on the floor.

He goes to a specialized preschool sees a therapist sees his doctor regularly and also sees and OT. We think theres something more than just conduct disorder going on. We have refused at this point to resort to medications since we dont know what he would even be being medicated for (dx wise) we have alarms on everything!!!!!! locks on everything my home feels like a jail almost. He has pretty much nothing in his room and we have to have a plan of action if we leave the home with him for potential problems that could occur. He has a 4 year old sister who has none of these issues so I dont think its our parenting we have taken parenting classes and tried every type of behavior correction. Any thoughts?? could this be autisum?? The fact that he talks so much and makes eye contact and communicates ok with his words makes me question autisum. But alot of his other behaviors make me think thats what it could be?

P.S Sorry so long. He also is totally obsessive. If he watches a movie he likes he will watch over and over for like 2 weeks same with a book or some type of toy or food. Again sorry so long just wanted to give all the details. We love our son and wouldnt have him any other way we just want to make sure he and everyone else is safe. Thanks for any help.

Jessica and Family
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Our nephew has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS - a high functioning form of autism.  Your son does NOT remind me of our nephew.  But, I'm not a professional ...
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I agree with JD.  

There are little threads here and there in his behavior (covering ears,  obsession with the toilet water) that sound consistent with autism.

The other stuff sounds more consistent with ADHD or what people used to call "all boy".  HIs desire for danger and high pain tolerance,  aggression,  desire to run off,  climbing all over the place,  starting fires with microwave (I didn't even know that could be done!) sound like all boy/extreme ADHD.

In going to your profile,  I saw that you had previously asked if he could possibly have bipolar disorder - and that sounds more likely than Autism.  

Your children are beautiful.  If that's the son in that pic that you are describing here - with his tongue sticking out - he doesn't look like he has autism to me.  I know that's a weird thing to say,  that there could be a "look" to autism,  but there often is.  The look on your son's face is what I'd call "Hell on Wheels".  The kind of guy who is in the emergency room for broken bones several times.

Best wishes.  I have a sense that he'll give you a LOT of grey hairs,  but will turn out fine in the end.  ;D
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Thank you for the comments, I have several friends with boys his age and they show the typical all boy behaviors. He is not not just all boy. He has been kicked out of daycares for his behavior. While he can be enjoyable and funny and we love every moment of this side of him he can also be very agressive. He has tackled children at daycare from behind and bit them so hard they have a huge mouth bruise and broke there skin I was shown the photos the daycare was required to take. He also has punched with a full fist kids in the face one of which he knocked the little boy back and caused his nose and head to bleed.

So, while I know boys can be hell on wheels and get into mishief and be hyper there is more to this. I just want to know what is wrong with him.... I dont understand why he does the things he does and not professionals want to give me a more defined answer. I do not care what is wrong with him I just want to know so we can figure out what to do to make life safer his siblings are having serious issues due to his behaviors. When I was pregnant with our last he targeted me and was trying so hard to canon ball my stomach at the store he would kick my stomach as hard as he could when in the cart his dr. had to physically restrain him from attacking me when I was pregnant. He is the only boy and has his own room for safety of the others. I work nights and there dad works from home so we are both here during the day. I dont know what more we can do for him with out knowing more of what is wrong with him. In the bipolar community they said he is to young to know but I had someone else say it sounds like autism so I dont know.
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  Oh boy, so much going on here.
At least part of his problems do sound like sensory processing disorder.  Which would explain at least part of what is going on.   I have asked one of our members who has a lot of experience with this to take a lot at your post.  Hopefully, she will be able to.
   My thoughts coming from the adhd forum and from reading a lot of the posts there the last 4 years.  
   First he is just 3.  Sounds crazy, but with the proper help he should be getting better as he matures and gains more control.  Of course the key is proper help.  I assume you are seeing a pediatric psychiatrist?
  If he does have SPD, there are a lot of things that you need to be doing with him at home.  Hopefully, the OT has given these to you.  They can and will make a difference. These are just not things that can be done by the OT.  If they are done by you it can make a huge difference in the rest of the day for you and him.  These things could also help him sleep better at night.  I have seen a lot of recent studies that showed that kids who don't get enough sleep at night (usually due to some form of sleep anemia) are much more hyper during the day.  Even kids with ADHD get significantly better if they are able to get a good nights sleep.  Also make me wonder if those chronic ear infections also caused any breathing problems. Does he snore?  Ever had his sinuses checked out.  How about his tonsils?  Opps, just noticed in one of your other posts that he has asthma.  Is he on an inhaler? or other type of ashma med.  Many of those are uppers (Olympic athletics are not allowed to have them in there system).  If so that could be causing some of his sleep problems and hyper problems.  just thought it was worth mentioning.
     On to the ADHD and being smart.  You said, "When I was pregnant with our last he targeted me and was trying so hard to canon ball my stomach at the store he would kick my stomach as hard as he could."  Makes me wonder if his problems got worse during the pregnancy.  Frankly, even though you took parenting classes.  If you have a new born - you are going to pay less attention to the other kids.  And the type of attention that he probably got from you - compared to his older sister - wasn't overly positive.  A smart kid will do things to get that lost attention.  An ADHD kid will do so without thinking about the consequences (no filters).  Put those two things together and its not good. And I do want to stress the problem solving abilities of a smart kid (without maturity) really makes things worse.  I have seen numerous posts on the ADHD forum that show how much a smart young kid can really complicate things.  You have said that you tried every type of behavior correction.  That comment typically worries me because it usually means, you try one - then another - then another.  And that plays right into the kids hands.  Its not your fault.  I am not sure that parenting classes prepare you for an ADHD child.  I know that his older sister's actions did not give you the needed experience.  The thing that ADHD kids need is extreme consistency.  Any consequences need to be CONSISTENT and  immediate.  On the ADHD forum there are two books I recommend a lot.  The first is "The ADD/ ADHD Answer book," by Susan Ashley.  It has a ton of things that will help you working with an ADHD child - now and in the future.  The second book is, "SOS Help for Parents," by Lynn Clark.  It is a book that gives a very detailed system using timeouts to achieve behavior modification.  His behavior can be changed. Part of his behavior has been learned, part is probably due to SPD, and part due to ADHD.  All 3 must be dealt with.  The modifications for everything but the SPD are really pretty much the same.
   I know he is in preschool.  I wonder what happens when he gets home.  He needs someone to take him outside and run him around.  He needs not only your attention, but he needs to get that energy (or the day at school) out of his system.  The last thing he needs is to get home and go to a sterile room.  
   Finally, I know that you have seen a psychiatrist at least once and then went back to his regular doctor.  Hopefully that's more then just a pediatrician.  But a lot of what I have just said, should have been told to you.  You should be getting more guidance.  You definitely need to be attacking this problem more at home (which I realize is hard with another young child there), or you may be already doing so - I don't know.  Hope some of this helps, or at least generates questions to ask your doctor.  Do check out the SPD.  And NO, I don't think he has autism.  best wishes!!!!!!!
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Thank you so much for the comment, He does see a child psychiatrist fairly often he see's a LCSW more often than the child psychiatrist. We are doing the pcit (parent child interactive therapy) with him. He was seeing his regular pediatrician every 2 weeks when the problems first began now its every few months since he is seeing an OT, therapist, lcsw, and he is in a specialized preschool through the education service district that he had to qualify for. He does have two inhalers he takes as needed.His asthma is not to bad mainly during the really cold months we see it flare up. His doctor is watching his tonsils as at his last appointment they were rather large. The behavior correction we have tried is what the therapist reccommended and we would try a method for several weeks and give her the progress each week if it was  having any effect. He is very difficult to discipline due to him being so smart. We take him outside and run around alot. His dad is very very active with him with the running around and getting all that energy out I am to but not as much as he is. We have to be careful with parks as the last time he ran away and ran straight into the street and we almost lost him. We have a fenced back yard and nailed the gates closed on the outer side so there's no way he can acidentally get out (we never leave him out there alone just so everyone knows). As with attention. To be honest my husband and I went with open adoption with our youngest because we feared it would be a very unsafe situation. He loves his little sister when he sees her when the adopttive family visit but I didnt want to risk the chance she would be injured with the violence he displayed towards me. As far as attention I feel like he gets all of our attention and I worry his sister is being very affected by this we do our best to give equal attention but its impossible when we have to monitor him like a hawk or being consistent with a consequence can literally be a 2 hour task. We took parenting classes when his issues started they were great for our other kids but those methods did not work at all on him. We do our best not to yell we would never hit our children we get to there level when we talk to them. We explain what they can do vs what they cant do we always let them know our expectations before we go or do something and what will happen if they choose not to listen. I have left the store so many times with a cart full of things. If we are out to eat and he doesnt listen or starts acting out I call for to go boxes and we leave. We have tried the whole time out thing totally has no affect. We wont talk or make eye contact we just keep putting him in the chair every time he gets up we have a timer we start and restart when he gets up. He does not care if he gets time out it doesnt change anything. I feel like we are pretty consistent I mean I know we slip every once in awhile due to being sooo tired or frustrated. But overall I think we are consistent and patient we always always always let him know we love him and we talk about feelings and that its ok to be mad and angry about things and how to handle the feelings appropriately when he starts t get upset I have seen him try some of the methods or we will remind him when we see him starting to get amped up we will tell him "Hunter lets take some deep breaths" or "lets count to 10" and it helps rarely but has worked some of the time. We have and the doctors have noticed he has no impulse control what so ever so that makes for alot of problems and dangers. He is taking melatonin for sleep it worked the first few weeks then had no affect so the doctor had us increase the amount now he is taking a grown mans dose with no affect. We really are trying everything not to resort to medication. I mean melatonin is all natural so that was fine with us. We did have him tested for food allergies but we have not heard back from the natriopath for results yet. But we do watch what he eats as it is. I try not to be dramatic or complain but we just dont know what else to do. I mean my home feels literally like my work (I work at the state hospital mental institution as a mental health therapy tech). We have had to put alarms on the microwave due to the fires the knifes and all other sharps and meds are in a locked cupboard. We have a special alarm on his siblings door for at night we know if he sneaks in there.

I appreciate all the comments... And again we love our son so much. Its just so hard on our family my parents will not watch him and his dads parents will watch him occasionally. It is hard to get a night to just us I dont trust a highschool babysitter with him our other kids yes but he would be to much for anyone who is not trained to deal with his behaviors. I feel so bad for my daughters its not fair that they get verbally and physically hurt and have there toys broken. And my husband and I find ourselfs arguing more and more (at the end of the day we are fine but just the stress gets to us). I just want to have hope for the future. I know he is should be getting better as he grows and we are using every resource that we have found but honestly it sometimes seems like its just getting worse and as he grows he is getting stronger. He is very tall and not fat by any means but very husky his doctor said "hes a tank" he weighs 45lbs and literally has muscles all over his back and he has like a little 4 pack when he flexs (its kinda odd how muscular he is). So I just am nervous for our future........Wow just saw how long this was
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P.S thank you also for the book refferals. We always appreciate any helpful books we love reading!!! Thanks again.
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Hello.  Well,  I'm the mom of an spd boy.   There are so many facets to sensory integration or processing disorder and you mention several of them.  

Covering ears is classic---------- Classic sensory.  Obsession with water or a certain kind of substance------------- Classic sensory.  Overreaction to things going on that other kids would possibly shrug off------------  classic sensory.  Volatility that makes you shake in your boots for fear of what is coming next---------- classic sensory.  Unresponsive to pain---------  sensory.  Impulsivity and doing things that are 'unsafe'----------- often classic sensory seeking behavior.

I'm wondering if your occupational therapist specializes in sensory integration disorder?  We go to an institute where that is their primary focus.  It helps in so many ways.  

Now, your boy is 3.  Some typical sensory coping strategies are going to be more difficult to internalize for your son.  As he gets older, he'll get better at being able to control himself if you stick with it and stay consistent with what you learn in OT.  At 3, you'll probably learn or have learned several ways to keep his nervous system regulated.  

This involves giving him what he craves.  If he wants water play----------  get him to a pool.  Indoor pools can be found at Y's and any number of places in colder temperatures and of course outside during summer.  Fill up a bucket or pan and give him some toys and let him play in the water on your patio.  Put him in the bath tub knowing he'll be in there a good long time.  I know what you mean about a huge focus on sand . . . ha.  My boy who is 7 and quite regulated at this point still will get a little nuts about sand.  We went to a park yesterday as our temperature was finally warm out and this park has a sand park.  My boy dug holes and put himself in the sand.  He'll put his head down in the sand--------- which thoroughly grosses me out and he gets a serious shower as soon as we leave------ but.  He is feeding his nervous system.  I've found ways to let him have this sensory input that are safe.  

My son also likes to "crash" and do unsafe things.  So figuring out how he can get the input without killing himself has been something we've worked on since he was 3 too.  An example-------- there is a preschool by us that uses this incredible mulch made of old shredded tires.  It is like a half foot thick (seriously-------- very deep).  So, I would take my boy over to that playground and he would climb the structures and jump off into that soft mulch.  It was enough of an impact though that it soothed his nervous system.  He'd climb up, jump off, roll in it and climb up, jump off and roll in it over and over and over.  And I'd sit cheering him on as it was exactly what his nervous system needed.  Then when he went to school the next day--------  calm as can be.  Find a trampoline to do this as well or splurge and buy one.  We have a friend that has one and we often go there as well as there is an indoor center here that has play time you can pay for and we go jumping on the trampoline there.  You can place a mattress on the floor at home too.  We take all the pillows off our couches and bring all the others we can find and make a huge pillow pile.  My son would crawl through that pile while I gently pushed on it.  He'd be panting and sweating at the exertion from crawling through but he loved it.  It fed that nervous system

Google "heavy work" and sensory processing disorder and in fact their is a website called 'sensory processing disorder" that gives lists of activities to do.  The heavy work is what you need to have in your son's day---------- as much as possible.  I'm a stay at home mom, so I was lucky.  I could spend hours every day on this.  But at the very least--------  pick him up after work and take him to a park, swim lessons and make sure you get at least an hour of this heavy work every single day.  The more he gets, the calmer he will be.  

We've worked on self control in terms of temper as well.  We used things like a stress thermometer but my son was 4.5 before this really worked.  He is much better about stopping himself from having a meltdown now.  What you can try is to act out how he 'should' respond to something or someone when he is upset.  Don't do it when he is upset but during a clam moment.  Give him words to use.  Go and get books on emotions written for kids at your library and read them.  This will give him kid language to explain how he is feeling.  Important!  because then getting him to stop and use words will help slow down the temper reaction.  Talk about his brain/body as an engine.  Ask your OT about the "how does your engine run" program.  This is the best thing for a sensory kid!  I still use it.  A high engine is something they can visualize and correlate to how they are feeling.  this is when they sream, yell, crash, etc.  A "just right" engine is where they want to be and you will give him activities and ideas to get just right.  Too slow is when he is sleepy, floppy, etc. which sounds like less of your son's problem.  (laying on the floor during circle time at school is an example).  Ask your OT about this.  I'd have a "cool" off place for him at school and at home------- he goes there when upset.  No one can talk to him or bug him when he is there.  An enclosed place like a pop up tent works great.  My son had a bean bag chair at school or this carved out barrel he could get in that they placed in his room.  He has a pillow pile as he calls it at home tucked away behind a chair in a corner.  Do some oral soothing things as well such as chewing thick bubble gum or blowing bubbles---------  so good to relax that nervous system.
Also, the key to a defiant child is choices.  Give him choices all the time.  If he feels like he has a little control, he might be more apt to comply.

don't know if this helps but I do wish you so much luck.  My son is now 7 --------  and through a healthy 'diet' of sensory activities and coping strategies--------- he is doing great.  He has no IEP at school, functions really well, does find socially, academically and behaviorally at school and has since kindergarten. So catching this early with your boy and working on it gives him the best chance for success.  Peace.
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     Lots of wonderful ideas by specialmom!
Do watch how he acts when on an inhaler - they really can wire a kid.  You might want to consider putting a wireless camera high up in his room and watching or recording him when he sleeps.  I honestly have seen some very strong research lately showing how kids ADHD is much worse due to lack of sleep.  Tonsils are certainly one reason why.  You might want to check out a ear, nose, throat specialist.
  It does sound like you are trying the correct things with your discipline.  I have never worked with kids with your sons energy.  But I have worked with lots of bright kids.  The first thing they learn is to say or show that the discipline doesn't bother them.  And in your sons case, it may not since he is so instantaneous.  However, what you are trying to do is to change his behavior.   That takes substained, repeated, constant repetition.  Experts say it takes 3 weeks for it to take effect.  Pick just one thing and try the timeouts for that and see after 3/4 weeks if you see a difference.    I do believe (hope) that some of specialmoms strategies will help reduce the need for the discipline.
   By the way Amazon lists a bunch of books aimed at the 4-8 year old child.  They are in the"best behavior series".  "Hands are not for hitting", is an example of one.  They are meant to be read to the child.  There is also another series called the "learning to get along" series by Meiners that could be helpful.  You can find them here - http://www.amazon.com/Hands-Hitting-Ages-Best-Behavior/dp/1575420775
   Once again - these will not cause overnight miracles, but they will give common ground and ideas.  Since I have always felt that reading to kids is a good thing to do anyway, these also fit right into that ideal.  They are brightly illustrated and short.
    By the way, I have watched specialmom's sons growth on this forum over the  last 2 to 3 years.  Hopefully, we will be able to see the same positive growth in your son.  Keep us posted.
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We have used that series of books in my family and I do recommend them.  We have "Hands are not for Hitting" and "Words are not for Hurting".  The second one as my child has gotten older has been wonderful.  

Thanks go Sandman for all he does for families.  

good luck and contact me any time if you need ideas or someone to vent to.
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This is for sandman2 also

These are great ideas. I have noticed he has a obesession with trampolines and we plan to get one this summer. He also loves the water we have a smaller pool with slide at home and a sand box. But, I think he would really love swimming classes. There are many ideas you suggested for sensory that we had never thought of. Is the sensory the reason he screams so much??? He did pretty good today. We had several errands and one was grocery shopping and he did pretty good. He kept pinching me and did his scream thing the whole time (so embarassing everyone always stares) but he didnt try to get out of the cart or full on hit me or blurt out cuss words. The screaming is really hard to handle because its so loud and ear wrenching. He also started doing this thing tonight where he is grunting??? At first we thought he was clearing his throat but nope he is just grunting.

Anywho, I am so excited about the suggestions people have been giving. We are looking into and adhd support group for children. And we have made an appt with his doctor to go over the tonsil concern. And we are going to try the camera tape at night to see how well he is sleeping. The quiet place idea is great. He has his room but a more personalized place for him I think would be more effective. I will keep everyone posted on his progress. Considering the chaos of today he did well compared to other days. Thanks again!!!!! :)
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