Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Community
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Avatar universal

Does my child have symptoms of autism or aspergers?

My daughter freaks if she has to do something she doesn't want to do. We don't know how to handle it. She hits my husband (her stepfather) and throws chairs around and just freaks. I don't know how to handle it. I hold her if she is hurting herself or others, ( mostly her stepdad) and otherwise I let her go. When she does this, she is not herself. She doesn't seem able to stop. She can't be reasoned with.

  This morning she was getting ready for school and it was going well. She was visiting with the boy I take care of who is the same age. Then it was time to go. She asked me to check for spiders in her shoes and my husband leaned over and asked if they were Michaels. Well that ruined it! She freaked because obviously her shoes look boyish. I tried to get her to put on her black boots, but she wasn't wearing any black so it wouldn't match!!!

  She freaked and then my husband ( against what I wanted ) held her down and forced her boots on and then forced her to the car. She got out and pounded on the door, which he had locked. I was ticked with my husband too, and so I got in the car and dropped off the other kid, and then drove around with her and came home. She stayed home. When she makes up her mind I can't make her do anything. I am a very good parent, she gets a lot of attention, and we do lots of family things. The thing is if I had forced her into the school she would have been screaming and I can't take that!

I feel like our marriage is in jeapordy and we haven't been married for a year yet!!!  I love my husband dearly, but we are at our wits end and are no longer in agreement about how to deal with her, We are in line for family counselling with a psychiatrist and still searching for answers.

She has a lot of anxieties and is very oversensitive to touch and speech.
13 Responses
470168 tn?1237474845
How old is your daughter?
The tantrums and over reactions to situations is that a recent thing or has she always been like that.
What is she like socialising with her age group.
What do you mean by over sensitive to touch, can you give an example.  Are there any other sensory issues going on eg. problems with loud noises or smells or how certain fabrics feel.  Does she appear clumsy or have motor problems.
What is her speech like.  Is her voice tone okay.  Does she have favourite subjects she likes to talk about.  Was her speech every delayed as a child.
What is she like with routine change or unpredictable change.
You say she is very anxious.  What things is she typically anxious about?
Have you googled Aspergers and looked as the DSM IV criteria for a diagnosis?
It sounds like in certain situations she loses it and gets overwhelmed with emotions and cannot bring them under control.
I think you and your husband need to agree on the tactics you will use and stick to them.  
If you look at the criteria for Aspergers and you think it is relevant then you need to go to your GP and ask for a multi disciplinary team evaluation of your daughter by professionals that are experienced in diagnosing autistic spectrum disorders including Aspergers.
In the meantime I would suggest a 'time out' strategy.  So talk to her beforehand about how you are going to deal with any tantrums.  Tell her that you will ask her to go to her room so that she can calm down there.  If she does have Aspergers the worst thing you can do during a meltdown is try to talk to her or touch her.  She will be totally overwhelmed from a sensory and emotional point of view and by speaking or touching you are only adding to that and could cause her to retaliate aggressively.  So don't let yourself get into a conflict situation it doesn't help you or her.  She needs to learn what she has to do when she is in that state and going to her bedroom to calm down is the best thing.  Later when she has recovered you might try talking to her about it to try to get some kind of explanation from her that will help all of you understand what is the best thing to do.
It is hard understanding the difference between bad behaviour and a disorder.  And I am not making excuses for bad behaviour.  But if there is a reason for it and it is fact that she finds it hard to control how she is feeling, then we had better be doing something to make it easier for her to comply and to control herself.
For example, my husband is a big tease.  He frequently teases our children.  My daughter can handle it okay.  My son who has autism cannot.  But my husband seems to find it hard to understand this and alter his behaviour towards our son.  So, quite frequently, he will tease my son to the point that he explodes and hits, scratches, kicks or bites him.  Then my husband will hit the roof and all hell will let loose.  Obviously my son's behaviour is unacceptable.  But who has driven him to that point, and shouldn't my husband know better.
On another occasion I was with my son in a cafe and was ordering food.  My son wanted chicken nuggets, but when I asked for them I was told that they were no longer called that, they were now  called chicken chunks.  Straight away my son is anxious about this because a change in its name renders it unrecognisable to him and he doesn't know what to expect if he orders that.  So instead he says he'll have fish fingers.  Then the woman says they don't call them fish fingers anyone, they call them fish nuggets.  At that my son is on the floor crying and kicking.  It is very rare for my son to get into that kind of state and on this occasion it happened because two words had changed making it impossible for him to choose what to eat.  I knew that would be a problem for him and I knew what the cause of it was and I knew how to deal with it.  He wasn't being naughty, he was being autistic.  Later on, he apologised to me and said "I don't know why I get upset, I can't control the feelings."  
So try to remove the conflict and have a plan.  If your husband finds it hard to handle your daughter then it might be better for you both to agree on how you will handle the situation, but that you carry it out and he is not involved at all other than to back you up.
If you think she is able of understanding this type of system you could try using reward tokens for when she does get upset, but does go to her room to calm down.  When she has a pre-agreed number of them (eg. 3 or 5), she can choose a pre-agreed treat eg. a trip to the cinema.  In that way you are rewarding the good behaviour as opposed to punishing bad behaviour.
325405 tn?1262293778
I have had problems in the past dealing with emotional issues.  Also when my health has not been that great.  I am ashamed to say that when I was working shortly after I got married, and we were living in a place that I had severe allergies, asthma, migraines, and the smell of the oil refinery thing in the nearby area when the wind blew the wrong way... oh I would get so angry and I couldn't express it in words and it's not like we could do anything about it.  Well, once I ripped half my clothes up in my closet.  A couple times I threw things around the house.  I had problems as a child as well.  My parents smoked in the house, and it aggravated my asthma and it just stank and they wouldn't stop no matter how hard we would plead.  So I'd go up in my room and throw things.  My parents I guess were not the best parents in the world because they never addressed the issue.  They addressed my brother when he pounded his fist through a wall once he was so upset.  But I guess they figured as long as I wasn't hurting anyone or causing monetary damage... well, anyways, as an adult, ripping up my clothes was a monetary damage thing.  

I guess the thing is that whether someone has autism or not, if they don't know how to express their emotions, they need to learn how to vent their emotions properly.  I saw a counselor for a little bit, and this was like 12 years ago at this point?  Anyways, he told me if I felt like being destructive to rip paper or rip things that didn't matter.  It would get the anger out.  Also if I was feeling angry and felt like biting myself or hitting myself (I never did that as an adult, but as a teenager I did have problems with self-injury when angry)... well, he suggested punching pillows or getting a blowup inflatable doll to punch around.  Taking a pillow and screaming into it to let out my anger (pillow muffles the sound so your neighbors don't think you're getting murdered or something).  

I don't know what kids with autism do.  Maybe it's different? I'm sure it's more frequent and harder to start a dialogue to get it to stop.  But a good child's psychiatrist should be able to help.  Creating a safe room might help too.  Place where they can't hurt themselves or others and might have some sensory things they like that would help calm them?  I'm just throwing things out.  Really not sure what to do in that case.  Good luck.  
Avatar universal

My daughter is eight years old. She has always reacted with temper tantrums but they are getting more severe. She has never been good with transitioning from one activity to another. Lately after school she is very hard to deal with, and at bedtime.

When I say she is oversensitive to touch, I mean for one thing, if her clothes don't feel right she freaks out. If her socks have a seam in them she can't wear them. Another way she is oversensitive is that when she is worked up we can't touch her. Even when she is only a little upset she doesn't want me touching her hair. If I rub her back very gently,  she says it hurts.

When she is at the fair, swimming pool, party,or concert she can't stand the noise. Sometimes she seem overstimulated by the lights and sounds. She gets a headache from the sun and even some lights.

Her anxieties include fear of separation from me , including permanently through death. If I am late picking her up from school, she thinks I have been hit by a car. She freaks when I leave her at her fathers house because she says she needs me. She is fine after a few minutes, but initially she screams and cries. Also she is terrified of spiders. She doesn't like bugs either but she has nightmares about spiders and has to have her shoes checked every morning, and her clothes shaken before she gets them on. Also she is terrified of drs and hides under the chair at the drs office. She will only cooperate with female drs and then she will only do some of what they ask. For instance they can check her temperature but she refuses to breathe for them or say ahh or let them touch her stomach. It is hell. I have had her told off by a lot of Drs and even had some refuse to treat her. One told me that they figured she had an ear infection but since she wouldn't cooperate they weren't going to give her medicine. She did have an ear infection.

She is very anxious about the way she looks. She refused to go to school yesterday because her black boots didn't match her clothes. It is tragic to her if she can't wear her favorite jeans or a certain pair of runners.

She hasn't had any speech problems, besides the fact that she talks nonstop and won't look you in the eye. It is like she doesn't think of it and when she is asked to she only does if for a few seconds.

Socially she doesn't read social cues. When she was younger she would follow her cousins around hanging on and hugging them and not let go even after they got upset. If anyone says anything negative about her she assumes that they hate her and everyone else does too.

I did google aspergers and my daughter fits a lot of the symptoms. I would like to get her assessed for that as well as adhd. She was diagnosed with adhd but the Dr now has decided that we are exagerrating and that she just has anxieties.
325405 tn?1262293778
Regardless of a diagnosis, you need to find a doctor who will help you get therapy for your daughter.  It sounds like she's having a frustrating time, and hence you are as well.  In addition to child psychiatrists, there are developmental pediatricians who are really good at diagnosing autism spectrum disorders, such as aspergers.  And other conditions like sensory integration disorder or OCD and ADHD.

If you tackle the sensory issues at a younger age, before puberty sets in, the brain is easier to change.  I am told that adults can go through sensory integration therapy too, but it takes longer and probably isn't as easy.  I've had hyper-sensitive senses my whole life, since an infant according to my mom.  Seeing how my daughter has responded to sensory integration therapy and that things are easier for her, I am now debating if I should find an adult therapist for myself.  Techniques used for kids, and even with kids who have ADHD or OCD sometimes have sensory issues... well, there's a brushing technique and a compression technique that seems to organize the brain and desensitize the skin.  If I was born today, my mom would have been able to take advantage of therapies available that either weren't available back in the 1970s or notnot made public knowledgable.  But, I'm very happy these therapies are available for my daughter.

In the meantime, cut the tags out of her clothes.  I do it for myself.  Find socks she likes.  I like socks that don't go on the ankles.  They don't give as much warmth in the wintertime, but I just can't tolerate it.  If for her it's just a seam thing, be glad she can wear socks that go over the ankles that keep her warm in winter.  Finding the right material that makes her skin feel okay is a good thing too.  I personally hate nylon, which means mostly all panty hose and sometimes clothes that are a mixed blend.  I go for 100% cotton or as close to 100% cotton I can get.  Cotton breathes easier.  Recently I have discovered that organic cotton feels a lot nicer (they use organic all-natural dyes that don't add texture to the fabric).  Yup, organic clothes are more expensive, but I just buy less of them and do laundry more often.  I love the feeling of fleece (certain types), so having fleece pull overs keeps me warm in the fall and spring.  Every person has their own preferences, and with people who are hyper-sensitive to those things, well they just prefer things more strongly.  Her preferences are probably different than mine.  My daughters are slightly different.  Just don't make her feel like she's some sort of freak because of that.  

When you are rubbing your daughter, like massage, light touch can feel horrible whereas deep firm touch sometimes can be okay.  If you manage to get an occupational therapist or something through your insurance or even through the school system, they'd go over all that stuff with you.  I'm sure there are autism support groups in your community.  Sounds like even if she doesn't have autism, she has some overlapping symptoms.  That's sort of the boat I'm in.  Getting help can make a world of difference for your daughter emotionally probably.  For me, sometimes I love having my oversensitivies, like my hearing being able to hear birds chirping in the distance or whispers from across a room or just being in tune to life.  But other times I hate it if it's a sound I really dislike.  Some computers are noisier than others.  Sometimes if my ears pop and they go into really hyper-sensitive mode, the refrigerator humming drives me up the wall or any other electrical hum like clocks.  

If she has ritualistic behaviors (common to autism) or some form of OCD, when you have her do something that violates how she sees the world, she probably is going to tantrum. It is a hard balance to decide whether you just accept how she has to have things or if you try to get her to loosen up a bit on her rigidity.  We are going through this right now with our 3 year old.  Basically we decided that if it's something that doesn't involve other people, let her put her clothes on in a certain order.  But if it's how she plays games, or interacts with other people, or involves other people, we are trying to break her of some of those routines because it will affect how she interacts with her classmates.  You really need a trained therapist to help you through these things.  Or at least someone at the school helping her.

There are some things sensory wise that can calm children down.  There are sensory vests kids and adults can wear.  There are two types of those.  Weighted vests and pressure vests.  There are also weighted blankets.  And a whole slew of sensory activities and things.  

Anyways, you should really try to get your daughter in to a specialist.  A regular doctor would probably just tell you your daughter has a behavioral problem and ignore everything else.

I'm sorry you are having such a rough go with your first year of marriage.  But counseling will make you stronger.  Many couples go through marriage counseling (myself included!).  Many families go through family counseling (I had to when I was a kid and I'll probably have to as a parent later on with my daughter too).  
470168 tn?1237474845
From your comments about how she reacts to sounds, touch, lights etc it does sound like Sensory Integration Disorder.  And I don't think there is anyone on the autistic spectrum who doesn't have some sensory issues.  But it is possible to have Sensory Integration Disorder without autism.  But from what you have posted it sounds like it could be an autistic spectrum disorder.  If you want her assessed you need to go to your GP and ask for a multi disciplinary assessment by professionals who have experience of diagnosing autistic spectrum disorders.  This will usually involve a Speech and Language Therapist, Educational/Clinical Psychologist, Paediatrician.  In your case I would also ask for an assessment by an Occupational Therapist who has experience of both autistic spectrum disorders and Sensory Integration Disorder.
I think it would be very helpful for her to get a diagnosis (if that is what it is), because it is not right that she is being treated as if she is naughty, and even by doctors(!), when the true cause of all this could be down to autism/aspergers.
I am sure that alot of the parents reading your post would recognise the typical autistic behaviours in the things you say your daughter is doing.  Instead of thinking she is being awkward or naughty just accept her reaction to things as a true reflection of how she feels.  For example, those on the spectrum need routine and order.  If she has decided in her head that certain clothes go together and others don't, then no amount of persuading by you is going to (a) make her change her mind, or (b) feel okay about wearing a different combination of clothes.  If she is forced to wear clothes she doesn't think go together, (or which are not comfortable) she is going to physically and mentally feel ill with the stress/anxiety of it and will get totally overwhelmed with emotions and end up having a tantrum.  If you try to talk to her or touch her at that time it is only adding to the turmoil and she is likely to lash out.  Try to get into a routine that avoids all of that.  Choose her clothes the night before, so that if there is a problem it can be sorted.  But the most important thing is that she needs professionals involved to begin teaching her how to cope with change, how to monitor her emotions etc and you as a family need to understand the dos and don'ts of this disorder.  
I would recommend reading a couple of good books about autism/aspergers.  I have heard that Tony Atwood is good.  Because of her sensory issues I would also recommend a book by Olga Bogdashina called Sensory and Perceptual Differences in Autism and Aspergers.  This book will help explain some of the behaviours and reactions we think are bizarre.  When you understanding that they are actually receiving and processing information differently to us you will see that their reaction to it is logal and normal.
In the meantime, if she has to go to the doctors again you need to tell them that you suspect autism.  Getting under the table at the doctors, dentist, school is very typical.  It shows how anxious she is.  She doesn't know what to expect.  If she is touch sensitive and it hurts her to be touched she isn't going to put herself in an unfamiliar situation with an unknown adult and allow them to touch her.  Would you hold your hands still whilst someone poured boiling water over them?  The things that we do and experience automatically and without any problem actually hurt her.  And once they have hurt her there is the fear of being hurt added to that in any unfamiliar situation.
My son is also hypersensitive in most of his senses.  Years ago we had to leave the barbers (with only half a haircut!) because he was so upset about his hair being cut.  He said it was hurting him and he was in tears and throwing a tantrum.  The barber was being really unhelpful and was telling me that maybe I shouldn't bring him there again, insinuating he was just very naughty.  I didn't have a diagnosis at that time, but I knew something was wrong.  I decided to just believe him rather than pin him down to cut his hair.  We left and never went back to that barbers.  I found another local hairdresser.  I explained to her his fears and she is brilliant with him.  She tells him what she is going to do before she does it.  She lets him feel sensations on his hand before she does it to his head eg. she sprays water on his hand.  She lets him hold onto his ears because he is frightened that they will get cut.  She gives him a sweet when we have finished.  
I would also recommend joining a parent support group so that you meet other families and children in a similar situation.
How is your daughter at school, and what kind of school does she go to?
Avatar universal
One of the biggest problems is that she is good in school !!! There is an autistic child in her class that is very impulsive and loud. I talked to the teacher about Bekah reading at the back of the class when she gets overwhelmed. She didn't want to because people might think she is like the autistic boy. She is terrified of being bullied or thought stupid, or just being embarassed. She also has the routine at school that is hard to keep here at home. The Dr has decided she doesn't have adhd because she does well in school. Girls with adhd typically do better than boys because they are so worried about being thought stupid. She has every symptom of adhd and most of aspergers. I also think she might have oppositional defiant disorder because she gets so defiant over little things. Yesterday she refused to get pajamas on unless we gave her something to eat. There was no way she would do it. However that might be aspergers.
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