Avatar universal

Asperger's or social immaturity?

Hi there,

I'm new to this forum and hope I'm doing this right!

My son (6 years old) was having some behavioural issues in school so we brought him to a child psychologist.  He is very intelligent and easily keeps up with the 'academics' but there are 'attention-getting behaviours' in class and he struggles with how to make friends.  He sometimes says that no one will play with him, though other days that doesn't seem a problem, but either way he hasn't yet made any real friends at school.  I think he 'tries too hard' and winds up being annoying.  He has a few friends through our friends with kids, whom he sees once a week or so.

The psychologist feels he may have a mild presentation of Asperger's.  I'm resistant to this, I admit, but with some reason:  he's affectionate, spontaneous, looks people in the eye when talking with them, doesn't freak out if plans are changed, doesn't speak in a monotone or drone on about a single subject, and has 'real' conversations.  He's not very athletic, but there's no odd gait or physical mannerism that sticks out.  He DOES correct people if he feels they've made an error, and he does seem to have trouble reading social cues.  He is controlling in play, and wants to make up all the rules; though he does try to be flexible it does not come naturally to him.  The psychologist pointed out to me that he doesn't make eye contact with her when they play together - he looks at the toys.

All this to say, if Asperger's is NOT a correct diagnosis, will the interventions related to Asperger's be helpful to my son?  I don't see much point in arguing with the psychologist as long as she's helping him.  But I don't want him 'labelled' if that is going to send us down the wrong road for his needs.  I know he really wants to make friends and feel more at ease socially, and I want to make the right choices about how to help him.  
4 Responses
973741 tn?1342342773
Hi there.  Well, of course, no one here can say for sure over the internet, but it does not sound related to aspergers to me.  Some kids have quirks and it isn't a diagnosis, that's the bottom line.  Some kids have quirks and it isn't related to autism.

My son has sensory integration disorder which is a separate diagnosis from autism or aspergers and has it's own unique profile.  some get confused because there is a high prevalence in those with aspergers and autism to have overlapping sensory integration disorder and they don't realize it is totally separate in terms of conditions.  Occupational therapy has helped tremendously for my son.

the areas you mention that are similar to my son are inflexibility (which is often a way of controlling one's environment to be more comfortable) and social awkwardness.  Quick question--  you mention not athletic.  Well, not every kid is.  But, does your son seem semi uncoordinated or does he take a bit to learn something new motor wise?  Does he trip frequently?  How is his hand writing?  

Anyway, the thing is . . .   unless it greatly impacts a child, I would just work on it without giving it a name.  I say that a say that as a mother that has a child diagnosed with sensory integration disorder and as a big proponent of identifying issues a child has.  I'm not afraid of a diagnosis and believe that the diagnosis my son was given was exactly what we needed to help him.  But, he had issues coping.  

So, what I'd really focus on is helping improve upon the things you are seeing.  Here are some things we learned to help with this in ot.  First, home often times can be a place where kids get the attitude that it is okay to be inflexible and always have things their way. That ends.  You are now like peers to him in that you want to go first when you play a game sometimes, you want to decide what game to play and you want to make some of your own rules.  And you win sometimes.  Just like a peer.  Rather than letting him do it his way, insert your own ideas into the game and he has to go along with it.  This helps him learn to deal with that when it happens with a friend or at school.  Then, if he mentions anyone at school at all----  contact the mother of that child and invite them to your house for a play date.  At 6, that's how it is done . . .  the parents ask.  Then make it fun by having an awesome snack and some go to activities if there is a lull.  And be right there to intervene if your son is bossing or being inflexible in his play.  Talk about how friends take turns with toys  AND play ideas before the play date.  We will have a friend get to make a rule and then my son and then the friend and then my son.  So everyone gets heard and its fair.  And they also take turns picking what to do.  That helps.  And after the friend leaves, have a talk with him about what went well and what can be better.  Always refer to 'being a good friend' to his friends.   And then have these play dates frequently for one and a half to two and a half hours.  This really helps a child build their skills and build relationships with the kids at school.  

I'd look for some other extracurricular things for him to do as well such as cub scouts or karate.  

good luck
Avatar universal
Thanks so much for your reply, I really appreciate it.  To answer your question, he doesn't seem especially uncoordinated.  His handwriting is pretty good (for a six year old).  Not so good a kicking a soccer ball.  It's mainly that he's not very strong and not too interested in exerting himself (er, that may be genetic…).

Your ideas about play dates etc. are excellent, plus I will adjust the way I play with him at home.  Hopefully he will 'find his way' with a bit of help...

Thanks again,
973741 tn?1342342773
Yes, I think you are on the right track.  Some kids need a little extra help and once they get it, they blossom.  I really think this will be your son.  We have to set up some boundaries for them with friends if they don't come naturally but if he is motivated to have friends----  he will work on it.  It's not always comfortable for them and you might get some push back but know that this is normal and it takes time to build these socialization and play skills for some kids and to change some habits they've gotten into.  just patiently keep at it.  

And if you notice greater impact to his life or self esteem, THEN you can always take the next step.  You can also talk to his school counselor as they are a great resource.  In first grade, our counselor begins to work with small groups of kids.  She brings together kids that are having some difficulty making friends and others that do not and makes a group of maybe 6 or so boys to 'talk' about social things like how to have a conversation, how to ask someone to play, how to be nice to everyone, etc.  She has groups for kids that need to learn some relaxation (they are wound a little too tight), kids who are prone to bullying, kids who need some self esteem help.  It's really nice.  My son currently meets once a week and it is called 'the lunch bunch".  Eight boys who talk about things as a group related to making and keeping friends.  Half the kids need work on it and the other half have skills (without it ever identified who is who, kids have no idea about any of that and just get the opportunity to be in a small group with our cool counselor who leads the discussion).  Anyway, my point is that your counselor may have resources or do things like this that can help in an informal way.  

Wishing you lots of luck and let us know how it goes, okay?
5914096 tn?1399918987
Obviously, none of us are in a position of determining whether your son has Asperger's syndrome.  You will definitely need to work the child psychologist on this issue or even inquire into a second opinion.

A lot of children at the age of six simply do not have the social skills to acquire friends.  Often times, in their attempt to make friends, they come across awkward.  Many of the kids I've worked with simply do not know how to make friends or engage with other socially primarily because nobody taught them how to do it.  Sometimes, all it takes is teaching kids how to make friends and stay friends.  In case you had not done this by now, it might not be a bad idea to work with your son on friendship skills and even role play with him specific skills so that he has a better understanding of the skills and feels comfortable using them.

Many of the parents I've worked with feel that their kids should already have the skills necessary to make friends.  The fact however is that they do not.  We should never take for granted that kids automatically know friendship skills.  Now, if you had worked with your son on these skills and your son appears to be to oblivious to them or is unable to use them effectively, then I think this could lend a hand to a possible diagnosis.
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