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My 5 year old... not diagnosed but seems to have ASD


Forum: Children with Developmental Delays and Disorders

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  #1  
September 30th, 2012, 03:41 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1
My 5 yo son started Kindergarten in September and at the end of the first week his teacher reached out to us to talk about his levels of anxiety and inability to cope with the transitions in the classroom. We have known for a couple of years that he has significant fears during activity transitions and have done our best to accommodate but I fear we have done nothing to teach him coping skills.

I am posting here because I have done significant reading on Autism Spectrum Disorder and suspect that may be what we are dealing with. We have an appt. with the schools counselor tomorrow to go over her observations and I think the next step will be getting his pedi involved... but I would LOVE to get your perspectives based on the symptoms I list below.

Academically my son is great. He went into Kindie with no experience writing his full name (it's a 9 letter name!) and certainly no lower case letters. After 2 weeks he can write his whole name on his own, upper and lower case. He is great at adding/subtracting with visual cues, and loves reading time. We have just begun working on sight words and he seems to do well at this as well.

- does not make choices for himself, is always asking "is this the right one", even for simple things
- does not handle classroom activity transitions well, will freeze up and need assistance from his teacher to complete the transition. Will be able to tell me what the routine is later at home
- He goes into what I call "zombie mode" when he gets stressed and will not respond to any questions, or responds with an answer that has nothing to do with the question
- Will freeze up on the playground and not interact with the other kids, prefers to be on his own... but at home LOVES to play with the neighborhood kids (2 of them) and loves to play with small groups of kids
- Loves to spin things, any toy that has spinning parts (wheels, helicopter blades, fans, etc.) he will sit and spin them forever. He will stop when told to, and appears to do this mostly when stressed
- He just in the last couple of months started make-believe play
- Does not like loud noises, sudden noises
- Does great on immediate memory or visual skills but struggles with skills that require abstract thinking

I do believe our parenting approach has caused some of this. We have been in the habit of simply directing him to what we want him to do instead of setting expectations. We have mainly been his decision maker rather than teaching him how to make decisions. I don't know how much of what we deal with is us or if he truly does have specific needs.

Thanks for reading this, any insight you have I greatly appreciate!!!

Lisa
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  #2  
October 1st, 2012, 04:44 AM
Carwen*Angel's Avatar Fly away on my zephyr
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Hello and welcome to the board hon, I hope you will stick around and join in. I'm Sharron, 37, from the UK, and mum to Daniel aged 6 who has high-functioning autism, and Michaela aged 5 weeks. Daniel was diagnosed at the age of 4, of course as you know I can't diagnose your son, but I can tell you which of the behaviours you're concerned about Daniel does as well.

- does not make choices for himself, is always asking "is this the right one", even for simple things
Daniel doesn't do this one. He knows his own mind.

- does not handle classroom activity transitions well, will freeze up and need assistance from his teacher to complete the transition. Will be able to tell me what the routine is later at home
YES, YES, YES! Daniel had so much trouble with this in nursery he would get aggressive and lash out at other children, or have a meltdown and cry. After some advice from a special needs school and his speech and language therapist, they started doing a visual timetable with Daniel so he always knew what was coming up, and this helped tremendously. Even now in year 2 (is this second grade in the US? I'm not sure - he's in the 6-7 yo class) he still needs warning of something coming up, especially for special activities that deviate from the regular timetable.

- He goes into what I call "zombie mode" when he gets stressed and will not respond to any questions, or responds with an answer that has nothing to do with the question
Yes. Daniel has varying strategies for dealing with stress. He stims (self-stimulates - flapping his arms or making "whirring" or "growling" noises, or screaming), covers his ears with his hands, or zones out, the latter of which seems to be what you're describing.

- Will freeze up on the playground and not interact with the other kids, prefers to be on his own... but at home LOVES to play with the neighborhood kids (2 of them) and loves to play with small groups of kids
Daniel struggles socially both at school and at home. For the first 2 years of his school life he would not approach other children and would barely answer them when approached. He would only play alongside, not with, others. At Daniel's school they have nurture group for children who struggle socially for whatever reason, where they teach specific skills like turn-taking, conversation, manners, seeing things from another child's perspective, etc, and that has REALLY helped him - we've noticed his confidence has increased when he's been out and about and met other kids.

- Loves to spin things, any toy that has spinning parts (wheels, helicopter blades, fans, etc.) he will sit and spin them forever. He will stop when told to, and appears to do this mostly when stressed
Yes, Daniel has always spun any toy which has a spinning part - stressed or no. He also twists flexible toys. The twisting is more something he does when stressed or worried.

- He just in the last couple of months started make-believe play
Unusually for autistic children, Daniel has always exhibited a good imagination and enjoyed imaginative play. This is a classic sign though.

- Does not like loud noises, sudden noises
Absolutely - Daniel has huge fears of the hoover, the washer, many TV shows and adverts, the radio, and toys that talk or play music. He refuses to go to assembly in school because he doesn't like it when everyone sings together.

- Does great on immediate memory or visual skills but struggles with skills that require abstract thinking
Daniel is in many ways the other way about.

The thing with autism is, it's a spectrum, and every child diagnosed with autism is different. Quite a lot of these behaviours match, though, as you can see. Daniel is very intelligent, especially linguistically, also, which is why he's been diagnosed as high-functioning - he does well at school academically apart from maths where he is weaker, but struggles with the social and behavioural aspects and needs 1:1 support for those.

You in no way have "caused" autism with your parenting. Most experts believe that autism is caused by genetic make-up. Some also believe it can be caused by complications during pregnancy or birth. Nothing I have ever read - and I've read a fair bit both as a teacher and a parent - has suggested that true autistic behaviours can be caused by nurture rather than nature.

However, it can be hard to separate simple bad or acting out behaviour from the behaviour truly caused by autism. I've struggled with that with my son. Generally we find that if we adopt a strict approach to discipline with him and make sure he's in no doubt what we find acceptable and what we don't, the things that are pure and simple behavioural do improve in time, whereas the things that are linked to his autism such as the irrational fears and related stimming, don't. It's quite a journey. But I will say I wouldn't swap my son for the world. He's such a quirky, interesting, loving, intelligent little boy and everyone in the family and school community loves him to pieces and is fiercely protective of him.

I wish you luck on your journey with the pedi - keep us updated.
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