HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

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Does My Child Really Have Aspergers?

Question

We have a diagnosis of Asperger's from our pediatrician, but our counselor is telling me that she does not agree with the diagnosis because my son is very social with her and he always makes eye contact. He has Asperger's traits and then some that are not:
  • He has problems keeping friends. No boys, just has friends that are girls.
  • Everything is black or white, there is no in between.
  • Everything is taken in the literal sense.
  • He does not understand that benefit him.
  • Refuses to do school/homework statements like "I shouldnt have to make up that school work, it wasnt my fault that I broke my shoulder at school!"
  • Dominates all conversations
  • Targets music (very talented) and will hound relentlessly for you to hear him play at inappropriate times (mom on a business call)
  • Doesnt understand jokes - gets offended because he thinks that they are directed at him in a negative way
  • Does not try to fit in with others (has his own style - not intentially, but because he has no interest in social norms)
  • Always raises his hand in class to answer EVERY question, to the point where the teacher has to ignore him and he does not catch on that he has has his turn.
  • Interrupts all conversations.
  • Was an "outstanding" citizen at school and wanted to always do the right thing, but has recently become a rule breaker, lying and stealing (only stealing things that he wants and says he took it because he wanted it and doesnt show remorse).

I know that you cannot diagnose through an email, but these are things that we have noticed and that he is much different from other kids. We are trying to get counseling and help dealing with his behaviors (everyday is a blow up over nothing) but the counselor thinks he does not have Aspergers because he makes eye contact. He also has Tourette's, but he does not suffer from coprolalia, just vocal and motor tics. I have seen other Aspergers kids who make eye contact and can be social, but dont key into social cues, understand body language, etc. How do I approach this with our counselor?

Thank you,

D.


Answer

Moms and dads always want to recognize the positive traits in their youngster; it is harder to recognize when your youngster experiences difficulties. Kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) experience many difficulties, and to complicate the situation, many of these difficulties are associated with other disabilities. Ultimately, Aspergers is hard to diagnose and is frequently misdiagnosed. Also, kids with Aspergers frequently have other disabilities as well.

Following are some traits to help clarify what Aspergers is and how you can recognize it in your youngster:

1. Cognitive Difficulties: Frequently the Aspergers youngster experiences difficulty with empathizing with others and says inappropriate things because the youngster fails to consider others' feelings. A significant problem for the Aspergers youngster, mindblindness occurs when the Asperger youngster is unable to make inferences about what others are thinking. Mindblindness hinders communication with others.

2. Delayed or Impaired Language Skills: If your youngster starts talking late and exhibits lagging language skills, this may be a sign of Aspergers. My son, who has Aspergers, talked late, but when he did, he began with full phrases and sentences. He also mixed up pronouns. The Aspergers youngster also fails to understand the "give and take" of communication; in other words, the youngster may want to monopolize a conversation and fail to acknowledge the comments of others. The youngster with Aspergers understands communication as a way to share information but fails to recognize communication as a way to share thoughts, feelings and emotions.

3. Development of a Narrow Range of Interests: If a youngster seems stuck on a certain topic and seems a bit obsessed about always talking about that topic, s/he demonstrates narrow interests -- this a characteristic of Aspergers. Often the youngster learns everything s/he can about this special interest and then feels compelled to share information about the topic with everybody around them. Usually focusing on narrow interests affects social interactions negatively.

4. Difficulty with Social Interaction: Although the Aspergers youngster may want to interact with others, s/he lacks the skills. The Asperger youngster fails to understand both verbal and nonverbal cues, and communication with others breaks down. The Asperger youngster may lecture others, fail to ask questions to continue a discussion, or simply not even acknowledge the other person by looking at them. The desire to communicate may be there, but the language abilities others seem to develop naturally just don't develop easily for the Aspergers youngster. But Aspergers kids develop these skills with early interventions and teaching.

5. Motor Clumsiness: Sometimes, but not always, kids with Aspergers display poor coordination because they experience difficulties with either or both fine and gross motor skills. This problem is due to difficulties with motor planning in completing the task. For example, the youngster may experience difficulty in riding a bike because of planning the different steps to successfully complete the task.

6. Sensory Sensitivity: The youngster with Aspergers may be underactive to a sensation, or s/he may be intensely reactive to a sensation. The sensitivity could involve one or involve many of the senses. For example, before my son was diagnosed, as a parent I was appalled when he wanted to run outside in the middle of winter with no shoes or boots. I was so afraid he would sneak out of the house and get severe frostbite. I also remember he was fascinated by lights. Some moms and dads of Asperger kids detail how their youngster may scream when the vacuum is turned on or how their youngster refuses to brush their teeth due to the sensation caused by the tooth brush.

7. The Need for Routine: Perservation is a common characteristic of the youngster with Aspergers. Perservation involves repetition in language and/or behavior. For example, with language a perservative tendency is to repeat certain phrases over and over. In terms of action or behavior, the Asperger youngster may line objects up and insist the objects not be disturbed. Completing a certain set of rituals in a specific order also demonstrates perservation.

Although some of these traits are common to other disabilities, the whole bunch together certainly suggests further investigation into an Aspergers diagnosis. A professional, like a psychologist or a psychiatrist, should be consulted because early intervention is very important.

What Aspergers Is and What It Is Not

Simply put, Aspergers is a form of autism. It falls within the group of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), in which autism is the general term. What this means is that kids with Aspergers have difficulty communicating or interacting in social settings, expressing emotions or empathy toward others, and may have eccentric language and behavior patterns. Aspergers is a developmental disorder. This means the brain of someone with Aspergers processes information differently than most people.

What Aspergers is not is an illness per se. It is a neurological problem within the brain, causing impairment in language, communication skills, and repetitive thoughts and behaviors. Often, those with Aspergers are thought to be eccentric and unique.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes says symptoms of Aspergers may become obvious as early as infancy, but more likely by the age of three. Although kids retain their early language skills, some other things to look for include:
  • An obsessive preoccupation with a particular subject or object to the exclusion of any others
  • Clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements
  • Crawling or walking late, and later clumsiness
  • Difficulties with non-verbal communication, including no use of gestures, flat facial expressions, or a stiff gaze
  • High level of vocabulary and formal speech patterns
  • Peculiarities in speech and language, such as lack of rhythm, odd inflections, or in monotone
  • Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior and the inability to interact successfully with others
  • Taking figures of speech literally
  • Talking incessantly about one particular topic, but in a random stream of facts and statistics with no point or conclusion

Causes Too Early to Know

The exact cause of Aspergers is still unknown. But there is strong research evidence to suggest a genetic connection. In fact, the brother or sister of someone with Aspergers is 50 times more likely to also have the disorder. The particular gene or group of genes has not been isolated yet. Research is ongoing and promising in this direction.

Another possible cause may be the development of brain abnormalities during pregnancy, during birth, or complications of childhood illnesses.

Because the diagnosis of Aspergers is so new to the medical community, much more research must be done before a true cause can be determined.

Your Aspergers Child Can Have a Normal and Productive Life

Although there is no known cure for Aspergers yet, there are many ways your youngster can learn to cope with his or her condition.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, your youngster’s treatment plan must address three areas of their disorder:

1. Obsessive or repetitive routines
2. Poor communication skills, particularly in social situations
3. Poor motor coordination

Treatment includes social skills training, cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational or physical therapy, and speech and language therapy.

Many kids with Aspergers grow up having learned how to cope with and manage their disability. They often lead lives holding mainstream jobs, maintaining intimate relationships, raising kids, and being socially active.

The best means of handling your youngster’s diagnosis of Aspergers is to educate yourself. Find out everything you can about AS by reading, asking questions of medical and psychological professionals, going online to find support groups in your area and all other resources.

The important thing to remember is that your youngster is unique and precious just like any other youngster. The greatest gift you can give him/her is a strong sense of self-esteem, encouragement, and love.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

My Aspie makes eye contact!!

Anonymous said...

Find another counselor. Once they think they know what's going on with your kid it's hell to try and get them to change their diagnosis, especially if it's something the parent has already suggested. Try to find one who's got a history with Aspergers and Autism-Spectrum related counseling skills.

Anonymous said...

My son didn't make eye contact until he was 5, if I were you I would request to see a psyc to get a diagnosis.

Anonymous said...

My Aspie will make eye contact, too. He will even use sarcasm and understands it (sometimes--not always). There is no mold for these kids. They're all different.

Anonymous said...

Our psychologist used a computer program--he described it as actually walking him through, step by step, asking questions about specific things, some of which he may not have noticed without the program. Our son, also, did not show SOME characeristics of Asperger's, but we had unknowingly been 'treating' him for years (such as training him to make eye contact, even though it didn't come naturally). Once our examiner stepped back from the apparently personable little boy in front of him and begain to ask himself the objective questions, the asperger's diagnosis was undeniable. A huge part of the problem in my experience is that everyone--experts included--forget that all autism disorders are on a spectrum. They tend to remember Joe the classic autistic, Amy the stereotypical PDD-NOS child, and Sam who fits all the qualifications for Asperger's. We train our children from birth, both NT and non-NT children, to 'fit into' society. Without an objective viewpoint, there's no way to distinguish between a child who fits in naturally and one who has been trained to 'fake it'.

Anonymous said...

My son makes eye contact, but it really takes an expert eye to see that while he does it most of the time, the quality isn't there. He doesn't use it as efficiently as others to communicate. Please see another therapist! It took us 3 to get a diagnosis when I knew that he wasn't just a strong-willed child. The diagnosis and intervention and therapy has changed our lives. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Your counselor CAN NOT make a diagnosis!He does not have the credentials. How long ago was your son Dx with Tourettes?I would return to them or find a new Neuro Psychologist, for testing.They also can recommend a good psycho therapist who deal specificaly with kids on the spectrum.Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Mine does too unless he is uncomfortable or you are too close to him. He stares, which I think is the spectrum equivelent of lack of eye contact.

Anonymous said...

My aspie son makes eye contact. It makes him uncomfortable but he still does it.

Anonymous said...

My son has always made eye contact and can be social with certain ages. I would find another person to do an evaluation.

Anonymous said...

change your counselor? espically if they do not have experience in Autism . My daughter has eye contact.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a previous comment - get a second opinion. We have seen several professionals and they all vary in 'diagnosis'.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone else. Our son can be social (especially with older and younger kids) it his peers he has the most trouble with.

We had to go to our Ped, and she had to refer us to our Children's Hospital. There, he went through hours of testing (over several days) and saw 3 seperate Drs. as we observed via a camera. But, this was also our 2nd evaluation. The 1st we had done at another place, and they weren't even equipped for Aspergers.

Get a 2nd opinion. You have to be "that" parent in this case.

Anonymous said...

my daughter has aspergers and can make eye contact but breaks it when she starts to talk to you. i think you need to speak to some1 else if thats all he's basing his opinions on

Anonymous said...

my daughter makes eye contact as well, but she doesn't really look at you. The psychologist we saw saw that right away. Get a different opinion ie a professional who diagnoses these things.

Anonymous said...

Every Aspie is different! My son makes eye contact & can tell jokes, etc. But had major mood swings growing up & major depression & anxiety. - I agree ... find another counselor!! Have your child tested.

Anonymous said...

My son makes eye contact as wrll and his school tried telling me the same thing. Finally after jumping through what seemed like a million hoops, we got a dx. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

My son makes eye contact...always has, but has had major social issues. We went through our primary doctor who referred us to a psychologist for testing. That's when we finally got a diagnosis. I wouldn't depend on a counselor...go to a psychologist or psychiatrist for a formal screening or testing. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

My child was misdiagnosed for more than 8 years with depression & saw several therapists. If their diagnoses doesn't add up find a new doctor. Once I read up on it, it made total sense.

Anonymous said...

It took Dr.Psy/ test results and Child Advacot before an IEP team meeting to get the school board to take note for us . His blow ups are from his frustrations , each one has good reasons, example; in there room. it can be as little as a florsent flikering of a light in there room..Too to much noies..or just out of routine. Good Luck with public schools .I found there very limited on The different spectrum's of Autism and there anxiety's. Our Gr/son with a modifed' work plan can blow up with the skill of hand writing, but can A'ce answers on pc or out loud. Eye contact has to be taught to some..and becomes easy only in there confort zone. Ours can..but the social skills are challegened in the school settings'. Your counselor is not skilled and should be advising you and or recomending outside help!. Start at your state level..looking for Qualified Licensed Healthcare in this field. Good Luck..an God Bless!

Anonymous said...

is there a difference between aspergers and high functioning autism? Our paediatrician said our son had aspergers but the official diagnosis in paper states hfa.

Anonymous said...

There's no difference between HFA and Aspergers...

Anonymous said...

I had 2 psychologists tell me my son didn't have AS because he showed empathy. When asked "Well what about the debilitating obsessions and all the other sign and symptoms he does have?" Finally sought out a specialist (neuro-psychologist) in Autism Spectrum disorder and he did diagnose him with AS. My son does make eye contact especially when he wants to take to you about his interests just to make sure you are listening. Follow your gut feeling on this one. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

He needs a Neuropsychological eval

Anonymous said...

Check on line for an Aspergers guidelines diagnositic list and have a look through it. I was told my son had conduct and emmotional disorder and not aspergers. I went around the psychiatrist after doing the list and realising my son had over 3 things in each catagory. We had to pay $900 for the diagnosis but was the best thing ever. We have access to programs and have applied to rotary groups for extra assistance. Good luck :) its a hard road but well worth fighting for.

Anonymous said...

My son makes eye contact so if I was you I get a second opinion from another counsellor .

Anonymous said...

my son makes eye contact some times when he has to lol! an we didn't get a proper diagnosis until he was 13 !! because he had a very high IQ which masked a lot of the aspy symptoms in the earlier years - all aspys r different just like all kids ... as a parent u need to follow your intuition ...

Anonymous said...

Find a new counselor. My son and myself are both Aspie and we both make eye contact.

Anonymous said...

Find a different counselor that is licensed to diagnose.

Anonymous said...

Get him to an independent psychologist qualified to diagnose Asperger's! Schools might have a stake in not identifying him, if they have to create an IEP, etc. Frankly, I was pretty relieved to have this diagnosis, because lots of things make sense. (My son frequently makes eye contact and can be social, but can flip to stuttering and pacing, and his eye contact can also be oppositional.) Get to a clinic.

Anonymous said...

My son used to make eye contact when he was really young & then as he got older it seem to be less & less that he made eye contact. Now that he goes to speech & social group, the eye contact is getting much better again. I would suggest taking your son to a very reputable pediatric neurologist in your area. They can assess him & have him tested for autism. Go with your gut feeling.....no one knows your child better than you. I had a lot of people tell me that they didn't believe my son could have Autism/Asperger's Syndrome. You are your child's best advocate!! Best of Luck to you :)

Anonymous said...

My daughter who is now five and a half used to make eye contact to a degree and then it started to taper off as she got older. Now, it's hit or miss. There are times when she'll just stare and others where it's like pulling teeth to even get a sideways glance from her. I noticed that the only time she actually voluntarily makes eye contact for any length of time, is when she is showing off one of her artistic creations. Art is her world. I agree with what everyone else has said as well.

Anonymous said...

Change your counselor. My son has Aspergers and is in my face with eye contact. He is very sociable but cannot understand body language or many emotional nuances. He picks up tics very easily they are usually stress induced and appear when he is under scrutiny in social or interactive settings. He is very high functioning which is a problem for him in school because his grades are excellent but his behavior does not parallel [teachers have a tendency to think because he is smart that he understands more than he actually does when it involves performance like remembering names, assignments...etc...] My son's school counselor was convinced he had ADHD I knew there was an underlying cause for his lack of 'co-operation in class and pressed for an autistic evaluation. I personally believe many children with Aspergers are misdiagnosed with ADHD.
Find a counselor who will listen to you. Do not go to one who doesn't have experience dealing with the autistic spectrum, that is paramount for your family's success because as you know [and you already know] failure is not digested easily by an Aspergers child.

Anonymous said...

I too feel like the psychologist my son saw misdiagnosed him. In her report, she put that he has anxiety disorder and PDD. She also said he was able to talk to her and give her eye contact. she spent about 20 min with him. After reading so much and visiting these forums, I truly believe he has Asperger's and does not have anxiety although he does get a little anxiety. Should I have him reevaluated or not worry about it?

Anonymous said...

I'm having same problem,my g p won't refer he said he has nothing on the file,the hos,says are in conclusive and my private one was in 04 they disregarded it,but services are brutal

Anonymous said...

I'm having same problem,my g p won't refer he said he has nothing on the file,the hos,says are in conclusive and my private one was in 04 they disregarded it,but services are brutal.

Anonymous said...

YOU SHOULD FORM A FORUM ON HERE AND GET AN HEALTH WORKER IN HEALTH BOARD INDEPENDANT DIAGNOSTICS AND A SPECIALIST CONSULT ON ACTUAL TREATMENT CAN CHANGE YOUR DENTIST WHY NOT CHANGE YOUR DOCTOR AND CHILDS SCHOOL IF THEY NOT CONCERNED OR MAKE NO PROVISION

Anonymous said...

20 minutes is not long enough to diagnose Aspergers. My son's school counselor was pressing me to have him evaluated for ADHD. I refused and told her that I believed the problem was more complex and said that I felt he had a touch of Autism. [I didn't even know what Aspergers was]
Since I suggested Autism might be the problem, she was obligated to start a series of 'elimination' tests. [only because I refused her ADHD suspicions -If I had agreed to have him evaluated for ADHD they would have determined that was his problem, and would have stopped looking for the underlying cause for his 'attention lapses']
After they tested and found he didn't have pragmatic language receptor problems, and a battery of other evaluations, they finally brought in the district psychiatrist who called to tell me my suspicions were correct. It took about 3 years. Don't give up.

Anonymous said...

My nephew definitely has Aspergers. I can see it. His parents can see it. Even his teachers can see it. It is definitely not ADHD. Unfortunately, the doctors cannot see it. A 5 minute consultation is insufficient to diagnose. His parents don't want to give him ADHD medications because they know it isn't ADHD. I am a nurse and I can see that too. However, the doctor says if they refuse to medicate him, he won't help them. What can you do? He is socially inept, has no friends. He is highly intelligent, but this is overlooked because without a proper diagnosis, the school can't / won't help him. He gets stressed when things get loud or if he is confronted and he needs to be on his own, but the school won't provide a quiet place for him to settle. On occasion he spends a little time with an Aide who is assigned to another child and when this happens, he excels. His parents have been persisting for 4 years to get a diagnosis, but to no avail. He is 9 years old now. Doctor's simply do not listen.

a mother said...

My Aspie son makes eye contact with people with whom he is very familiar and makes it sporadically with others. I never noticed he had difficulty with eye contact until a PT tried to get him to hold eye contact and he would squirm, walk away, lean back in his chair etc. He had learned to look very close to a persons face but not into their eyes. Because he made eye contact with me we did not consider ASD until this PT referred him to a developmental pediatrician. He was diagnosed at 11 and everything fell into place and began to make sense. Now that I know what to look for I recognize that he exhibits many ASD traits that I had failed to recognize as such previously. Our communication has improved vastly now that the barriers are obvious. Good luck.

Michele Snyder said...

As many have already mentioned...each Aspie is different. You can teach your child to make eye contact. We have worked with our son for many years to look the person in the face when they talk to you. When he talks though he will look down and break eye contact. Our son has social anxiety, is a flight risk when overwhelmed and has a hard time understanding time and perception. Do your homework and get rid of your current counselor. Have your child tested at an accredited center where they specialize in autism. You are your childs only advocate. Although my son's school district still won't recognize he's on the Spectrum, they keep him under emotionally impaired for his IEP.

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