Wednesday, January 18, 2012


We always knew our oldest son was a bit different. We tried out various labels like challenging, spirited, high-needs etc. but none of them seemed to fully describe this child of ours. I would have conversations with other moms and be told that, oh yes, their child was spirited/high-needs/challenging/whatever as well. I would look at their child (usually playing happily) and just shake my head to myself and think, "no, you have no idea."

He was our first after all, what did we know? He was a boy and obsessed with trains. Weren't all boys obsessed with trains? Maybe. But I bet not all of them memorized the entire Thomas the Train catalog and knew every single train's name. A lot of babies don't sleep well. But how many wake up every 45 min until they were two and then still didn't sleep through the night until they were five?

Looking back hindsight is of course 20/20. Why did it take us so long to seek help and get a diagnose? First of all we did try to get help when his anxiety kicked in around age four. ODD was the diagnoses from that counselor. To which we said "no way". Although challenging and sensitive, he was only defiant when overwhelmed.  It is very hard for a parent to seek help and yet get a misdiagnose. It took us years to try to seek answers again.

It wasn't until I did my own research and came across Aspergers looking for answers to various behavior issues we were having that I once again looked to the medical community for help. This time armed with more information, I presented the idea of him having Aspergers to another counselor. The counselor agreed and we have forged a great relationship with her that continues to help all of us.

The book that I came across that really helped me pinpoint Aspergers as a diagnose was Parenting Your Asperger Child, by Alan Sohn, Ed.D. and Cathy Grayson, M.A.

In the book it lists six characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome which I will share with you.

  1. Difficulty with reciprocal social interactions. Contrary to my belief children with Aspergers can be highly verbal. Alex will lecture you for hours on his latest obsession but things like eye-contact and conversational turn-taking are difficult to near impossible for him. 
  2. Impairments in language skills. This doesn't mean Asperger children can't talk! Although very verbal, Alex sees conversation as a way to relay facts and information about his latest special interest. Sharing thoughts, feelings or emotions, does not occur to him. Some may also notice that his pronunciation or rhythm of speech is "off". You can't quite describe it, but you can hear it.
  3. Narrow range of interest and insistence on set routines. This varies by each individual but all Asperger children will have a specialized interest. As far as routines go, we always joked that whatever way you do things the first time with our son, you must be willing to do it that way forever. Cut his sandwich diagonally the first time, be prepared that no other way will ever be acceptable.
  4. Motor clumsiness. Many Asperger individuals have problems with both gross and fine motor skills. Alex continues to have difficulties with fine motor skills, but for the most part his gross motor skills are pretty good.
  5. Cognitive issues. Aspergers individuals have trouble with empathy. They also see most things as black or white, shades of gray do not exist in their world.
  6. Sensory sensitivites. This we knew from birth. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, Alex is sensitive to it all. As a baby he would meltdown in the grocery store every single time. The lights, smells, sounds of it all were just too much. We still deal with many of these, but of course, now they are easier since he can speak to us. Still it often takes us asking him what he is feeling to get him to tell us.
So what do you do if you suspect that your child has Aspergers? Get a referral to a psychiatrist, not a social worker. Although you may end up with a social worker as a counselor (as we have) only a psychiatrist can diagnose Aspergers.

How do you deal with a child that has Aspergers? The same way you would any other child, with love, understanding and maybe a little extra patience.

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