Autistic or just stubborn?

dallas10086October 5, 2011

My 3.5 year old son developed normally, hit all the milestones he was supposed to. At 1 yr old he would say new words for a while, then move on to other new words, words like mama, dada, cracker, doggie, yes, no, etc. A little after that we could tell that he would 'sneak' walking, as in he would be crouched down in a separate part of the house, see we were watching, then sloooowly bring himself to the ground. It was as if he was making the decision NOT to walk until he had it down perfectly. At about 2 yrs old it was like he 'decided' to stop progressing verbally. Every once in a while, when he wasn't paying attention, he would say short sentences like 'I love you' or 'I want that', etc. Then we'd make a big deal out of it and he'd act like he was 'caught.' When he turned 3 yrs old and still was behind in his language, based on past behavior I thought he must be deciding to wait until he can do it perfectly, like with his walking.

His favorite thing in the world is playing with the alphabet, ie singing it, saying it, writing it in order, putting his alphabet blocks in order. He can even write certain words he learned from Blue's Clues, like 'read' and 'Joe'. Sometimes he puts his cars and blocks in a row but that doesn't really raise a red flag to me. He will follow instructions very well when he wants to (his teachers are thrilled that he loves to help clean). He will play with other children (going down the same slide, etc) but doesn't care to interact with them, but he's never been interested in kids his age, always older ones. He often points, pulls us to where he wants to go or where something is that he wants. He will grunt, whine, shake his head 'no' and say 'yeah' and wave and say 'bye.' He makes eye contact only when he has to or wants to (playing a tickle game he'll look at me, but being disciplined he looks away), when he was a baby this wasn't an issue. We are still working with him with potty training - at home he shows little signs of telling us he needs to go, but at daycare he'll grab a teacher and pull them to the restroom.

Facing pressure from his daycare - who say they have no other warning signs other than lack of language abilities - to get him tested. Now that we've got him tested and I've read the results I'm racked with worry. They say in all but some of his writing skills he is behind in nearly everything - but the tester admitted that because he won't talk it's difficult to accurately judge where he's really at ability wise. He recognizes colors, shapes, knows his alphabet, says his alphabet (albeit sometimes hard to understand), has counted up to 14...but he didn't do many of these things in front of the tester because he's wary of new faces. Over this past summer, right before the testing, he was at home with his father and no one else, with sporatic trips to visit older cousins. Then he went back into daycare and it's like a switch flipped: he whines almost all the time, loses his temper in an instant, will throw a tantrum when he almost never did before and hits himself in the head when he's frustrated. The sudden change is what has me fearing an autism spectrum diagnosis.

But...after mentally cataloging his short history I'm just not sure. Do I have a 3.5 yr old with a language handicap who is going through the terrible threes? Or do I have something deeper to worry about?

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sweeby

You know, there are kids who do that -- Try something at an early age, do really well at it (considering their young age) -- then don't do it again until they're MUCH, MUCH more ready. My older son did that with walking, taking his first steps at 8.0 months, then stopping until 12 months, and with writing, writing his first letters at 2.5 (a whole series of 'letters', most of which were real!), then not again until age 5. For what it's worth, this is my son who is not autistic, not the one who is...

A little advice? Try not to make too big a deal out of his successes. I think that feeds into his perfectionist tendencies and may actually exacerbate the problem - if that is what the problem is. Just give him a big smile, and maybe praise his accomplishment to another person within his hearing so he can tell you are proud but the focus (and pressure!) isn't on him.

Do you have something to worry about? Hard to tell... Do you ever have the opportunity to watch your son play with other kids his own age? And how far behind is he?

Could be, he's just developing in an unusual pattern. That all of the books and paper/pencil activity have strengthened some areas, but the relative lack of activity have left other areas less developed. Can you spend more time playing with him in non-paper areas? More physical games and such...

What else did the tester say? And does your 'Mom gut' agree or disagree?

Also, are you getting him speech therapy? (If not, do please get him a speech eval. and have his hearing tested.) Once his language develops, you'll have a lot more to go on.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2011 at 8:40PM
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tracystoke

My son is 3 and a half next month.He cant do the alphabet,shapes or count up to 14,and neither can his class mates.He has just had his 3 year check and the lady never asked if he could count ,know shapes or the alphabet.just things like can he hold a pencil correct,knife and fork ect,speech, and the obvious things.He has recently had a parents evening at school and they say he is doing great,so your son sounds pretty clever to me.I wouldnt worry,but like sweeby says what does your gut tell you.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 2:00PM
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lindac

Sounds very much to me like he is on the aspergers/autism spectrum.
Whi did the testing? I have an autistic grandson and my daughter had him tested several times and he was diagnoses as "slow to talk"..."his brother talks for him" "he was set back because you moved about the time he was learning". But my daughters "mom sense" was jangeling....she got him into pediatric neurology at the University and they diagnosed autism. Got him into special schools and the improvement over the first few months was astounding.
Get a handle on this....because the earlier you get help the better the outcome.
By the way....my GS was very atypical in many ways but very typical in others.
Get him into a neurologist....not someone who is just dealing and diagnosing "slow" children.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 9:36PM
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