Sunday, October 24, 2010

Another Aspie? Patterns and Early Signs of Aspergers

This is our youngest daughter, Rose.
She will be 3 years old in a couple of weeks.
She has always been a little more solemn and reserved than the other kids.

When it is your first child, you might not think anything of it, but when you have already had other kids and you have seen the difference in a child with Aspergers and a child without, things will become more apparent.

Now, we don't know for sure that this little cutie has inherited the Asperger gene, but there seem to be so many signs. She seems so similar to her oldest brother with Aspergers and even more strongly in some characteristics.

From very early, even 4 months old we began to see some signs. I remember going into her room and seeing her in her crib with all her dolls and stuffed animals lined up exactly every 3 slats inside her crib. It was weird. It was so meticulous to detail.

As she began crawling we would see new patterns created in her room. All the books and toys would be arranged across the floor in rows and squares and lined up.

Now, we're not saying this is a huge deal. Many kids out there like to stack and line up toys, but it is just something a little almost obsessive about the way an Asperger child will arrange things. They don't just play with the toys, they seem to pose them all and they have to be a certain way or else the child will get really upset. I remember my oldest freaking out because he needed all his action figures posed in an exact way or else he would become so upset. He was only 18 months old but was so upset because I couldn't figure out the exact millimeter of degree that a startrek figure's arm was supposed to be pointing.

Everywhere we go little Rose will line things up. In nursery classes the teachers are astonished and take pictures with their cell phone how bizarre it is. They showed me one day a picture of how she had taken every doll out of the toy sections and lined them up across the entire play area from one wall to another.

I wish I had a picture to show of that, but here are just little instances of her patterns that I have caught:

Above, lining up the snappy dolls....and below what she does with magnets on the fridge:

It is funny because whatever she is doing she has all mapped out in her head and if you were to move one of those magnetic letters she will freak out screaming and crying until it is exactly back to the way it was.

In many ways we have seen the signs similar of her brother. She doesn't respond to others very often. She has always been so solemn around others; hardly smiling, not talking so much, we have to instruct her to say hello or goodbye or things like that. There is little emotion.

She plays so much more alone and by herself. She has everything all worked out in a sort of play or storyline when she plays with her toys.

She walks a bit on her toes like her older brother. We hope that will not continue. It has caused a lot of problems with her brother.

She gets easily upset by change of plans and transitioning from one activity to another.

She gets very upset about different textures or when clothes aren't fitting a certain way.

We just kind of sit back and observe and wait to see what comes of her personality. It's not a big deal to us because she seems so much like her siblings, and she is such a cute girl. It is only when we are out around other kids her age that we see such a dramatic difference. The other kids are so bubbly and talkative and then she is just staring blankly into space while their parents look at me and think something is weird with my child or that she must be so much younger than she really is.

Well, at least we know how to work with Aspergers and how to make sense of their world somewhat. It doesn't scare me or make me feel bad that another family member might have Aspergers. We just take things a day at a time and we know maybe this time we'll have more knowledge to help us have a better understanding.


Bella said...

She is so beautiful Becca. Love the eyes!

CZBZ said...

Hi Becca!

Great blog---so very interesting, well-written (Yes! You are a good writer!) and informative.

I wish we had known about Aspergers when my nephew was little. All the signs were there. Why the psychologists did not catch his autism is beyond me but if I start complaining, you'll spend your whole day reading my dissertation on child psychotherapists and Anti-depressants.

After learning a little bit about Aspergers, I cannot for the life of me imagine how they mistook bipolar for autism. Mood Swings? My gosh---we'd have loved it if he had a mood, ya know?

Anyway, I felt compelled to post a comment after seeing your little girl with her lined-up toys. That is odd---even though it's not really WRONG or anything. It's not like there's a rule book defining how children are supposed to play and they'll lose ten points if their dollies are in a row.

My nephew used to web his room with string. Like a spider web---so intricate and beautifully tied in knots he couldn't escape for dinner. Or leave for the bathroom if ya know what I mean. We had to get scissors to snip him free.

Web weaving calmed his anxiety. Aesthetically, any of those early webs could be featured in an art museum. He stopped doing this eventually, on his own.

(I think we helped him out by confiscating string. Then he found another way to express himself: using thread to sew lids shut on boxes. Even Shoeboxes. hahaha!!!)

We love him. He's awesome. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when he was 18. Finally, a diagnosis that made sense.

Bipolar? Puh-leaze!!!!! Such a shame that doctors leap to a bipolar diagnosis without testing a child for autism.


Ken 2010 said...

Dear Becca,

I'm an adult with AS, and based on the descriptions of your daughter in your post, it's extremely likely that she's somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum.

The hardly smiling bit is known as "flat affect" (also occurs in severe depression, Schizophrenia, Parkinson's and PTSD). Your daughter isn't always depressed, but her neurological wiring means that there's a greater disconnect between her internal feelings and her external facial expressions, and that her facial expressions can change but only in response to higher stimuli/stronger emotions. I have flat affect as well, but when I talk to patients or strangers, I often have to "fake it" and put on a mask of slight cheerfulness and add more variety to the tone of my voice, which gets exhausting after a while.

The arranging and sorting of objects into an orderly manner is also another ASD trait, because it's a way to create order in an environment that appears chaotic to them (due to their enhanced ability to perceive details and reduced innate ability to see the "whole picture").

Not talking so much could either be the reduced ability to say what she wants to say, or that she doesn't really talk unless spoken to, and rarely initiates speech (reduced spontaneity).

I'm disappointed that your daughter hasn't received an official ASD diagnosis in the Pre-School assessment, as it's so obvious to me (looking back at my own childhood).

I wish you better luck next time in getting your daughter diagnosed, so she can have access to the relevant support to improve her outcomes in primary school etc.

You have a fascinating blog, is it possible if I could maintain correspondence with you by email regarding ASD issues?

If you'd like to contact me, you can click the "contact me" button somewhere along the right column of my blog.

I have LOTS of advice to give for your eldest son, based on my experiences in school too.

Thanks in advance, and keep up the interesting posts!