Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Extreme Separation Anxiety with Asperger's?

This is Rose, our cute little "baby precious" as we like to call her.

As we've commented on here before, it seems as if she has many characteristics similar to those of her oldest brother with Asperger's.

She's always been more solemn and reserved as compared to other kids her age.

We've described her eccentric behaviors in lining things up and creating patterns with toys, books, and magnets. We've noticed she doesn't talk much to anyone but us.

Funny as it is, she used to have what we called "the look of death" in which she would give anyone who talked or looked at her. This was from a very young age. So funny as it was, but a little embarrassing when you have a small child who gives strangers this look when they only give her a smile. It made professional portraits impossible as she would give this look to them and never smile. Don't believe me? Well, here's a proof shot from a portrait sitting we were trying to do:

I laugh when I see this picture, but it's true, it was the "look of death".

Anyway, we have continued to just sit back and watch as she has grown older wondering if this is actually our 3rd family member with Asperger's Syndrome.

As she turned 3, she continued to keep to herself and not give much interaction to others. We would sit in the waiting room during her older siblings' dance classes and watch other children her age play and laugh while she would stay right by my side and not say a word. Other parents would ask how old she was and be surprised when she was often older than their children who were so bubbly and social while she would sit quiet and staring for the hour.

It's no big deal. She's just shy? Maybe she'll grow to be more social?

As you can see from the top picture, she can smile and she does interact with us at home, but it's like it's a whole different world to anyone outside of our own family.

I've noticed for the last while that while she does show emotion, it is often mirrored or copied by someone else. She will look at me and copy the expressions on my face. I could be talking about how she is going to have to eat vegetables and go to bed, but if I have an excited happy look on my face, then she will react by using my same expressions. She will mimic her brothers and sister in their emotions as well.

Is this normal? I suppose so.

I know she has all sorts of issues with textures as her brother did. She can't stand wearing all sorts of clothes. She used to freak out if her hands were dirty.

Anyway, no big deal, but recently we are having a huge issue, and it isn't something that was a problem before.

Separation Anxiety.

Now I know that is pretty common for young kids to go through, but usually that is when they are 1-3 years old. Rose is going on 4 and it just started about 2 months ago. She used to go to church class or extended family member's houses or neighbors/friends just fine. But then all of the sudden she won't go to anyone. She won't go to her class. She won't go to neighbors houses. She won't let anyone hold her except for my husband or I.

What is the deal? We can't exactly pinpoint any huge traumatic event, but she is just freaked out. It's not just a little thing. We sit with her in class and then try to leave and it isn't just a little tantrum she throws, but full blown screaming bloody murder like she's going to die or we're never coming back ever.

I don't know what to do. We've tried everything. We've tried explaining what's going to happen and that we're coming back. We've tried everything from punishment to rewards and even bribery to get her to go and stay where and when she's supposed to (church class, babysitter, etc.), but she is just not getting any better. I used to think she was just testing us to see what she could get away with, but after 2 months I can see it is not an act or orneriness, but she is genuinely scared if not terrified that we are not returning.

What can we do? It is really becoming a problem. It has become so bad that she will constantly "check in" all day long at home to make sure we are right there. If she hears a door open or close she will cry out panicked, "Mommy?!!!" If I go around a corner she will do the same. If we go anywhere in public she will cling to our leg at all time as not to lose us. It is just so extreme.

We continue to reassure her that we would never leave her and we will always come back, but it's to no use. Preschool is coming up and we were going to see if she wanted to try a dance class, but I doubt it's going to be happening unless it's the "Dance with Mommy's Leg" dance class.

I wonder if she does have a bit of Asperger's like we suspect, is it something that makes this Separation Anxiety more extreme or what? What should we do? As her social and emotional development continues to be delayed, we wonder if we need to have her evaluated for Preschool.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Peek into the Mind of an Aspie

Sometimes I start to think our son with Asperger's Syndrome isn't any different than anyone else.
Sometimes I start to think he is just like any other kid.
Maybe it's not such a big deal after all.

But then often as it is, I am rudely awakened by some event or experience that makes me see once again how really different he is from what today's world considers "the norm".

Our son MJ, finishing up this year of school as a 6th grader, brought home all his final papers, artwork, folders, and other such things on the last day of school. Amongst these was a school journal in which he wrote in every morning for the year. I thought I might be entertained and was curious as to what he wrote about, so I sat down and opened up this little blue notebook.

At first it seemed very normal as the first page he wrote about his summer vacation and what he did and what he liked best. He wrote about what he was looking forward to this school year and what he expected out of school as a 6th grader. Pretty normal. He wrote decent enough that although his handwriting is still very very messy as it is still difficult for him to write, I could still make sense of it. His ideas and sentences were clear enough.

Then I turned to the next page.

This page was different. It was just ramblings on and on about some computer game I'm guessing and about all the levels and who or what had to be defeated.

OK, that's no big deal, but then I turned the next page and the next and the next and tried to read all his entries. They were all just massive explanations some pages and pages long of either computer functions, computer games, levels, characters to beat, etc. Then for a break the next several pages would be about every single kind of Pokemon character invented and all their powers or skills or whatever and it just went on and on and on.

These entries would have no real beginning or ending exactly. He would just go right into what he was describing, and then I'm assuming journal writing time at school would be over so he would stop, but then the next day he would start right up continuing where he left off the day before.

Out of the whole journal for the entire school year, there were maybe only 10 entries that didn't go on and on about the technicalities of a computer or Pokemon. These other entries were limited to maybe a couple of lines about how he was supposed to write about this topic, so he would for 2 sentences and then go right back to continuation of his explanations of whatever.

Of course there were about 4 entries that stood alone. These were what I call the emotional entries. If something had happened before school that upset MJ, these were the few times that he seemed to write normally to me, although they were very upset entries about how he was in trouble, or how I had yelled at him. (Oh, awful, I know! I about died when I read these entries about how I was a mean mom and had yelled at him or said this or that! Plus his teacher had read them and put little notes on the sides hoping he had a better day! I could have died of embarrassment! )

But really, how interesting this was for me to see a glimpse into the mind of MJ. I mean, yeah, I know he can go on and on about certain topics or be obsessed with Pokemon or some strategic game or whatever, but I didn't realize that these things are going on in his mind so much that it is like this whole computer database that is just spilling out onto paper.

Is it really like that all the time? Are all these thoughts, ideas and information just spinning around in an Aspie's head full time? It's overwhelming for me to think about it. It's interesting that his thoughts and obsessions can cease if there is an emotional event though. I do want to be a better mom though. No more journal entries about mean ornery moms in the morning for next year!