Getting an ASD Diagnosis in Elementary School: A Crucial Window of Time

Going through the Kinder through third grade for my Aspergers son was by far our (and his) most difficult time. A perfect storm comes together for the parent, the teacher and especially the undiagnosed child on the higher end of the autism spectrum when beginning the school age years.

Kindergarten teacher reading to children in library

Often thrust into a social situation where no one has a clue that autism even exists can easily mask itself as bad behavior. This crucial window of time has been my inspiration to create Aspergers101 so that you can have more information at your fingertips than we did! The signs could come earlier if your child is in day-care or daily with other children. Although our son (who was our first) did show early signs…it didn’t become ‘in our face’ until he started public school.

Child with Asperger’s? Insight from someone who knows

Samuel Allen insightSo you’ve just found out that your child has Asperger’s Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism. What’s the next step? As an 18-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome, I can provide some insight:

People with Asperger’s seem to lean towards wanting space from others, and in some cases, family members as well.

If an Aspie is feeling unnerved by loud noises in the house, give them space and let their room be their sanctuary; it’s their quiet zone.

It has calmed me down in the past, so it should work for other Aspies as well. I’m mindful not to keep music and TV in other rooms too loud.

The Pathways to Diagnosis

Interdisciplinary Autism Assessments

For individuals on the autism spectrum, a diagnosis from a medical professional is necessary in order to qualify for medical services. One main difference in the assessment is in how the child is evaluated and whether the evaluation is done by an individual or a team.

Interdisciplinary Autism Assessments at ACN

At ACN, we conduct interdisciplinary autism assessments where a number of specialists participate in the evaluation and all of them are present at the same time from start to end.

The team consists of a developmental pediatrician or psychologist, a behavior analyst, a speech-language pathologist, and an occupational therapist. We believe that a comprehensive evaluation gives parents a clearer sense of the skills and deficits in their child and a clearer direction for seeking therapies.

The following is an illustration of the pathway to a diagnosis at ACN:

Suspect Aspergers?

So did we, and this checklist helped

Our son has Aspergers Syndrome. However, getting the diagnosis didn’t come easy and the path to that diagnosis was rocky to say the least. That was over 10 years ago and still the following checklist we received from our school district is the best heads-up to having Aspergers Syndrome that I’ve seen to date. It cuts to the chase.

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The following is only meant as a ‘checklist’. Remember, this is not an official document, and is only meant to act as a flag for a strong suspicion of Aspergers Syndrome, a doctor or trained therapist would need to make the official diagnosis.

However if you are looking for a guideline of sorts, it doesn’t get much better or black and white than the form below. It was spot on for us describing our son Sam. We’ve also put it in a downloadable format at the bottom. May it lead you towards illumination!                  -Jennifer Allen/Aspergers101

Choosing Your Child Over the Judgement of Others

Like many times in life, you come upon a fork in the road. One choice leads you down a certain path and the other choice leads you down a very different road. Finding out your child has autism is complex enough, but eventually we all come to the same fork in the road. Do I choose my child or do I choose to please the surrounding neurotypicals, those judgmental people around me?

This sounds simplistic, but parents realize almost immediately after the diagnosis that you are judged, alienated, and sometimes even rejected by your peers and perhaps even family. It hurts because you know your child cannot help the ‘tantrums’ when the baby in the grocery store won’t stop screaming. Or that your child’s complete lack of athletic skills will never match the soccer mom’s expectation of a friendly neighborhood soccer game. So eventually you and your child are excluded.

When these and many, many other similar situations would arise I realized my son would elicit these judgmental looks from people as a certainty because the autism was not going to be going away. So, we chose our child over others’ perceptions of what we should be.

As soon as our family as a unit took that path everything became easier! I no longer worried about others’ lack of knowledge when it comes to sensory issues or brain function. We as a family would have our own fun. Quirky doesn’t bother me anymore, in fact it’s almost cool and definitely a relief.

Together our family is a strong unit accepting and excelling in my son’s unique interests. Our family weekends are no longer with people that make for awkward or unforgiving situations, but we welcome anyone who would like to be with us just as we are! Now, many years later, the same families who alienated us for the differences, have surprisingly praised our strong family unit, ’hiccups’ and all!

By Jennifer Allen

Aspergers is Not the Same as ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)!

People with Asperger’s usually collect labels like ADHD, anxiety disorders, or bipolar disorder before they’re diagnosed with AS. The label that annoys me is Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Is there a difference between people whose Asperger’s-related behavior is misunderstood and ODD? I find that ODD is sometimes simply a description of behavior without a cause.

Insurers ask for diagnoses based on ICD 10, the “handbook” of diagnoses. One of the official ICD 10 descriptions of AS is that it’s a “neuropsychiatric disorder whose major manifestations is an inability to interact socially; other features include poor verbal and motor skills, single mindedness, and social withdrawal.”

ICD 10 describes ODD as a behavior disorder and a psychopathological disorder. It’s described as a “recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures.”  The criteria include “frequent occurrence of at least four of the following behaviors: losing temper, arguing with adults, actively defying or refusing to comply with requests or rules of adults, deliberately annoying others, blaming others for own mistakes, and being easily annoyed, angry or resentful.”

ICD 10 is right in my experience in describing those with Asperger’s Syndrome as “single minded.” This is a real strength when doing tasks, following rules and being honest. However, single mindedness can also include inflexibility or even severe rigidity in sticking to a point of view.

Overcoming Denial to Participate in Joy with Your Child

Denial Never Wins by Jessica Nieminski

It’s not easy to hear that your child is going to struggle in certain ways. The fear of the future can be downright paralyzing and while all children are perfect in their own way, it’s not what you dream up when you first think about having a child.

Denial

Nobody fanaticizes about therapists and sensory breaks. Instead you think about nursery bedding and buying cute tiny little shoes that your baby will truly never leave on. Having gone through a diagnosis process twice with my amazing and extraordinary loves, this is my best advice: “Denial Never Wins!”

Okay so let me explain, but first I need do a little storytelling. Stay with me, because I promise that this is going somewhere. The other day I was in the kitchen, all in my mom zone doing mom things, when my little cutie ran over to get me to do what he was doing. Not only did he run over, but he also invited me to join!

The Unnamed Beast: Aspergian Childhood, and Diagnosis in Adulthood

An undiagnosed childhood, or the “unnamed beast”…

That’s how I thought of it at first. That is, when I first realized it had been there all along, without my having realized what it was to begin with. I’m talking about Autism. Yes, you can define it through technical or psychological means. But I’ll tell you what it means from the perspective of someone who was born with it.

Christopher Seltzer

It means you see, think, look and feel differently from what most people expect of you, and, unfortunately, for many, it means feeling a little awkward at best, oftentimes left out on the average, or being utterly ignored at worst. But when I was a child, like many adults who are now being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, literally no one had any idea what was really happening in my brain. Misunderstandings, misdiagnoses and misfortunes tend to follow any dealings with the unknown.

Hygiene and Social Skills: Mom seeking help towards a diagnosis

Q&A with LisaRogers

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

Q: Dear Lisa,

We think our daughter has Asperger’s. It’s all only her way and she bursts out laughing at very awkward times. She has no friends and doesn’t’ seem to care about her hygiene or people skills. I’m not sure where to go or what to do. We live in a rural area in Tennessee. Does the school or doctor’s office help? I’m reading online and found aspergers101 and it seems the closest to finding what is wrong.

-Mary Andrews, Greenbrier Tennessee

A: Dear Mary,

While I live in Texas, there are some federal guidelines that mandate certain functions at the state level that should provide some guidance to you and your family. Go to the following link for some initial information:

Living with Aspergers in Positivity

Autistically Speaking with Stevan Eveleigh

In 2013 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 40 years of age. I wasn’t surprised that I had Asperger’s Syndrome, in fact I already knew before my assessment results were completed, because I always feel  different to everyone else in the world. There are times when I feel like an alien to this planet, and always feel out of place and socially awkward.

The reasoning behind my video was a way to shout out to the world that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I wanted this video to help myself overcome my childhood’s trauma of being bullied at school from both the teachers / lecturers and pupils.

I was always called the lazy one, the day-dreamer, the worrier, the person who doesn’t listen and the person who struggles with math; these are just a few examples. I also felt the need to get my message across to other people with Asperger’s Syndrome and to tell them that everything is alright. Take myself as an example, I am happy and living my life to the full as possible and trying to make a difference in the world.