Saturday, April 26, 2008

Autism or Asperger's?

This week we took my son in to the Psychologist for another evaluation.  His intelligence was evaluated, as well as his motor skills, and a huge focus on his interaction.  The psychologist was a little distant, perhaps a little exhausted by the end of the day, but did a fantastic job. 

What was interesting was his final conclusion:  He doesn't think that our son is particularly Autistic.  Probably based on the questioning look on my face, he mentioned that he thinks my son may in fact have Asperger's syndrome, which is similar to Autism but different on many levels.  This really took my by surprise, because I have been spending most of my time learning about Autism and had no knowledge of Asperger's syndrome. 

Asperger's syndrome begins roughly the same time as Autism, and is so similar in it's onset to Autism that many children are misdiagnosed.  The main symptoms are delayed speech and focus on specific items/subjects.  It actually is very similar to the overall "Robb" behavior, that of very shy boys that are rather knowledgeable in their chosen fields.  But if it's a common Robb trait, it's all been at such a minor level that it hadn't been an issue.  

So how is this different than Autism?  Autism has a higher social impact, as well as a higher verbal impact.  Many autistic children have their intelligence affected (with the exception of high-level Autism), while Asperger's children tend to have higher than average intelligence.  And finally, Asperger's children tend to have a better chance of becoming main-streamed in society than Autistic children.  

Now, the psychologist still said he will call it Autism for our son for now, because of one thing:  his almost total lack of interaction with people.  My son is very much in his own world, rarely interacting with other children or adults outside of a few select family members.  It actually takes some time before he "let's you in".  He just recently started to acknowledge my mother, which thrilled her pieces.  This is not a common trait in Asperger's, but is very common for Autistic children.  

The one thing that has me hoping for Asperger's is the chance that my son could start talking within a few months, and in full sentences.  Autistic children have a lesser chance of talking in general, while Asperger's syndrome has a faster catch-up time for speech and communication.  

There is one more disorder that I haven't mentioned, which is PDD.  PDD, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (of which both Autism and Asperger's are a part), is more like a "middle" road as far as speech is concerned.  Children tend to start speaking around 7 or 9, and catch up quite quickly from there.  

So, what does this all mean?  Well, it means that we continue to work with him.  The psychologist gave us a more targeted model for our son, so we can work with him more directly.  It involves parallel play that moves to interactive play, making him say "hello" and "good-bye" to everyone in the room, work on eye contact, and specifically work with common signs to get him communicating.  He will provide 30 things in particular to work on that focuses in these areas, which is perhaps the best thing we could have gotten.  

So while I'm grateful for the help and support that Pre-School is giving him, nothing is more stressful in feeling powerless to help your child.  Now we know what to do, and why we need to do it.  We are now empowered to help our son, and can go at it with a will.  It's amazing what a targeted program can do.

1 comment:

rsc said...

You can read more about Asperger's here:
http://bit.ly/ZYjMP