10 signs of Asperger’s Syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome is a neurological disorder in the family of autism spectrum disorders. Because every child exhibits a different set of symptoms, there is no precise checklist of behaviors that must all be present for a diagnosis. Instead, there are many behaviors that may be signs of Asperger’s syndrome. Here we’ve rounded up 10 of the common behaviors to watch for, as shared by moms whose kids have the condition.

1. Fixation on One Activity

Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are preoccupied with a single or a few interests and focus on them for hours on end. As Circle of Moms member Karen R. shares: “The most common report from every parent I know . . . is that their kid fixated on something (their cars, their blue toys, their books) and played or attended [to] that thing for an outrageously long time.”

2. “Little Professor” Speech

“Typically a child with Asperger’s sounds like a little professor,” shares one Circle of Moms member, Sheila D. “They tend to have advanced verbal skills, but due to the autism aspect of the syndrome they might seem fixated on a topic that they want to talk about all the time.” Children with Asperger’s syndrome may also speak more formally than usual for their age or prefer talking to adults.

3. Difficulty Reading Social Cues

Social difficulties are another key sign of Asperger’s syndrome. Reading body language may be hard, as well as taking turns or holding a conversation. As Eliana F. shares: “Group work at school is also hard for him, as he does not understand waiting his turn or accepting others point of view.” Similarly, Colleen notes: “My son is very social, but he doesn’t engage in two way conversations. He just talks and talks.” As a result of their social difficulties, children with Asperger’s syndrome may seem isolated from their peers.

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The “perfect” ending to the school year

One of the biggest internal struggles that parents of special needs children face is when…and how far…to “push” your child. Your goals are usually the same as any other child…to be happy, make friends, have others in their lives who love them and treat them well, get through school, and be as independent as possible. How you get them there can be the most complicated part.

One of my best friends is the most successful coach in college gymnastics. One of her many gifts is the ability to motivate and inspire…which doesn’t mean holding your hand…it involves giving you a little kick in the pants at times. In going through our most difficult years with our son, she was one of the only people I talked to about all that was going on here at home.

I was scared, and depressed much of the time…and frankly a lot more unsure of myself and down in the dumps than I had been before…thank you for hanging in there with me! I had young children, all my family lived at least 15 hours away, my husband was busy with a crazy job, and I was a NJ girl living in the south…I didn’t quite fit in. She became my family…my mentor, the voice of reason, and my best friend.

To sum up what I learned from all of my conversations with her…when you have a child that struggles, you can’t focus on the excuses. Your focus has to be on visualizing what they need to accomplish and get to work. For a child who has a health issue, it’s important to start early by educating them on their disorder, their treatment, and how to manage it…from appointments with Drs – to getting out and taking their own medication.

The world is not going to be kind to them at times, and they are going to get knocked down…that’s just a part of life. What children need to learn is how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

Sounds simple…far from it.

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The social stuff

One night on a recent vacation, I met a couple of other mothers and I was asked what kind of work I did. I told them about volunteering with Camp Twitch and Shout and working with Camp Twin Lakes in the summer … which I tend to babble on about these programs frequently.

As I described what type of programs are held at CTL, one of the moms opened up about her daughter being diagnosed with high functioning Asperger’s at the age of 18. She described how after high school her daughter had lost touch with all of her friends – I think she is in her early 20s now. She felt that her daughter had alienated any of the friends she did have because she has a habit of saying whatever comes to her mind – no filters … appropriate or inappropriate, sensitive or insensitive … her honesty and openness are never a challenge.

What I saw on this mothers face was a lot of pain and sadness … even though her family was terrific with her daughter … she had no friends.

Of course being a great 3 a.m. thinker … I don’t think I was very reassuring at the time. In trying to reassure her, I had opened up that my son was diagnosed with high functioning asperger’s also around the age of 10. My son has a few diagnoses … this is one of them.

I described an event that happened at home that makes us all smile when we think of it – this happened right around the time of his diagnosis. We were running around like our usual crazy selves getting ready to go somewhere. I was barking out my mommy orders before leaving.

I asked my son to get in the shower and at least wash his hair before we left. A few minutes later he walks in to our room … fully clothed and completely soaked … he just looked at us and said, “I think I forgot to do something first” … yes son … getting undressed before you get in to the shower might be a good idea?! But here it was … all we had asked him to do was wash his hair? My husband and I both looked at each other and just giggled … oh my goodness.

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WEDNESDAY WEBINAR: June 19 — “Diagnosis & Treatment of TS from a Latino Perspective”

seminars-headerTourette Syndrome – which affects all ethnic groups – has in particular impacted the Hispanic-American community in urban areas of New Jersey, the nation and the world.

The next New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) Wednesday Webinar – “Diagnosis and Treatment of TS from a Latino Perspective” – on June 19 will include a discussion of the diagnosis and treatment of TS in children and adolescents.

Both behavioral and pharmacological approaches will be examined. There also will be a consideration of the unique aspects of mental health understanding and treatment within Latino culture.

This webinar will be presented by Dr. Richard Zakreski and Laura Zakreski. Dr. Zakreski earned his PhD in clinical child psychology from the University of Virginia in 1982 and maintains an independent practice – specializing in the treatment of children, adolescents and college-age adults – in Shrewsbury and Freehold, N.J. Dr. Zakreski specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental and neurochemical disorders – including ADHD, TS, anxiety/OCD and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Laura Zakreski is a rising second-year PsyD student in the Clinical Psychology program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. She is working on a dual concentration in Children and Families of Adversity and Resiliency and in Latino Mental Health.

NJCTS launched the monthly Wednesday Webinar series, which draws an audience from 48 states and 13 countries, in 2008. The series, offered at no cost to participants, features online seminars for parents, educators and professionals on topics of interest to the TS and associated disorders community.

Professional development credits are given upon verification of attendance and completion of an exit survey. Credits are distributed by mail one week after the webinar. You may register for this webinar or view/download past webinars. More information about NJCTS is available by visiting www.njcts.org.

Conditional Corner: We’ve come a long way, baby

Conditional Corner is a series that runs Fridays on TSParentsOnline. All stories, including this one by Vrinda Pendred, were originally published at Conditional Publications.

When I was a child, I watched the film What about Bob?  For those who have seen it, you may recall a scene where Bob tells the little boy that he likes to pretend he has Tourette Syndrome so he can get away with shouting obscenities.  The pair of them jump on the bed swearing at the tops of their voices – and in the censored TV version I watched years later, they tell the father that it’s because they have Buddy’s Disease.

Buddy’s Disease has never been a real diagnosis.  In fact, it’s not anything.  It does not exist outside of this bizarre form of censorship that I think everyone raised an eyebrow at.  For me, the removal of the words Tourette Syndrome implied that Tourettewas in fact the obscenity that needed censoring and, therefore, it was something to be ashamed of.

Furthermore, calling it a disease made it sound like something contagious.  And I’d like to know whose bright idea it was to call it the idiotic ‘wholesome’ Buddy’s Disease.  I’m still not sure if they did this because they thought the topic was risqué or if they were worried about offending people who actually had Tourette.

The first time I saw that movie was in 1991 – coincidentally, the same year I was diagnosed with Tourette myself.  It was a dark secret that even I wasn’t expected to understand.  And I don’t think the media were comfortable with exposing it to the public.

Jump ahead to 2007 when the Le Petit Tourette episode of South Park first aired on television.  South Park…featuring Tourette?  Surely, that must be offensive!  One of my friends confessed that the whole time he was laughing at the episode, he felt guilty and worried I would be upset over it.  I surprised him: I had laughed, too. Continue reading

High-functioning? What exactly DOES that mean?!

My overall goal is to make Sundays a day of rest. No offense, God, but I do that for me as much as I do for You. I need to unwind with my favorite people. It’s a day to come home to a fridge full of food that I have already bought, change into fat pants and do whatever the heck we want: Hang with friends, see family, have a few laughs.

Instead, we oversleep. It’s frantic. The kids have barely eaten breakfast. Clothes and books and small plastic toys that have no home are strewn over the bedroom. I so desperately want their living space to reflect their minds: Organized. Creative. Thoughtful.

Ten million thoughts race through my mind:

“Stink is ticking. He can’t have milk with his cereal! That’s dairy! But maybe the noises are just because of the strep issues he’s been having. Or lack of sleep. Oh, hell, it doesn’t matter, he tics! And I have nothing else to feed him, so milk it is!”

“Their room needs a complete overhaul. Yes, new paint, shelves and fancy containers will contain their nonsense and prove to the world how superior I am at mothering.”

“I know! To be a superior mother, instead of buying them exterior goods to cover up mess, why don’t we just spend the day cleaning up so they can develop internal tools!”

“Well, I can’t be that mother today. We have too much to do. Instead, I will just have to practice breathing and remembering that a messy house does not mean I am a bad mom. Instead, we are having real experiences outside the home, and more important.”

“OK, who am I kidding? This place is a … ”

“I know! I will get a part-time job to put toward a lovely room! I can get a maid and have order!”

“But then… really… how realistic is this? I wouldn’t be around for the kids. Why don’t I just finish my book? That will make some money for me!”

“Even better… why don’t I just remember that God loves me for who I am: Imperfect. A bit scattered. But generous and kind (for the most part) to my  lovely children… which leads me back to church once more.”

For a moment, I actually feel better. But then… this happened. Enter: Sunday School. Continue reading

“Tourette Syndrome: Coping With Difference” — Perspectives

The following is part 5 of a series of entries that, as a whole, comprise a paper titled “Tourette Syndrome: Coping With Difference” I wrote for a class I am taking at the University of Texas-San Antonio.

Read part 1 here.
Read part 2 here.
Read part 3 here.
Read part 4 here.

Two women who shared their children’s stories with me told me that their husbands had not been diagnosed until their children had been diagnosed. Karen’s husband was 42 at diagnosis and Tanya’s husband was 38. I wondered about how both husbands dealt with this disorder growing up, not realizing that there was a name for their behaviors.

Karen didn’t have much of her husband’s history to share, but Tanya’s husband had been misdiagnosed since he was 4 years old. For many years he was treated for seizures until two of their five children were diagnosed with TS. Her two sons and her husband William were all diagnosed within just a few years of one another, with not only TS but Asperger’s as well (Tanya Lackey, personal communication, November 2012).

It was quite difficult for me to gain a better picture of what the historical implications were for the older individuals with Tourette. Lorenzo had been the only one to share his full story with me. Three other adults, much older than Lorenzo and in their 70s, were only willing to give me their symptoms and didn’t want to share much else. I imagine their stories were much more painful than the rest of the stories.

When someone is ridiculed for a condition that is beyond their control, it’s sad and unacceptable. When someone is ridiculed during a time that such conditions were treated as an atrocity and a “sickness”, it moves beyond sad…it’s deplorable.

The educational perspective is merely an extension of the historical perspective. Before TS was first introduced as a medical condition, what were the implications for students who displayed the symptoms and tics during instruction? What will the educational implications for Jacob be? Continue reading

Abusive ignorance

My daughter has been a source of inspiration to both my husband and I, although I can’t say the same for her 13-year-old brother.

At the ripe old age of 5 years old, we knew she was suffering from some type of emotional, mental and/or behavioral issues. We brought her to a child psychiatrist hoping that he could help us with some advice and/or a diagnosis. After answering the doctor’s looong list of questions and his close observation of her, she was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome.(TS)

My first cousin and her daughter along with our cousin’s son also have TS. (Not to mention the many other relatives we have who suffer from depression and debilitating anxiety). Needless to say, my daughter’s diagnosis, although sad to hear, was no shock.

Through the years my daughter’s TS symptoms have waxed and waned over and over again. At 8 years old, her anxiety was so extreme, she didn’t want to live anymore. My mother-in-law and I drove her to the IWK childrens’ hospital (three hours away) in search of some reprieve.  We spent two days in the mental health ward before returning home, but this time we were armed with a few more coping skills and much more understanding of her situation. (We were asked to stay in our room in  the hospital as some patients were witnessed cutting themselves in public.)

My husband and I have had to change my daughter to a new school as the principal at her first accused her of lying about her anxiety and even refused to believe that she had anything wrong at all. (This was around the time she was admitted to the IWK!!!) Continue reading

Resources for teaching children about their disorders?

What are your favorite resources for teaching children about their own Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder, etc.? The boy is getting bigger and asking bigger questions about himself. I see him starting to identify with and use titles, but I don’t want to him to be defined by these titles alone.

Read more from me on my Momma Has Monsters page on Facebook.

Happy Holidays! Care for your kid your way

It’s four days before Christmas. My mom broke her hip, so we’re not doing the holidays at her house this year. Instead, we’ll have our normal Christmas Eve tradition here, as well as a few merry surprises for the kids, which I’ll share later.

Stink’s tics remain reasonable. They were up a bit the other day. Apparently, macaroni and cheese along with fried breaded chicken sticks aren’t a good combo for our gluten free/dairy free wonder child. But it’s the holidays. I’m over thinking there is a cure out there for TS. I’m going for the bucket theory: Joy, balance and discipline. Shake it all up and do your best.

On a doctor’s note, the good doc at UCLA of months past continued to irritate me last week as I went for a prescription of Intuniv and found he did not fill it. He had never returned my phone calls or e-mails either. This is an all-too-familiar pattern from last year, when he wouldn’t return my calls for an initial appointment, then once we had an appointment (enter me kicking and screaming) he did not follow up a month later as promised.

Three months later, plus a ridiculous dog and pony show for some trial for Asperger’s — which we still don’t know if Stink has or has not — and we have no official diagnosis. What do we have? Some Intuniv that I could have received through a regular physician.

The takeaway from this? You need to be a pitbull with your kid’s medical care. There is no easy 1-2-3, so don’t waste time being frustrated over lack of follow-through from doctors. YOU be the follow through. This is no time to throw a hissy fit.

Another takeaway? Most labels are crap. I don’t know if my kid is an Aspie. If he is, he’s super high-functioning with great grades and friends. What I do know is that he is hilarious, smart, creative and has the soul of a preacher/conman. He’s OK in my book.

Treat the condition, but don’t neglect the spirit of the child. The second will take him much farther in life.

How are you all doing? What are your Christmas plans?

Read my more at my Happily Ticked Off blog.