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Advice please- school suggest my son has Asperger's

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by dc88, Apr 4, 2011.

  1. How very unprofessional. It takes a team of at least 4 qualified professionals in different health/education roles, to make any kind of justified diagnosis. They have no right to throw that kind of pressure onto a parent. Although many traits that you have mentioned are indeed popularly considered to be autistic traits, the vast majority of ASD students I have worked with have no issues with making eye contact. Routine isn't synonymous with Autism, many children at 6 years old like routines.
  2. I'm the parent of a 12 year-old boy with a diagnosis of 'autism spectrum disorder' who meets the diagnostic criteria for AS apart from the fact that he has a problem with receptive and expressive speech. I trained as a psychologist, have worked as a primary teacher and have been educating my son at home for the past four years because we couldn't find a suitable school for him. He is due to return to school in September. Because of major problems over diagnosis and support, I've researched the issue of diagnosis of ASDs in depth. I can't promise to be objective, but I can tell you what I've found.

    A diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder is not the same sort of diagnosis as it would be for Down syndrome for example, where we know the cause of the condition. Autism is a descriptive term for a pattern of behaviour, based on an assumption that similar behaviours are caused by the same underlying condition, and a diagnosis is a subjective judgement that an individual child's behaviour is a good match to the behaviour of other children with similar behaviours. Essentially a diagnosis of ASD is someone saying that in their professional opinion a child's behaviours have a physical, medical cause rather than being the result of dysfunctional parenting, bad behaviour or poor teaching.

    Children with special needs pose a significant problem in mainstream education because they can be a drain on resources that the school would rather direct towards maintaining the attainment levels of children within the normal ability range. I can see why it might be tempting to get a child ‘diagnosed' because that can absolve teachers of blame if the kid starts having problems.

    Also, people working in education often believe (wrongly) that a diagnosis will allow a child to access medical support, just as people working in healthcare often believe (wrongly) that a diagnosis will allow a child to access additional educational support.

    I completely agree that your child should be treated as an individual, and that all children, labeled or otherwise, are entitled to an education suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they might have. A diagnosis is irrelevant unless it's for something with a known cause where tried and tested interventions have been found to help. Given the wide variation in ASDs, whether they have a diagnosis or not is irrelevant to what learning support they need.

    And however 'quirky' a child might be, if they don't need significant additional support in the classroom, then what is there to worry about?
  3. I found this query interesting because I have been on the other side of the fence, as it were. One of my sons, who as now 14, has always seemed to me as if he might have a very mild ASD, although he's not unhappy as he is and I don't think he really needs any help. He's quite a solitary child by nature, although he has a couple of good friends now who share some of his rather quirky, methodical interests, such as Lego modelling, making animations, designing his own fonts and sometimes creating whole complex back stories and facts and figures for a simple game. He doesn't particularly enjoy socialising in bigger groups and particularly dislikes team sports, but as he's got older has found some more unusual physical activities he quite enjoys, such as rock climbing and rollerblading. I used to think he had trouble with eye contact but then noticed that he tended to look to the side when listening to someone, after I had been doing some training about different learning styles, and apparently this is a classic sign of an auditory learner. Certainly he can repeat back in good detail what you were saying to him when he didn't LOOK as if he was listening!

    When he was younger I brought the possibility of an ASD up at a couple of check-ups, not so much because I was worried that he was missing out on help he needed, as because I thought it was important to make it clear that I was aware of his eccentricities and not in denial about them. But all the people I spoke to felt that he either didn't have a problem, or if he did it was not necessary to do anything as he was happy and doing well at school.

    I suppose what I am trying to say is that there are people who don't exactly have an ASD but do have slightly unusual personality traits that can be better managed if they are accepted for what they are, and not expected to be exactly the same as everyone else. You said your son gets upset if he has to be last in a line. That's the sort of thing that it is useful for a teacher to be aware of and perhaps cut him some slack until, in his own time, he manages to overcome that obstacle. TBH that particular problem sounds like one that will probably sort itself out as he matures. (I work with a child who definitely HAS got an ASD, and he used to worry about the very same thing, but even he has got more relaxed about it as he got older, and with lots of talking about how it doesn't matter if he is last, we will never let him get left behind or lost.)
  4. RJR_38

    RJR_38 New commenter

    Without knowing you son or the school it is very difficult for us to make judgements of any kind but I might throw a few 'ideas' into the mix to give you something to think about.
    How do you know this - is this something the teachers have said he does at school? Children can behave very differently at school to at home and perhaps he does not play with children by choice? (Playing with is very different from playing alongside don't forget)
    This isn't necessarily unusual for child of that age but how upset does he become? SO upset he can;t concentrate on his work? So upset it keeps playing on his mind- this is perhaps more serious and needs to be thought about
    Each child with ASD/autism is different - just like any other child and what makes autism so hard to diagnose. I teach children in my SEN hub who have autism and people don't always realise as the traits only come out in certain situations
    This is not necessarily the case - he may need some support with social situations at a later date if it turns out he is indeed autistic.
    This is a completely personal choice and I can understand your reluctance if it seems to not be having an impact on him currently. TO put your mind at rest though your son would not 'figure out' what was going on. The diagnosis is based on some surverys etc from school, yourselves and chats with the child plus watching them play etc over a couple of visits - if you didn';t make a big deal out of it then he wouldn't either.
    As I say, only you know your son and I am perhaps playing devils advocate here to give food for thought?
  5. Don't know why RJR doesn't think the OP's son wouldn't 'figure out' what was going on. My son between five and seven was assessed half to death and then agreement wasn't reached as to what was wrong with him. He got really fed up with the whole thing and ended up refusing to comply.
    The school is quite likely to ask for a multi-agency assessment, which, in our case involved a long drawn out process involving toing and froing to various far-flung places to see occupational therapists, speech therapists and the like. And when he was finally diagnosed - at 10 - eight years after we first raised concerns about his development - the diagnosis involved blood and urine tests to rule out genetic and metabolic disorders - which it should do, because autistic characteristics might be caused by them.
    I wouldn't say assessment had a damaging effect on my son, so much as being a frustrating inconvenience. A diagnosis has admittedly swung the balance as far as educational provision is concerned, but it actually shouldn't have done so - educational support should be according to need, not diagnosis.
    I think the OP is wise to avoid the assessment route unless there is evidence that her son has significant problems with any aspects of his school life - and concerns appear to be based on hunches from what teachers have said.


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