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Advice please- school suggest my son has Asperger's

Discussion in 'Primary' started by ashlioct, Apr 4, 2011.

  1. ashlioct

    ashlioct New commenter

    Please excuse the double post, I have also posted this in SEN. I'm not sure what's the best place to get some advice.
    My 6 year old son has attended the same school since nursery and in that time each teacher he has had has made a pseudo-diagnosis of an autistic spectrum disorder based on (what I believe to be) very tenuous evidence. My son is a bright, articulate and loving child who has does not have a problem with social interactions. He is not the most popular child in the class but he has many friends and does not particularly spend time on his own. He does have some attachment to routines and can become upset when plans have been changed. He has passionate interests, but these are not obsessive as he enjoys a wide range of activities and is interested in many topics. He is a rather grown-up child for his age and can take things quite seriously, but he is definately not without a sense of humour or the ability to be lighthearted. He can become anxious about odd things, at the moment for example he becomes distressed at school if he is last in the line.They apparently have noticed other symptoms over the 3 years that we have never seen, for example at the age of 3 his nursery teacher believed he had a problem making eye contact with adults. He is a very intelligent child (level 3 reader in year 1). We do not have any problems with him at home, nor does his childminder of 4 years. I myself am a primary school teacher and have taught children with ASD and with Asperger's and my son does not come close to the complex needs exhibited by these children,
    Each teacher has repeated the same speech to me in successive parents evenings, basically that he possibly has an ASD, that his symptoms aren't serious enough to warrant them suggesting an assessment, that it's something we should keep an eye on. We have various medical links in the family, including a consultant psychiatrist, and have discussed this matter with them at length. None of them are of the opinion that our child has an ASD. We have explained this to each teacher he has had and have previously discussed it with the head. We are incredibly reluctant to put our child through an official assessment, he is very perceptive and would figure out what is going on- I believe this would be emotionally damaging to him. As he is what they describe as 'high fucntioning', we have been told that no extra support would be made available even if a diagnosis was made.
  2. ashlioct

    ashlioct New commenter

    My partner and I obviously find their insistence on pathologising our child very distressing. I feel that my child is being inexpertly pigeon-holed and not treated as an individual. I do not believe that character quirks constitute an ASD and I think that he could be much better helped with his anxiety issues without the unhelpful assumption that they are caused by some disorder. My partner and I would like the school to stop alluding to medical diagnoses that they are not qualified to make. I would be grateful if anyone could cast an objective eye over the matter and give me their opinion.
  3. I'm confused - is school suggesting they put your son through an assessment or not? If they are suggesting that they keep an eye on the situation then I think they are doing exactly the right thing. What you must remember is that they will see him in completely different social situations that you ever can, because you will only ever see him when he has the security of family around him. If three successive teachers have raised the same concerns then, personally, I would be thankful that school were attentive to his needs.

  4. lilykitty

    lilykitty New commenter

    It's the teacher's job to discuss any concerns they have with you, to give you a balanced view of how your child is responding to the demands of the school environment. As a teacher, you know this. You also know that it is better to share concerns as they come up. You would not want to be meeting with a teacher for the first time and finding out that your son has had difficulties since nursery but no one had ever mentioned it because they weren't extreme enough to merit a referral.
    We all know that school is a very particular environment, and that some children absolutely love it, some find it perfectly manageable, some find it tricky but usually OK, some need additional help and for some children it is the wrong environment altogether. A teacher's job is to value the individual child for who they are, and where possible help them to develop some skills to make the tricky parts easier.
    Every year, I have had some children who fall into the 'tricky but usually OK' category. Sometimes the children are very shy, sometimes they struggle to work with others and to compromise, sometimes they are 'mini adults' and struggle to connect with their peers. I always talk to the parents about the difficulties the child is encountering, not because I can 'fix' them or because I expect the parents to 'fix' them but just to let the parents know what is going on. Hopefully, in time and with support the child will develop skills to help make primary school life easier. If the problems do become more serious it isn't going to come as a total shock to the parents.
    It sounds as though this is what the teachers at your son's school are doing. They are letting you know that they have noticed some behaviours which might be associated with the ASD spectrum, but do not feel they are marked enough to suggest a full assessment. They are probably hoping that as time passes and with help he will develop skills which will make school life easier for him. I know it is difficult to hear these things about your child. However, you would not want to be called in to school when your son is in Year 4 or 5 and asked to give permission for an autistic spectrum assessment if this had never been mentioned before.
  5. ashlioct

    ashlioct New commenter

    Thanks for your reply. Sorry, I did not explain that part very well. One of the options suggested to us by our relative the psychiatrist was to go through a formal assessment to provide the school with evidence that my son does not have an ASD as he is very sure that he does not. I am reluctant to persue this option as I think it would be distressing to my son.
    I don't feel that the school have been attentive to his needs. Attention to his needs I believe would be indicated by a conversation that went along the lines of 'your son has this, this and this issue, these are causing him problems in class. I suggest the following strategies to help him' The conversations that have occured have been more along the lines of 'you son has this, this and this issue. This is not normal behaviour. We think he has an ASD but we don't propose doing anything about it.'
    This is a really good point, I hadn't considered it in that way, and it possibly goes some way to explaining how the child that they're describing is a completely different child to the one I see at home. Still I think the focus should be on how the clqssroom environment is wrong for my child rather than how my child is wrong for the environment. I feel that though he is not a particularly conventional child his differences are largely positive ones (gifted reader, focused interests, mathematical/ logical thinker, excellent recall ) and that a somewhat distinctive personality is no reason to label him as having a disorder. I also feel sure that a concerted effort by his teacher to help him work thorugh his anxieties at school would have the same success that I have had with similar problems at home, namely, that the anxiety disappears (for example he is never upset about unplanned changes to a routine any more when they occur at home). I am fully aware that my feelings on this matter are entirely subjective but I really feel that my unique and special little boy is being inappropriately shoe-horned into a greatly over-used little box.
  6. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    Oh, I do feel for you ashlicot. Your heart must be breaking that the school you (I presume) have so carefully selected does not see your little boy in the same terms that you see yourself. I know from first hand how devastating it can be when a professional (be they medical or educational) tells you that your beloved baby is not the person you thought they were - and how much we, as parents first - need to trust in their assessments.
    From what you've written it sounds as if the bond of trust that ought to exist between you and the school your son attends is being constantly eroded by a continuance of a 'diagnosis' that you do not agree with? You have obviously given the matter some thought and done some research into it, come to a conclusion and it sounds as if you feel your considered opinion has been dismissed by the teachers who work with your son?
    If you feel that a label would be a negative thing, wouldn't actually change anything etc etc, then don't give your consent to any labelling process. DO try to keep the lines of communication open between you and the school - would it be a good idea to get a meeting going where you can all share good practice? The school can then see what you are doing at home and see if there is any way they can incorporate the same ideas into the classroom? Is there someone on the staff with whom you get on well? I am very fortunate in that I get on with the SEN at my sons' school very well indeed, and she is always willing to listen to my ideas (and sometimes put them into practice!). And I hate to suggest it, but when I felt the school weren't listening at all, we had a meeting (my eldest had been a horror) and I took MrG. He only said a couple of words (he's not very wordy!), but he made them sit up and take notice, which then enabled me to follow him up with my practical ideas etc. It makes me grind my teeth, but it seems (at the school my kids go to, anyway) that when daddy goes to a meeting, people take notice. (whether that is because they realise that because daddy has taken a day off from work that it must be important, because they only listen to me (!!!), or because they don't like me personally I wouldn't like to say...!)
    It's a bit rambling, but I hope it helps?
  7. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Yes I agree. It sounds as though you need to try somehow to move the conversations with school onwards so that they become ones about the situations that seem to distress your son in some way, and how to help him cope with those situations, or avoid them if you see what I mean.
    I take your point entirely that just stating from time to time they think he might be mildly ASD and this is why certain things happen at school is not productive for anyone.
    Maybe you should push for assessment of his abilities instead, and you might find that the Ed Psych and the specialist teaching service in your LA will as a byproduct help the school with strategies to get the most out of your son's potential without labelling him ASD. Your son might appreciate an assessment of his abilities. I can see exactly where you are coming from about him not wanting anything else to be assessed.
  8. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    sorry, meant to write 'men'.

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