Does My Son Have a Disorder??

Updated on February 20, 2008
C.S. asks from Fort Collins, CO
38 answers

I'm just wondering if anyone else has experienced these behavior's with their child? My son is 4.5yrs and has hypotonia (low muscle tone). This has impaired his gross and fine motor skills, but he continues to get help and has made tremendous progress. He also has some odd quirks though. He walks on his toes, flaps his hands, repeats questions and phrases, and is fixated on strange things like, garage doors, vents, garbage cans, etc. Otherwise he seems fine congnitively and speaks well,....it's just these "quirks". I'm just wondering if I should be concerned about these behaviors or not? Does anyone else have similar issues with their child?
Thanks:)

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I just want to thank everyone so much for all the information, resources, and support!!

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K.D.

answers from Denver on

I would be concerned. Children's in Denver would be able to give him a good evaluation. Also, my mom works with kids like him, and especially enjoys the ones with muscle tone problems. If you're interested I could give you her information.

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D.M.

answers from Denver on

I just found out that my 16 month old daughter has sensory processing disorder. She doesn't have any of those traits but I have read about them while researching this condition. You might want to look into it. Good luck.

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H.B.

answers from Denver on

Have your son tested for Fragile X Syndrome. My son has it and many of the "quirks" that you are talking about are traits of Fragile X. It is a blood test and takes awhile to get back but it is worth knowing.

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L.A.

answers from Phoenix on

I don't want to scare/concern you but many of those quirks are signs of autism. I would get him evaluated ASAP because the sooner you can get him the services he needs, ie. Occupational therapy for the sensory input, the better. With proper intervention, your son can make huge gains as you are seeing from physical therapy. Good luck!

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T.

answers from Las Vegas on

C.,

In my experience, all of those quirks are red flags for autism. Autism is a spectrum disorder and it isn't unusual at all for a child with autism spectrum disorder to have really uneven skills. They can be really high functioning in some areas and really low functioning in others. I have a 4.5 year old who has autism. Overall he's high functioning but he's very mixed. Some areas he's really good and some he's really not. Hypotonia is common in kids with ASD, as are impairments in gross and fine motor skills. Thinks like walking on toes, flapping hands, are normally a symptom of sensory integration issues - which are extremely common in kids with autism. Repeating questions and phrases and the fixations on things are classic red flags for autism. My son was evaluated (for free) by my local school district when he turned 3. He's currently receiving 30 hours a week of services through the school district and all of that is free also. He is also eligible for transportation so they will pick him up and drop him off at my door, all for free. My son has significant language delays (although not all kids on the spectrum do), sensory issues (he walks on his toes, is sensory defensive of his head, face and hands, can't stand tags in his clothes, has a limit diet because of food texture issues, is obsessed with tools, anything with buttons, etc... He also will tilt his head back and look at things kind of sideways. He's got low muscle tone and some motor skill issues. On the flip side he's extremely smart, extremely mechanical and very, very social (although not always appropriately social). In my experience, if your child was my child, I'd be very concerned and I'd have him evaluated. If they decide it isn't autism he may have some other issues (like sensory integration disorder) that is highly treatable. Autism itself is actually highly treatable. There is an amazing amount you can do to help your child live a full, productive life if he does have autism. And the earlier you start, the better.

Just in general after reading some of the other responses, I wouldn't recommend consulting your pediatrian. For some reason, in my experience, pediatricans are a horrible source of info on autism - they, like most people, think all kids with autism are "Rainman" and they really aren't. The early childhood program at your school district is the easiest, least costly option. Another good option would be to have him evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. If you have a teaching or children's hosptial they could give you a referral. I will warn you that private services tend to be really expensive and they are usually not covered by insurance. I highly recommend that you take all of the free stuff you can get first and then supplement where you feel that you need to. We are paying $120 an hour for private speech therapy and $165 an hour for occupational therapy (for sensory issues) because my son needs extra help in those areas. We spend a frightening amount of money each month on private services (you can seriously spend thousands!). So take all of the free stuff first. An evaluation by a private practice developmental specialist can cost upwards of $2000. My insurance won't cover it.

Good luck!
T.

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K.M.

answers from Fort Collins on

My son is on the autistic spectrum, and has many of the same issues as your child. I suggest you speak to your son's doctor about this. Your doctor may give you a referral for Children's hospital for an evaluation or another area for evaluation.
You should google asperger syndrome, autism, autistic spectrum and see if any of these disorders apply to him.
If you would like to speak to me some more or ask questions please email me.

K. (mom of 6 year old, 3 year old and 9 month old)

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T.R.

answers from Denver on

C.-
Your son has definite signs of Autism, which has a wide spectrum of levels. Walking on tiptoes, flapping hands, and odd fixations are all signs. Luckily, the earlier you catch it, the more you can help your child. Call your pediatrician and he/she wil probably see your son first and then refer you to a specialist.
I don't have any autistic children myself, but I run an in'home childcare service and have a little boy about whom I had my suspicions, so I started researching. You might want to google "Autism." There's lots of information on the internet and then you can decide for yourself if it fits your son.
I live in Longmont and know someone who specializes in pre-school and childcare of Autistic children if you need some help. Email me back if you're interested. [email protected]____.com
It's no fun to hear something like this, but there is so much help available. Good luck! --T. in Longmont

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C.N.

answers from Phoenix on

Dear C.:

Along with all the wonderful suggestions & comments you received, consider Asian medicine, which includes the use of acupuncture, herbs, diet, bodywork, exercise, and mind-body meditation or energy work. Asian medicine has excellent track records in dealing with autism disorders and child developmental issues (both physical, mental & emotional). Since children's systems are still developing, there are many factors which can cause imbalances, whether it be from inherited physical conditions, diet, reactions to vaccinations/fevers/viruses, and emotions. If you did a google search on the condition along with the words (Chinese medicine, Asian medicine, acupuncture, Oriental medicine, herbs, etc.) you would find a multitude of information out there. In addition, there are over 400 licensed acupuncturists in this state, along with an Oriental medical college in Phoenix and a couple in Tucson. These colleges have low-cost clinics and superior faculty with which to consult. Also consider homeopathy, which is wonderful for children (and often much easier to administer). There is also a homeopathic and naturopathic college in town. Among all the available research, I have seen some excellent research papers at our college on the topic, and I know there is much that can be done. In particular, observe and possibly change the diet (avoid wheat and dairy which creates mucus/glue which blocks the the flow of energy, fluids and blood to the muscles).
There are also some great herbal tonics which can strengthen the systems which govern the muscles.

Hope this helps.
C. N, mom of 3 year old (recipient of lots of good Asian medicine & homeopathy)

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J.L.

answers from Colorado Springs on

I noticed these behaviors in my son when he was three. Being an ex-teacher, I was immediately concerned about Autism (specifically Aspberger's Syndrome). When I had him tested at the CDC (Children's Development Center on Academy) they diagnosed him with Sensory Integration Disorder. Because of this diagnosis he is able to get Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech services through State programs. We didn't have the money to afford all this on our own. I recommend that you call your pediatrician to begin the testing process. Good luck.

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A.L.

answers from Denver on

As a Mom, you know your little one better than anyone. I think that if these things worry you, you can definitely take steps to find out why he is doing them. A question to ask yourself is, do his little quirks get in the way of his day to day life? The agency Child Find might be able to answer some questions for you, and they will do it for free. It is a state agency that works through the school system, for children of all ages.

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J.G.

answers from Albuquerque on

I have spent the last week looking into Autism as someone was concerend about my son. The testing and evaluations are free through you insurance, they really take care of you and your child and give you the best help possible. Please get it checked out because this will at least get you some answers and ideas, and It Can Be Helped, if not Reversed.
Also, TRust you instincts. They are there for a reason. Ask a million questions and get the million answers. Your son will be okay, and if you can get some help and answers, he will be even better. He will thank you for it. THose 'Stimms' are his coping mechanisms, they help him relax when all else around him is so everwhelming...Take care of him as he can't do it on his own yet. You are the perfect one who can.

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T.C.

answers from Denver on

My 4 year old son was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which is also called high functioning autism. I've been reading a lot about it, and some of these symptoms may be signs of autism. Poor muscle tone and decreased fine motor skills are also sometimes a symptom. I don't mean to scare you , but it's worth checking out.

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K.R.

answers from Phoenix on

HI C., Has he been evaluated by your school district? If not, get him tested there to start. He sounds like he has some sensory issues and possibly an auditory processing problem. Not to scare you, but those "quirks" you refer to are also red flags for autism. Before you panic, Autism is a spectum disorder meaning there are many levels. Is he getting Occupational and Physical therapies for his hypotonia? Have you discussed your concerns with your doctor and therapists (if getting OT/PT)?

K. - Speech Therapist

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K.P.

answers from Denver on

Hi C.; as a naturopathic doctor, who sees many children on the autistic spectrum, i would say these behaviors warrant a professional diagnosis to rule out a behavioral issue in this spectrum. Warmest regards,K. www.naturemedclinic.com

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K.C.

answers from Denver on

That sounds just like my son. He's 10 now, but when he was 4-5yrs old, he was diagnosed with ADHD, PDD-NOS(Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and has sensory issues. If I were you, I would have him evaluated immediately. If there's no problem, that's great, but if there is, you need to get him help as soon as possible. With any Autism Spectrum Disorder, early intervention is crucial. I also thought my son was just an "interesting" kid with quirks, but there was sooo much more to his issues. And he's also got hypotonia and went to OT for a few years. He did so well he no longer needs it. Your son's behaviors are really raising a red flag for me right now. I'm no expert, but, really, what you wrote could easily have been written by me 5-6 years ago. And just to let you know, my now 10 year old is mainstreamed in a 4th grade class (exactly where he should be) and is doing really well. Most people don't even realize there's anything different about him. So please understand that a Autism diagnosis isn't the end of the world at all. My son is the most interesting child I've ever met...the way his mind works just astounds me sometimes! Chances are your son is just fine, but just in case there are issues, go ahead and get him checked out. If you need more info or just want someone to talk to, feel free to send me a private message. Good luck!

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K.W.

answers from Phoenix on

Hi C.,

I can't tell you whether or not your son has a disorder, but a can give you a direction to look--just in case.

A couple of years ago, I edited, illustrated, formatted and published a book titled "Missing Genetic Pieces". It was written by a mom whose son had different problems, some minor and some major, that appeared to be unrelated. As time went by she became convinced that there was some underlying reason for all of this and even went back to school for a nursing degree to try and figure out what was wrong with her son. He remained undiagnosed until he was 18 (and some of his problems were much more serious than what you have described). During that time, she was accused of being both an overprotective and abusive mom because he missed so much school, and he was described as a lazy student. Doctors kept telling her there was nothing wrong with her son--just a series of unrelated illnesses and quirks like ear infections that resulted in hearing loss, a nasal voice, extra long fingers, too many teeth, recurring bouts of pneumonia, he walked on his toes, had leg pains and a knee that kept popping out of joint, nose bleeds and cognitive/learning problems. When he was finally diagnosed, it was discovered that he was missing a single chromosome, the 22q11 and the results of missing just this one chromosome, can result in as many as 187 different anomalies--some very minor and others very serious--ranging from physical things to mental and emotional ones, including some learning disabilities. He has experienced maybe 20 or 30 of these anomalies and is now 27 years old.

I would consider having some genetic testing done, or at least discussing it with your pediatrician. At the time Sherry was going through this, there was very little knowledge in the field. She couldn't even find a doctor in the whole Phoenix, Arizona area that even knew what his condition (Velo-Cardio Facial Syndrome or VCFS) was after the diagnosis. Now, however, there are many places and physicians with awareness of genetic syndromes etc. There are also many different chromosomes and things that can result from missing one of them. Autism and other sydromes are among the genetic possibilties. The fact that you are noticing more than one seemingly unrelated quirks etc. is the reason I would suggest looking in this direction. If if is the case, the earlier you know, the better prepared you can be with information, support groups or whatever it might take to help him.

The book that I helped Sherry publish is on-line at: http://www.winmarkcom.com/vcfs.htm That web page is linked to a resources page that includes listings of medical resources in the genetic field. You might take a look and see if there are any listed in your area, or make a call or two and see if some of the pros in the field can give you some idea as to whether or not the things you are noticing could possibly be genetically related. The ones I have talked to are pretty knowledgeable in their fields. I hope that he does not have a disorder and that it's just something very simple, but it is better to be armed with information.

Best of luck to you and your son,
K. Winters

About me: mother of 3, stepmother of 3, grandmother of 7

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S.S.

answers from Denver on

What did your Pediatrician say? Getting him evaluated is always a good idea, because there are so many great resources to help our kids out there. My son also had some strange quirks, and when we started looking into it we realized there were more things that we hadn't realized were connected. Now he's getting services from the school and privately and it is helping him so much. An Occupational Therapist can make a huge difference, and the quicker you get him help, the easier life will be for him.

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T.C.

answers from Phoenix on

Hi C., I am a first grade teacher and by no means a doctor, but some of those "quirks" sound like autistic behaviors. I have 2 autistic students in my class rght now and they have some of those same symptoms-- fixations, repeating questions, flapping of the arms. Maybe do some research on autism, and talk with your doctor. Good luck.
~T.

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K.B.

answers from Tucson on

I have worked with children with autism spectrum disorders for the last fourteen years. I would have your son evaluated by someone who is knowledgeable in this field. A diagnosis of autism is not the end of the world. Many of the children I have worked with have gone on to do very well in school and on into young adulthood

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L.K.

answers from Denver on

Sounds like sensory integration disorder (my nephew has it). I am not a medical professional, so I would urge you to speak to your pediatrician. You also can find information about this disorder online and of course there are books on the subject. Good luck.

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N.R.

answers from Tucson on

I watched a show on t.v. about autism and some of these quirks sound familiar to what they listed as signs to look for. The walking on the tip toes though is something that my nephew did and it was because the muscles in his calves were not growing and stretching as he grew. The muscles on his calves were so tight that he was unable to walk flat on his feet. He was also 4 when this was discovered. The doctors had to inject botox into his calves and put special casts on his legs that gradually forced him to walk on his feet. He's great now. I hope that this was helpful and not discourging.

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E.D.

answers from Tucson on

i have two suggestions, based on experience with my son. i am not diagnosing, but look up "sensory integration disorder" or "sensory processing disorder" and see if that seems to discribe your son. if you are in tucson i have a great doctor for you to see: doctor sanford newmark. see what he says. if you feel like you should be concerned, be concerned. i talked to our pedatricians for 2 years with them saying "that's normal", until i finally followed my gut, did research online and my son was diagnosed with tourettes syndrome. if you have any questions, i'm happy answer them.

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C.B.

answers from Denver on

Sounds like a mild form of autism. My son had the same thing-echolalia (repeating phrases) and the hand flapping is pretty common with this. Good news, my son who is now almost 16 outgrew it, is extremely intelligent and somewhat involved in sports. My recommendation is to get him into some kind of activity-maybe a sport like tennis or golf where he is developing his skills as an individual, keep him social and make sure he gets help from people familiar with high functioning autistics etc

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J.R.

answers from Denver on

C.,

I feel your pain as I went through something similar with my daughter. At the same time I thought there might be something wrong with her, I was petrified to look into it in case there actually was something wrong. It was very scary.

Your son is probably fine. It's so easy for us to be focused on our kids and, once worried, start to question even normal preschooler behavior. I think it depends on your comfort level with uncertainty. I really needed to know if my daughter had a disorder because the public school system said she did. She had low tone also and some "quirky" behaviors that were not being addressed by her early intervention PT/OT. Our pediatrician failed to recognize anything wrong. However, at age 3 the public school system took over for the home therapy we were receiving. They were very quick to judge her as "special needs", "autism spectrum", etc. I therefore requested a multidisciplinary evaluation and chose private treatment rather than going into the school system with an unproven "diagnosis".

We live in Denver and I can recommend someone great if you live there. Although my daughter may always have low tone, she is now functioning quite normally and was evaluated as "not autistic". She received intensive therapy in our home and at her preschool. Think how reassuring it will be to receive the information that your son is "normal" - important information to deliver to the school at kindergarden age. Whether or not you receive a diagnosis, the earlier you can intervene, the better, so that by kindergarden/first grade you can avoid any negative teacher/peer reactions.

If you are not in Denver, it was my experience that the best sources for evaluation/treatment were private groups specializing in autism and/or Fragile X. Although my child is not autistic, the treatment methods they used were great at dealing with some of her "quirks". It took me a while to get used to the fact that the same people also treat autism. It helped to know that they also treat kids with ADD and behavior problems. Today, I don't care so much because my daughter is doing so well and her "quirks" are completely gone. I truly attribute it to the treatment she received.

Good luck with this. I'd be happy to share more information if you're interested.

J.

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M.L.

answers from Fort Collins on

Have you looked into Asberger's syndrome? I don't know that much about it and I'm not sure I spelled it right, but you described all the tell tale signs that I have heard listed.

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C.M.

answers from Phoenix on

Hi C.,
First off, I don't mean to alarm you, but I have a 2.5 yr old son that has similar sensory issues (toe walking, hand flaping, ect.). He was diagnosed at 22 months with autism and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Has your Pediatrician ever suggested having him evaluated? I would have him evaluated-just to make sure. I know through my experiance that there are several children who have SPD, and get help through Occupational Therapy-it's worked wonders for my son.
Again, the last thing I want to do is scare you, but it's worth the piece of mind to have him evaluated. And if he does have any type of disorder, it's best to get him early intervention. Good luck to you and your family :)
C.

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A.R.

answers from Las Vegas on

I'm not an expert, but I had some concerns about my own son when he was younger, and your son's behaviors such as the hand flapping (known as "stimming") and repeating things (echolalia) and such sound like symptoms of autism. I would recommend checking out www.autismspeaks.org and also talking to your pediatrician and getting an evaluation by experts in the county school system. I hope this doesn't alarm you, but it's best to know right away so you can get your son the therapy that would help him. If he is on the autism spectrum, I'd recommend the Applied Behavioral Approach (ABA) method during the day. I'm happy to say that I had concerns about my son and had him enrolled in the ABA program, but now he's 4 1/2 and doesn't need it anymore. I hope the same situation will happen to you.

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I.W.

answers from Phoenix on

C., I would have him checked out by a developmental pediatrician. It certainly wouldn't hurt.

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M.W.

answers from Phoenix on

I teach children with autism and those behaviors sound similar to some of the children I have seen over the years, but it sounds like your son may only have some mild symptoms. You say he is already getting help with his motor skills. Does he work with an occupational therapist? If none of the professionals he is working with are concerned about his "quirks" then he is probably okay, but I would look into it a little further since if that is the case, early intervention is key.

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S.B.

answers from Denver on

Please immediately contact your son's school - what school district are you in? Ask for the Childfind contact. According to Federal law, you are entitled to a free evaluation of your child's behavior and academic needs and then if he is determined to be eligible for services, placement in the least restrictive enviroment with appropriate supports. It's the easiest and cheapest way to set your worries to rest - it does sound like you are right to be concerned and these behaviors can really interfere with his ability to learn. You said he continues to get help - is he seeing a physical therapist? Did he get early intervention? They should be able to refer you to the right people for these evals as well. I'm a professional advocate for families with children with special needs and work with families to help them get the right services or find the right placements. My daughter, now 12 1/2, has learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder and anxiety disorder as a result of her premature birth and she's been in services since her birth weighing 1 lb 11 oz. I'm pretty experienced at getting the system to help parents out!

take care, S.

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J.L.

answers from Tucson on

HI C.,

My son has a mild form of Tourette's that involves some facial ticks (jerking his head, blinking funny etc.). While reading up on the "tics" when they first appeared they were part of the Autism spectrum disorders. I hate to use the owrd disorder though, because what is also invloved are periods of absolute genius! He can take apart things and put back together small motors and what he can do with Legos...it is amazing! You may want to read up on the Autism spectrum characteristics, but also look for those amazing abilities..there is likely a reason he is fixated on certain things. Those fixations are usually related to unique abilities.

As for treatment, docs wanted to put him on some crazy drugs. We flat out refused and are using diet and supplementation. Low to no dairy, lots and lots of fresh organic (or grown without pesticide) fruits and veggies. And very seldom allowed processed sugar. It has made a HUGE difference. We use natural supplements from the health food store, normally packaged for ADD. They contain grape seed extraxt, omega 3 fatty acids and levels of certain minerals that these kids process differently.

Good luck!...Jaimie in Tucson

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K.N.

answers from Denver on

To answer your questions---Yes, you should be concerned about these behaviors and Yes, I have had similar issues with my oldest child relating to Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). However, like the other responses I have also read these signs to be noted in kids with Asperger's and Autism. They may seem like quirks now, but I would suspect that when he enters into kindergarten and beyond that his peer interactions may be affected because other children will see him as different. He may also have difficulty discerning social appropriateness and display these behaviors while everyone else is sitting quietly---he could be wrongly judged as a behavior problem when he simply is "wired" differently and just needs the tools to cope.

Bottom line---have him evaluated through Child Find in Colorado. Contact your local/home school to get the info on where/how to get and evaluation set up. It's free of charge for the evaluation and if he needs services, the school would be able to help. Like a lot of kids with issues, however, your son would probably benefit from private help as well as the school services, depending on what the evaluation discovers.

Best wishes!

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A.A.

answers from Denver on

My son has similar tendencies, flapping wrists, highly energetic, though not the low muscle tone. We do notice that when he eats a lots of fruit and vegetables and less sugar and gluten, that he tends to mellow out...I'd ask your doctor or take him to an alternative one like a homeopath...

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M.J.

answers from Tucson on

These symptoms could be red flags of a few different disorders. As a special educator I have worked with kids with these symptoms who have been diagnosed with either high functioning autism, sensoring integration dysfunction, obsessive compulsive disorder, adhd, or food allergies. So, rather than drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out on your own, trust your instincts and take him to a developmental pediatrian or a psychiatrist or psychologist specializing in young children for a thorough evaluation. The sooner you get a diagnosis, if it does turn out to be one of these, the sooner you can get the help your son will need to work through his 'quirks' so they do not become a hinderance to his learning and socialization.

Good Luck,
M.
Married, mother of 6 1/2 yr. old daughter, work full-time as Developmental Specialist/Support Coordinator in an Early Intervention Program.

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M.B.

answers from Las Vegas on

I am not a doctor; however, some of this behavior resembles a neighbor boy of mine. He is about the same age (just turned 5). I noticed a little different behavior in the boy, but never felt it was my place to say anything. Well the mother, now a friend of mine, recently told me that they finally went and had him tested--as it turns out, he has been diagnosed as having mild autism, funtioning autism. Having found this out early enough, they were able to get him into special preschools which could help him get ready for school later on. You know your child, and maybe this is so not applicable to him. I was just suprised when she told me that 1 in a 100 kids have autism. Amazing. Well, maybe it is something worth reading about to see if it seems to fit his behavior.

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M.G.

answers from Denver on

I have a wonderful friend who is one of the top Occupational Therapists in the country. She worked at Children's hospital for many years before going into private practice. She also has a child who has sensory processing disorders and ADHD. Her name is Michelle Lange. If you're ever looking to change or would like a real mom who is one of the top professionals in this field, she is definitely the one to go to. I will be praying for you and your son! :)

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A.S.

answers from Denver on

You can look up Sensory Integration Disorder and see what you think.

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G.V.

answers from Phoenix on

I echo the responses from those who recommended checking into Autism and Asberger's.

If your son indeed has either of these, I have several resources for you to consider. Please call my office at ###-###-####.

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