High Functioning Autism?

Updated on November 27, 2011
C.S. asks from Cannon Falls, MN
17 answers

Hello. I have a son who is 3 years old. (turned 3 in July). He goes to full day preschool in a room with 3,4 and 5 year olds. He has been having some issues with communicating his wants/needs mostly in school. When he either doesn't want to transition or just doesn't want to participate in something he will yell and scream NO!!! at the teacher. There have been occasions where the teacher has held him and tried to make him join the class and he has hit the teacher. My question is this: They are saying that because of some of the issues he is having in class (screaming when upset, "self talking" under his breath, not engaging with peers unless the peer has a train, big interest in trains/Thomas, calls himself Thomas or Buzzlightyear, and is usually sort of stuck in a fantasy world) They want to do an evaluation on him. I spoke with the person today who will be doing the eval and she mentioned autism as a possibility. I'm just wondering if anyone out there can tell me if this sounds like autism? My son is very smart, ahead of his peers in a lot of academic areas. He engages well at home with his 16 month old sister and myself and his dad. Often when we are reading or looking at pictures I will ask him "how is that person feeling?" and he will always answer correctly (sad, mad, happy etc.) Is there a form of autism out there that sounds like this?! Please if anyone has any info to offer me I GREATLY appreciate it. I should also mention that his daycare lady also has said that he is "different than most kids in the way that he learns". Thank you

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answers from Minneapolis on

He sounds like my son. It started when baby sister came along, he was 2 1/2. He started biting, and transitions are hard for him. He will scream, where they will have to remove him from his class. Past things he did was hit, spit at teachers and friends, throw food, chairs and what ever else was close. He too has certain interest. I was soooo worried that he may be autistic or have something else. Everyone says "he's a boy, that's what they do", etc. I've wondered myself if I should get him tested or if it's just the way he handles situations. If you do get him tested, I would be interested in what you find out. My e-mail is ____@____.com if you want to share info. Good luck!!! Now, after reading all the responses, I wonder if any kid is "normal" these days. Do people go too far in some regards??? I know it's important to catch things early, but are we just looking too deep and trying to come up with a diagnosis???

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answers from Madison on

It sounds like he is fine and that he is just not wanting to engage with classmates and not wanting to be forced into engaging with classmates! I know autism is on the rise, and that it is so helpful for the child to be diagnosed and begin therapies early. That said, it is frustrating that early childhood teachers are so quick to label children as autistic simply because they are not leaping at the chance to engage with other kids. I am the mother of two children, a 5 year old girl and a 2 year old boy (almost 6 and 3). My daughter was extremely shy when she started preschool and she is a completely different kid today - outgoing and friendly in kindergarten. My son is also extremely shy and reserved with his classmates right now. I assume that he will come out of his shell similarly to my daughter, but even if he doesn't, he is a smart, sweet, talkative boy at home and with friends and family. I guess what I'm saying is that you should try to not worry.... some people are just quiet! There is nothing wrong with that!!!!

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answers from New York on

First, we all learn differently. Some people are visual learners (like myself).
Some do will auditorally. Why is your son in with 5 year olds. There is a
big difference between 3 and 5. Heck there is a big difference between
3 and 4!! Have him evaluated, can't hurt. It seems like "autism" is the
label of the year. To me he does not sound autistic at all. Kids are quirky.
I was told my daughter would not read, speak, ever go to a regular school
etc. This was when she was 5. Talk about quirky oy!!! Now she did have
some pretty severe learning issues. Lord knows what she would be labled
as in 2011. Fast forward she is 29 yo works in the operating room as a
surgical tech (scrub nurse), is a licensed EMT and volunteer firefighter. So
much for our school psychologist. She wanted to learn!!! However even
now, socially still can create issues occasionally. She does have a boyfriend. She is a success story. She worked hard as did me and my
husband. You must be your childs advocate and go for what you think he
needs. I never asked for anything crazy, just services that she needed. Had
a great working relationship with the schools she attended. Good luck.

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answers from Beaumont on

I would research children's hospitals/clinics in your area that would give you an accurate evaluation. Whatever it is, the sooner you are on the CORRECT DIAGNOSIS the faster you can work to help him.

My son had lots of issues and I was at my wits end. In the end, I was able to turn most of it around because I reacted quickly and accurately.

Do your research and move forward on your own, separate from the school. Best of luck!!

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answers from Fresno on

I would definitely go to a diagnostic center to get him tested since early intervention is so important. The autism spectrum is huge and many different characteristics. Autistic kids can be above average in intelligence. Common signs are lack of eye contact or being in another world. Speech delay or inability to have a conversation can be other signs. Also, ability to memorize random facts/songs extremely well can be a sign. Look up stemming on the Internet to see if your child does that. My friend just went through all this and is getting multiple opinions from doctors. I would say if someone is noticing something then it is something that should be looked in to closely.

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answers from Davenport on

Sounds like a typical "just turned 3 year old" BOY - very stubborn, wants to do things his way and only change activities when HE wants to, not yet a great communicator ( shoot, some 30 year old men are not great at communicating their needs). Interest in one main cartoon character and throwing a fit when upset - anyone heard of terrible 2s? They don't automatically stop when the kid turns 3. The only thing I saw you type that seems non-typical is the "self talking under the breath".

All that said, it can't hurt to have an evaluation, just make sure that they are professionals that are not just going ot slap on a label just for hte heck of it. I have a nephew who has Asperger's Syndrome ( not APSEN burgers), and he is very high functioning, but does still have challenges with communicating his emotions through words, but does very well academically in school. So even if your son is diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, that is not like some horrible death sentence or anything, and the sooner you find out one way or the other the sooner you can start working with him.

BTW - my Daughter is in a 3-5 year old Preschool, it is only 8:30-11 am, 3 days a week, she is a typical child, ahead in a few academic areas, but with an early December birthday. I think she would be doing well in Kinderarten or even first grade, but they won't bump them up in our area, they stick to the age cutoffs strictly. Puting 3-5 years together is ok, as long as there are enough teachers/aides to deal with the discrepencies in development in the ages. MAYBE your son is not ready for all day long preschool....maybe he needs less "structured" time and more time at home with you still??

Good luck.


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answers from Dallas on

You could be talking about my 4.5 year old. He was evaluated and found to have mild/moderate rankings on the spectrum. He's very high functioning and just started the PPCD (preschool program for children w/disabilities) in our area. I can already see an improvement, and he is learning so much and seems to be calmer, more focused, etc. He's what we would have called a "quirky" kid 20+ years ago. His intellect is more than fine, but his social/social communication skills are "off". Thanks to the PPCD program, he is learning the skills and coping skills he'll need.

Though it does hurt my heart a little that he's not "like" everyone else, getting him help is a wonderful thing. He doesn't have the same challenges at home or when mom/dad are around, but the home environment is the "safe" environment, and we can't be with him forever. It was hard to see the signs because he didn't really manifest them at home - daycare people saw something that was a little off.

Go ahead and get the evaluation. Best case, no problem. If there is an issue, you are getting help SUPER early and he will have the skills he needs when he starts "real" school. That's the key is having those social skills so he can function as comfortably as possible. My older sister's son (who is now 27) wasn't diagnosed till much later. She knew something was up, but it wasn't recognized at the time. She is beyond thrilled for us that we are able to get help for our little guy so the challenges can be minimized as he matures.

Good luck!

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answers from Des Moines on

You should do an internet search on 2E or "twice exceptional." Autism and smart are not mutually exclusive, and in fact there are many children who are profoundly bright and have a diagnosis on the spectrum. I don't want to give you false hope, because it's hard to know from your brief description, but my son had many of the same habits at that age and we have ruled out ASD and ADHD. He does, however, learn in a much different way than other children and is highly imaginational, has problems transitioning, impulse control, etc. We have been working with him to help him through his frustrations with these things, and we have also had to make some extreme accommodations for him at school. Good luck with your evaluation. I always recommend seeking the advice of a specialist in whatever area that initial evaluation points you towards, especially if the evaluation is being done by the school. (If the school nurse said your son needed ear tubes you'd go to an ENT to find out for sure, right?)

Oh, and my son went to a Montessori preschool for a couple of years and it is very common to have 3-5 year olds together. It's usually kids who are turning 4 and kids who are turning 5 during the course of the year and that's why they have the age range.

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answers from Minneapolis on

An evaluation can be a good thing, but there is always room for error. Mental disorders are difficult to diagnose. I agree that the teacher shouldn't have held him and tried to force him to participate, and that he shouldn't be in a group with four and five year olds. A different envireonment could make a big difference.

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answers from St. Louis on

Yes it sounds like Autism spectrum, it also sounds like ADHD, he also could be a bit different.

My younger son is Autism spectrum, PDD to be exact. His psychiatrist would not formally diagnose him until he was six. The reason is they change too much and it looks like too many things.

Andy will talk to anyone, that aspect of Autism is not typical with high functioning.

What you need to do is find yourself a really good psychiatrist for him to do an eval. I say find a good one because there is a mess of bad ones out there. See what they think and go from there.

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answers from Denver on

There are some signs there. People with ASD can point out emotions in pictures. I think the difficuly in transitions and the focus on a single subject (trains), and self talking may be their concern. But he is young, and man are kids quirky! Here is the DSM criteria for diagnosing, you can see if your kiddo seems to fit in here. Again, kids are quirky, but if he is diagnosed the sooner the better! I even remember watching a you-tube video about a kid who was severly autistic and his mother was told he would probably have to be institutionalized. Well, he ended up being his high school valedictorian and was going to MIT or something like that. Good luck!

A. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3)

(1) qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(a) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
(b) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
(c) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)
(d) lack of social or emotional reciprocity

(2) qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)
(b) in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others
(c) stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language
(d) lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

(3) restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(a) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
(b) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
(c) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
(d) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

B. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play

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answers from Sheboygan on

I really don't have an answer to your questions but wanted to address a couple things you said that are concerning to me. First, why does the preschool have 3, 4, and 5 year old children in the same classroom? There is a huge difference between 3 and 5 year olds! Do his teachers have the same expectations for all children? Please check into this and make sure they are not expecting too much from your son. Also, teachers should NOT be physically holding a child...I would hit her too! Imagine how your child must feel while being held and forced to participate. Does this teacher have any training with this age group and/or special needs children? She needs to get some and/or repeat whatever training she has had. You are your childs biggest advocate...please make sure he is getting the care he needs. Good luck!!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Due to the pre-school not being set up 'properly' (i.e. 3-5 yo together??What?!) I would be a bit nervous about who they were recommending and I would make sure that in addition to the person THEY recommend that you have another outside evaluation done to make sure that they match up.

Hearing that your child is 'different' is never easy... but as an example for you a woman I know (who is a teacher) who's son is 7 and is now being evaluated for autism just said she never got help for her son b/c she didn't want to hear the label.... and that he was so high functioning in other areas that she was able to justify her thoughts. I met the child once and just by looking at him you could tell that something was 'off'. My point being, we're so use to our children we often don't see what is right before us.

Best of luck to you and your son.

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answers from Lincoln on

My 8-year-old daughter has PDD-NOS (among other diagnoses), so I've read a lot about autism, the spectrum, symptoms, etc. I think it sounds like something possibly on the autism spectrum, but I would urge you not to be alarmed. Get the testing done at school, but I would also second the opinion of the person who suggested you seek a formal diagnosis from a hospital or psychiatrist in your area. There are so many different possible ways for autistic disorders to manifest -- no two children on the autistic spectrum seem to "look" exactly alike. Getting any potential problems looked at and diagnosed now will be helpful to you, his teachers and him, especially as he gets older and has to deal with more academic and social issues.

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answers from Minneapolis on

You could also be describing my now 9-year-old son! He is on the autism spectrum & gets help in school with socializing & self-regulation. We have been extremely happy with the staff at his public school, and the ASD diagnosis has allowed everyone to be very flexible in making sure he gets the help he needs and also gets the adaptations he needs (going to a quiet room to draw instead of outside for recess, sitting somewhat apart at lunch as he is sensitive to the sight & smell of hot lunch, etc). We have not pursued an evaluation by a Developmental Ped because we have been so happy w/ his school - if there had been things in his initial evaluation that didn't ring true for us, or if they were not meeting his needs throughout the school day, I would definitely seek outside help.

Finally, my 2nd son is 6-1/2 years younger, and I have thought several times over the past year or two that if I had had the 2nd one first, I would have known that my older one needed to be evaluated quite a bit sooner. I don't think early intervention is ever a bad thing!

Good luck! It is a hard step to have your child evaluated, and then harder yet to accept what the evaluators have to say. You are doing the very best for your son!!

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answers from Seattle on

A kid can have signs but not be on the spectrum. My son had signs and has been evaluated and found to NOT be ASD. He does have some learning differences though, including speech delay and sensory issues. He is quirky. With intervention, including OT, ST and developmental preschool he is rapidly catching up. He is 4 1/2 now. Some stuff I think is just getting better with time, too. Anyway, it can't hurt for your son to be evaluated to see if he could benefit from services, but he does NOT need an ASD label to get services! Also, I am really sick of people using "interest in Thomas trains" as an indicator of ASD, LOL, that is hilarious! Let's just diagnose every 2-5 year old boy in the country with it based on that :)

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answers from Madison on

I wouldn't get really worked up; there are lots and lots of places children can fall on the Autism spectrum, to include on the very high-end functioning end of the rainbow.

My daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder and, other than issues with speech, hypotonia/spatial issues, making friends/social issues, being super, super slow in everything she does, and being unable to transition easily, either between tasks or in her thinking process (don't ask her to make a snap decision; throws her into a tizzy), my daughter is on the high-functioning end and is a high B student in the 6th grade. She loves school, loves reading, loves band, loves dance... If it weren't for some specific quirks of hers, you wouldn't know she has issues.

Another very specific area many high-functioning, extremely smart kids seem to fall into these days is Aspenberger's.

Again, some kids just have a different way of looking at and interacting with the world. That doesn't necessarily make them a teacher's pride and joy, though, when they are disruptive in class or difficult to control. Sometimes knowing what the issue is makes for peace of mind and knowing how to help the child be the best he or she can be (as in, what's the best way to give them the tools/help they need in order to express themselves appropriately).

Most teachers/classrooms/schools are NOT equipped to deal with anyone who falls out of the expectation of what a "normal" student should be. That's why catching issues early and teaching the child ways to handle issues pays off tremendously in the long run and makes them a joy to have in the classroom as they get older (and know how to regulate themselves).

A book you might find helpful (or as a first place to start) is:
The Autistic Spectrum: A Parents' Guide to Understanding and Helping Your Child by Lorna Wing, MD.

If you think he might have some sensory issues, I'd recommend reading:
Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR, Director, Sensory Therapies and Research Center, Denver, CO.

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