My Son's "Different" -- So Much That I Need to Support Him Specially?

Updated on March 25, 2011
D.S. asks from Cambridge, MA
22 answers

Hi there,

since birth of our daughter (now three), our son (five) seems ever so much more different. We always knew he was a bit odd, but did not worry. What i am wondering now is, am i doing everthing to support him right? Would he need a special diagnosis and treatment? Here are some of his "oddities" -- is it all within the range (as we always believed), or does it require something more than unconditional love and parenting:

He tests as being highly sensitive. So, he easliy gets overstimulated.
He will often close his eyes and cover his ears to avoid social overstimulation (i think). He does this also when watching DVDs. It does not matter whether he is watching a suspenseful thing (we cannot watch them anyway -- no Disney movies, etc) or just an endearing scene, where something positive happens between people: he wil hide and/or cover his ears and close his eyes.
He almost never enjoys activities other kids are mad about, such as birthday parties, rides, kid-friendly public environments. (though he does get into birthday parties if given time, especially if he knows the kids well).
He dreams wildly and often has night-mares. He grinds his teeth in sleep badly.
He refuses to enter some buildings (like when we are looking for schools for him to attend) and large groups. That sounds too lame: if made to join, he will fight like a mad dog. He is usually a cooperative and well-mannered child, but he will get ferocious then.
He hates pre-school with vengeance. he goes, because we ask him to. But he has never stopped hating it, even though he is liked there, and does have friends.
His pre-school teacher tells me that he constantly runs and jumps and almost never sits still in pre-school during free-play time -- she says he is so driven that he exhausts himself completely (which i see when i pick him up) and she reckons he is dealing with overstimulation. On the other hand, he enjoys very much sitting in a circle for story time and concentrates vigorously for crafts projects.

I should say that he does make eye-contact. And while he is often very self-absorbed, or zoned out to the point of not hearing anything around him, he does have friends in pre-school. He has no trouble concentrating and sits easily through multiple read chapters of the original AA Milne Winnie the Pooh etc. He is a story fanatic, and invents them himself to the point of making your ears bleed.

So, is this all just within normal boys' behaviour? Our daughter, by comparison, seems ever so uncomplicated, easy going, resilient, curious, outgoing etc. i have no trouble loving them both, but i wonder if we are doing everything we should for our son?

Thanks for any stories, suggestions, guesses...

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So What Happened?

Thanks ladies -- wonderful to get so many caring responses! -- I talked a few times with his pediatrician, who knows him well. My pedi still believes it's all ok, but told me where to go if i wanted further investigation. I had also scheduled a meeting with his teacher and the schools special education consultant. It is coming up, and in the meantime i wanted your input... I will now get him tested and seek further support for us.

Just for those who are more interested: my son's fine motor skills are ok, he does fine with scissors, he was a whizz at learning how to ride a bike and learning to ski. His balance is great. That is why i wasn't to concerned about sensory processing disorder, but i only read one book about it. I would not call him hyperactive (nor does his teacher or pedi) -- but i can see how my post might have given that impression. Asperger's... maybe. I did not write this, but his paternal grandparents are highly gifted, as is his father. My brother and me are both highly sensitive, and in the gifted spectrum (we were never tested, i am guessing from quick IQ tets doen way back on us in the 80s). My son is bilingual. My brother is a pretty weird artist, and a math and physics whizz. I do not want to describe myself further than saying here that luckily my son's behaviour is not too too foreign to me.

Thank you again so very very much.

Featured Answers



answers from Dallas on

In the mean time you can pick up the book "out of synch child". It was such a great help to me. I never got my son tested, but that was so him at that age. The book had some really great ideas in it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Sounds very much so like mild autism. He is just high functioning. Go online and look up aspergers spectrum. You can get some help with developing his social skills and other things.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Pittsfield on

I'm sorry to say this, but I really don't think this falls within normal range. Maybe it's just a severe case of sensory processing disorder (sometimes called sensory integration). Check out the symptom checklist on the website below:

If this is what his problem is, (I kinda suspect it is)an occupational therapist trained in SPD can help your son a lot (get a referral from your pedi, and check your health insurance- it may be covered) There are also great books you can read (the website suggests some). You could also look into a weighted blanket- he might sleep better:

If it's not tell your Pedi everything you told us.

Hope it helps :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on


Call the nearest Children's Hospital and get an appointment with a Developmental Pediatricain. You have more than enough reason to do so. The eye contact is one that many parents think is decicive, but it really is not. That he can do any one thing does not mean that he does not need help, find out what you need to do with a full evaluation that you will own yourself that leaves no questions unanswered.

Next, send a letter to your school district. Tell them that you suspect that your son has a disablity (you do not have to know what it is, and I suggest that you not name any diagnosis suspicion at all...just say that he is having trouble with social situations, hyperactive behavior, and sensory development and that you want an evaluation.) Tell them in the letter to send you a copy of your rights under IDEA, and that you expect to hear from them within ten school days to schedule a meeting for you to grant your consent for an evaluation. Try to get this before school ends this spring.

You need both public and private evaluations.

Your appointment with the Developmental Pediatrican may take many months. I would suggest that you call an Occupational therapist now to get him evaluated for his sensory issues, and start that therapy while you wait. I would also find a play therapist, and address some of his issues with social reciprocity and aversion to social situations as well. You do not need a diagnosis to address the issues you see.

The hyperactivity is a harder issue. If this is an issue that is really needing attention, you could consult a Board Certified Child Pshychiatrist if they can see you sooner than a Developmental Pediatrician, but do not bail out on a DP, please get that comprehenisive evaluation. You will not want to discuss medication without a specialist, and I would be very relucant to do so without a good, solid evaluation, but medical help may be part of his treatment plan, and can be hugely effective when teamed with appropriate educational, social, occupational, langague, and behavioral therapies. It is quite possible that some of what you are seeing is anxiety based, and if that is the case, a psychiatrist is going to be the best physician for him. You really do need to get to the bottom of all of it, and know for sure by having all the evaluation data before you, and your doctors and therapists to help you sort it out.

Good luck to you, he sounds like he has a great deal on the ball, with a little bit of intervention and support, he may learn to like school and being comfortable in public places. I certainly can relate to a lot of what you say, so please, make the appointments and write the letters today.


No offense to Allison, I am sure that she is following the path that is best for her son and her situation, but you do not know if your son is remotely like her husband or her son, and you need to find out from some hands on evaluators who spend hours and hours doing standard evaluations with him exactly what your situation is. Please know that ritialin is not the only way that hyperactivity is treated by physicians these days, and frankly, treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD (ADD is not a diagnosis any longer, the whole medical community has come a long way with treatment and understanding since the ADD diagnosis was used, so please do not make any decisions about medical intervention based on one adults experience with one drug so, so, so long ago!) There are literally hundreds of medical interventions avaliable that can help people with brain disfunction when it is clinically appropriate, and when it is teamed with appropriate theraputic intervention. Do not be scared off by anyones bad experirence with a drug many years ago that was administered to a person with an antiquated diagnosis who may not have had any therapy to go with it. Never settle for that kind of medical care, get the full evaluation from a DP, and get theraputic interventions, hours of it per week from OT's speech and language therapists, social skills classes, play therapists, cognative behavioral therapist, physical therapists, medical specialists (psychiatrists, DP's or neruologists) and is a far cry from taking a pill from a pediatrician.

And on a side note to Allison, a child who is having trouble with scissors can benefit greatly from occupational therapy! He may not qualify at school (long complicated reasons why, unless your son is in special education, he cannot qualify for OT) but OT privatley may be very short term and extereemly helpful. Also, children with this kind of issue may have visual processing issues and not simple motor skills issues, sometimes a trip to a Developmental Optomitrist (your OT can suggest one) will be helpful. They assess how children use thier eyes, not just if they see 20/20, but they do that too, and may be able to help with glasses and therapy. Many kids with these issues respond very well to a couple of years of therapy in the sensory processing, fine motor, visual motor areas that help them continue to be sucessful as the tasks change in the 4th grade from learning to read and write to writng and reading to learn. Many kids with these issues, although very smart, are overwhelmed by the change. I see many kids who need this kind of intervention, and often, it is all done privately as the child does not qualify for any services at school, but it is so worth it for them. MR

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My son is 8 and is exactly the same. his dad is ADD, and was on ritalin most of his young life. He says he doesn't want to do that to our son, as it changed his personality a lot.
My son cannot handle any form of overstimulation, loud noises, singing etc, he will cover his ears or now as he is older and more concious of looking daft, he will walk away. he used to cover his ears and scream at the top of his lungs to drown out the noises.
he never sits still, ever. In school they are really good with him, and let him wiggle to a certain extent, but he still gets into trouble a lot because timed tests over sensitize him, and he freaks out.
He has very few friends because he is so passionate and sensitive, a lot of kids can't handle his over emotion.
We have never had him evaluated, we don't want him to think of himself as abnormal, although he knows he is a little quirky! unofficially he has aspergers though, and that is from a special needs teacher with many years of experience working with aspergers kids. I also believe he has ADD and sensory processing disorder
he makes eye contact fine, and is very engaging when he wants to be, but he will zone out easily. his fine motor skills are not good, and his coordination is awful, we have to constantly work with him to write and cut with scissors - he still can't catch a ball very well.
He hates to be teased, and to be tickled for him is torture, he will utterly freak out and hit and kick. Once a little old lady tickled him on his neck when he didn't expect it, and he nearly broke her finger off. Saying BOO to my son, will have him in hysterics. And I mean an absolute blubbering crying wreck. Of course this is wonderful fun for kids to tease him.
BUT he is fantastically intelligent, he aces reading and spelling, math, you name it. I tell him this is God's gift to him, he may not be good at sports, but God gave him other things to be good at.
I really think kids like ours are a variation, nature needs variance, our kids are the idea makers, the passionate ones, the sensitive ones.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

No O. here can give you a definitive answer about your son.
From your post, it sounds like he has been like this for about 3 years.
Have you talked to your pediatrician about this?
He/she can steer you in the right direction for an eval, if warranted.
Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

My first suggestion is to start with his pediatrician. See if he/she would like him evaluated either by a specialist or by the school system. That is where I would start. Boys are much different from girls and some of what you have said is typical but some is questionable. If you are concerned, go with your Mommy instinct and get him checked out by a professional. Maybe they can give you information that you can research yourself and get a better understanding of how to manage those energetic times/ "oddities". From reading your post, I do not think you will feel at ease unless you do so. It's better to find out early on that there is an issue (if there is) rather than later. You don't want to regret. Good luck! You sound like a very in tune Momma!

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answers from Boston on

Talk to your pediatrician, if you haven't already. I assume he will start Kindergarten this fall, and you want to give him the best start possible. Without knowing your son, it sounds that there are issues that I as a mother would like to figure out. I think some testing could help you with that.

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answers from Washington DC on

All children are different.
If you are worried, have your son tested.
That said, would you change anything if he had a diagnosis?

I have an acquaintance who had a "different" kid. He was involved in lots of activities because she "made" him. She came into some money and decided to have him evaluated. She got a diagnosis and proceeded to not "make him do anything". He went from an active "odd" kid to a very sheltered very strange kid with no friends and no activities. She certainly didn't do him any favors...


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answers from Dallas on

Absolutely get him tested. He sounds like my nephew who is Asperger's. Early intervention, the right schools, sensory integration issues addressed with exercises can make a world of difference in his happiness and sociability. You sound like a wonderful mom! So jump in now and see how you can help your boy be a happier person. I would do my research and be sure to find someone who really knows about Asperger's. You don't want to be mis-diagnosed.

Just so you know:
If it is Asperger's then your boy just may be a genius. The above link will lead you to a site that shares the many famous people with Asperger's. Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin among them.

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answers from Joplin on

I think as a society we are ever so much into labeling...that being said, my very own 3 year old has tested on the Autism Spectrum, his "label" is PDD-NOS, which as near as I can figure is their way of saying...yep something is not quite normal, but we don't have anything really concrete for you...Alex was diagnosed very early on when he was not reaching normal bench marks that other two year olds were...we had a seriously intense year of therapy that helped us learn how to deal with different issues ( my son has a lot of sensory issues as well) and also seemed to help Alex as well.
I would not waste any time asking what you could have done differently because it sounds to me as if you were aware and sensitive to your sons needs and that is all any of us can do as parents really. I would take the initiative to be your sons advocate and speak with the school district as they have programs that can help assist you, sometimes having a para on hand for your son can help and during school hours if it is found that he requires it they are responsible for providing him with one.
I have to add since he is older that we also have a 10 year old daughter who we took to a specialist regarding some concerns over Asperger's Syndrome
during the time we spent talking to the specialist we determined that in her case seeking a definite diagnosis was not going to help her in anyway so we just let it be. If however her grades / or ability to participate in class was being hindered in anyway we would seek a definite diagnosis.
I honestly think that just being supportive and looking for ways to help him learn how to deal with his over stimulation is a great start. I realize your son is older, but for Alex he still has a blanket that brings him a lot of comfort and we have worked hard at giving him the words to express himself so he can let us know when he needs quiet and space.
My oldest son is 15 and he is definitely gifted, different studies I have read have suggested that gifted children are somewhat on the spectrum as well, just in a much more positive way.
I wish you the best of luck, it sounds like you are doing all the right things. Helping your son see his differences as just being something that is uniquely part of him and not something as a detriment is the best thing you can do, everyone has struggles some are more complicated than others, but as my family is fond of saying there is no normal, normal is just a setting on a washing machine = )

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answers from Washington DC on

If you are concerned, get him tested. Either the school or his doctor could tell you how. Then you'll know if there are other things you can do for/with your son to help him better cope with his environment.

As far as things like telling stepson could talk the ear off a dead horse. It was something he eventually learned to rein in as he got older.

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answers from Boston on

Talk to his teachers at preschool. They see him for hours at a time as well as seeing other 5 year old boys. So they have something to compare to. Ask them specifically what their opinion is. Have they ever worked with kids that have been diagnosed with something that are similar to what they see in your son. Then, once you have their opinions and your own opinions, go talk to the pediatrician and tell him/her all this. Good luck.

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answers from Detroit on

Talk to your pediatrician, as well as the preschool teacher, and see about a referral to a specialist to have him evaluated. Could be anything, like a sensory processing disorder, ADHD, Asperger's/autism, etc. It should be investigated before he starts kindergarten and starts potentially running into more issues.

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answers from Appleton on

Sounds like he may fall into the Autisim Spectrum. Have him tested.

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answers from Dover on

I would talk to your pediatrician. Some of this sounds normal but not all of it. Have him tested to rest your mind and to know what you are dealing with.
Then you will probably get directions from the doctor as to how best to deal with his "oddities"...I don't like putting labels on kids but sometimes you really just gotta know what you are dealing with so you can help them.

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answers from Fort Wayne on

Sounds like he might have a form of Asberger's. I know very little about it, most of which I've seen on TV. However, those sound like some of the classic symptoms.

I think I would have him evaluated. If the tests come back normal then there's no harm done. If they do come back that he has some type of disability, then you'll know how to proceed.

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answers from Cumberland on

Find a pediatric neurologist

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answers from Boston on

My 25 yo son has Asperger's, but wasn't diagnosed until high school and even then, it was kind of stumbled upon. I really wish that I knew then (when he was little) what I know now. So much of what you describe reminds me very much of him when he was little. Even if you don't get a diagnosis of any kind, please read up on autism issues... Specifically, managing expectations. Even if he doesn't fall onto the Autism spectrum, all chilren can benefit from this to some degree, IMHO. I learned, pretty much by accident, that this was very helpful. But it really would have been better had I had some professional guidance.

About the buildings; I can almost guarantee it's the lights. Some florescent lights make a noise that most people can't hear. My son used to scream like he was being tortured in certain buildings. When he was older, he was able to tell me that those buildings hurt his ears. To this day there are certain stores/buildings he will avoid at all cost.

I want you to know that even without any professional intervention, my son is quite successful and independent. He has a masters degree and is doing quite well as a technical writer/computer programmer. He's doing very well, but I could have made his life (and mine) easier had I known more then.

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answers from Albany on

I find kids like your son fascinating.

At this point if you would like a better understanding of steps you can take to guide him to the best life possible, I would ask your regular ped for a referral to a Behavioral Ped, to run some evaluations, your school district can test him as well, if you request it, but it's better and more definative to have a medical dx (or no dx, you know?).

Meanwhile keep doing what you're doing, YOUR observations are more useful in coming up with a plan for him than ANYTHING else!

Good Luck, enjoy him!


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answers from Dallas on

If you are concerned, get him tested. By finding out either way, you will all be in a better place. If he has issues of some sort, you can deal with them. By making sure, you are being the best mom ever, and by being aware and wanting to deal with it, you're also being awesome :)

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answers from St. Louis on

when in doubt, seek counseling & testing. It's always better to be proactive!

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