Last year, we had another big change to deal with, although I suppose it came as no surprise. Daniel was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in November. We’d had concerns about him for about 2 years, but had tried everything else but ask for a referral to the Family Mental Health Unit at the Children’s Hospital in Aberdeen. We’d gone through sessions with the Health Visitor, who thought he may have problems with his emotional development. That didn’t work. We tried PPP ( http://www.triplep.net/glo-en/home), the positive parenting course. That didn’t work. At that stage, we went to the D’s GP, who referred him immediately. We saw a clinical psychologist at the FMHU in October, and within 45 minutes of the appointment start she had heard enough from us, coupled with a letter from the school – he was an aspie. A one-on-one session with D confirmed the diagnosis.
All through the process, we had tried to avoid transferring his elder (ASD) brother’s behaviours onto Daniel, but with the benefit of hindsight, I think we had a realisation that we were going to get an ASD diagnosis, but were keen not to be seen to be looking for one. All we wanted after two years of dealing with an increasingly difficult little boy was an answer so we could get the support he would need.
Daniel is different from Matthew in many ways, but there were enough similarities to have us leaning towards ASD. One of the biggest pointers for us was Daniel’s preference to play alone. The boys do interact, and can play together, although that interaction is usually in the form of Daniel playing on the Wii, and Matthew watching him. Daniel loves nothing more than making up games he can play alone. He will put on “shows” that would fit a theatre. When he gets going on this, he’s really in his own world. For him, he is in control of his life, even if it is a fantasy one. The show will become more and more elaborate. He’ll think nothing on how long it will last (we’ve had ones that have lasted more than an hour) or repeating himself. It seems to me that its Daniel’s way of processing all the information that his brain has collected through the day. Matthew (brother) is a flapper. He’ll “zone out” and have what seems to be a seizure. His body is rigid, and he stares into space while his arms flap uncontrollably. Its his way of processing all the sensory stimuli and information his brain has been exposed to. Daniel uses solitary play in the same way. He put on a Star Wars performance for us a few weeks ago that was staggering in its complexity and depth. All made up on the spot.
It was the solitary play that his nursery teacher spotted at school. In her report to the clinical psychologist, she noted that Daniel was either on the periphery of a group, or would flit from group to group but would be happiest playing alone. Its no different – in fact its a lot more pronounced – at home. He will often play with toy figures, or even kitchen utensils making up a fantastic game he plays alone. Daniel has never been comfortable in company. He does have a friend at school, but its “A” friend, who he obsesses on. Its lovely to see him have a friend, but sometimes his friend (who likes Daniel a lot) can get frustrated if Daniel can’t understand what to do, or what rules to follow. My big fear is that as friendships change, he may lose this friendship he has. But then, he’s happiest alone, and perhaps he would just shrug his shoulders and retreat in a world of his own.