Is my son very shy or mildly autistic?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-30-2003
Is my son very shy or mildly autistic?
Thu, 06-24-2004 - 7:31pm

I have a 6-year old son who just finished kindergarten and has had some developmental delays in the past. He didn't start talking until 3 and was diagnosed with apraxia, his speech now is almost age appropriate except for a few sounds, "th" and "sh", but he also has a moderate hearing impairment which may contribute to it, we just got hearing aids this year. He receives speech therapy at school. He still does not have strong fine motor skills and am having him evaluated this summer to see if he qualifies for services.

He also has complex tics which come and go. The main thing I am wondering about are his social skills and why they are the way they are.

He can play appropriately with children his age and has a couple neighborhood friends, but is very controlling and has a hard time playing with someone who is also controlling. He can act appropriately but in a lot of social situations at school, but acts inappropriately, defiant and annoying sometimes at home and shy (the shyness is still present at school).

For instance, when we go to the doctor, I tell him before we go in to be quiet while I talk or he will be in trouble when we get home. But before long, he he is annoying his 4 and 2 year old brothers to cause a disturbance or running out of the room.

At his brother's birthday party he was screaming and yelling while I was talking to someone else. Or if we're at the park and I'm talking to another mother, he'll constantly ask to be pushed on the swing or something to interrupt my conversation (all the while his 2 and 4 year old brother are playing by themselves)

I think in these situations he knows that I will be upset so he purposely misbehaves to get attention.

Also, he has a hard time saying "Hello" to someone he knows at least when I am with him, for instance, when someone from his class will say "Hello" when we're out he will ignore them or make a scouling face.

He also has a hard time asking for something. At the pool if someone has one of our pool toys and he notices. He can't ask them for it back, he wants me to do it. He just started going to the neighbors house to play by himself. Otherwise he would only play if they came to our house. So he is improving somewhat.

He usually sits alone on the bus, unless someone sits next to him, I don't think he would take action and sit with someone.

The thing that concerns my the most is just being able to say hello.

Mother-in-law thinks he has a mild form of autism, at first I thought no because he loves to play with kids (does not get along with all, but can play well with a few) and has a loving relationship with me and his dad. But I wouldn't say he is like a typical 6-year old.

Any ideas or advice.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 06-24-2004 - 8:00pm
hi there!

this is just my opinion, but personally i doubt it. socially autistics pretty much avoid social contact, especially with other children. it doesn't sound like he avoids it as he can successfully play sometimes. does he make eye contact with others? i would still get him evaluated, maybe something else is going on. good luck!


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 06-25-2004 - 10:51am
Well, Regardless of whether or not it is autism he does appear have some issues that do result in some social difficulties and would benefit from social skills lessons/groups.

Many kids with a variety of difficulties will have social deficits. Since you mentioned the mild hearing loss, tics and early developmental delays, it is possible that his social difficulties are from those. However, since you did mention those particularly the tics, it would seem that there is something neurological going on and he would benefit from a full evaluation. I would suggest a good pediatric neurologist, preferably someone who is an expert in autism spectrum disorders if you feel that is a possibility. Someone specializing in ASD's would be more likely to give you a correct diagnosis of yes or no to autism. I only mention a neurologist because of the tics in combination with the other symptoms. Many kids have transient tics but combined with the other symptoms is worth the trip.

Just the same, whether or not he has autism, I would look into if he can get social skills as part of the services you are looking into. Many schools will have social play groups or similar.


iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2003
Fri, 06-25-2004 - 11:16am
Not to disagree with a previous poster, but my son and daughter (both on the spectrum) are extremely social...however their behaviors are frequently inappropriate. Noah (7), for example, thinks that every time he meets a new friend, they immediately have to be "best friends". He also doesn't understand personal space. (Most 7 year old boys don't care to be hugged by their friends.) In terms of eye contact, Noah has a very hard time making eye contact. However Claire, is capable of getting lost in somebody else's gaze. She'll stare into your eyes for as long as you'll let her.

I find it interesting that you bring up the hearing loss. One of the little boys in our neighborhood also suffers from a hearing loss, and his behavior seems to mimic that of your son's. He appears very shy, but once "out of that shell" he can be extremely demanding on the other kids. In fact, I'd consider him the leader of the pack. I always assumed it was a self-esteem issue. But hearing it from your perspective, I wonder if there could more to it. Not that I have an opinion or any suggestions...I just find it interesting.

Social behaviors are just one of many issues that are evaluated when considering autism. I agree with Renee, what you are describing is worthy of further investigation. Especially if it's concerning you enough to seek out the opinions of others.

Just my 2 cents.


Meez 3D avatar avatars games

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-11-2003
Fri, 06-25-2004 - 11:47am
It sounds like anxiety to me. I have a 6 yr old with anxiety. It used to & sometimes still does manifest itself as selective mutism. My dd has a lot of the behaviours your ds has. She is very controlling-its a way to manage the anxiety. She won't play alone. She won't say hello to her best friend when we see her out and about. You can check into anxiety at



iVillage Member
Registered: 11-05-1998
Fri, 06-25-2004 - 2:15pm
My aspie DS, who is 11, rarely says "hello" and never says "goodbye" unless prompted to do so. It's just not important to him, and he sees no reason for society niceties like that.

He can be social when he wants to, although he is rather like a bull in a china shop in his interactions with others, but social does not always equal polite.

I'm always a little leery of folks who say, "He can't be autistic because . . . " (insert behavior here). The spectrum is so vast that it's difficult to paint a picture of a "textbook" person on the autism spectrum. My son can look people in the eyes, except when he doesn't. He can be very social with adults, and completely anti-social with his peers. He can give affectionate hugs to me, but haul off and hit someone who touches him as they pass his seat in class. He can build elaborate mazes and write incredible stories, but he still lines up his toys when he's stressed.

Guess what I'm saying is, your child might be shy, he might be autistic, he might have social anxiety, it's hard to tell. It's probably worth an evaluation, though.

Good luck to you.


mom to Chris, 11, AS