Need some advice...

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2003
Need some advice...
1
Thu, 06-12-2003 - 3:14pm
I also posted this on the autism board - I'm looking for some BTDT advice!

I have a friend who has a 3 1/2 year old DS, who has some fairly obvious (to everyone but her it seems) delays. He is verbal, but it doesn't appear that he can put together sentences at all. He is extremely sensitive to loud noises, laughing, or singing (makes birthday parties fun - the screaming during "Happy Birthday", well, you can set your clock by it!) and is quite ungainly and uncoordinated. He is obsessed with letters and numbers, and if he has a puzzle that is missing a piece, especially if it is a letter or a number missing, he gets extremely upset. He spends his playgroup time leading his mother around by the hand, and is very uninterested in playing with or even next to the other children.

I have a psychology degree and did some child development courses, and as well have a close friend with an autistic child, and I really think that this child should be thoroughly evaluated for an autism spectrum disorder, perhaps Asperger's. How on earth do I bring this up to his mother? SHOULD I bring this up to his mother? She is extremely defensive about him, and I suspect has some concerns herself that she is unwilling to face. Can I help, or am I meddling?

I appreciate any help that you can give me.

Melanie

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Thu, 06-12-2003 - 7:27pm
Sounds like a tough situation to be in. On the one hand, I agree with your concerns and think, for the benifit of the boy, that you should sit his mother down and gently express your concerns. As I'm sure you're already aware of, early intervention is key in treating Autism. Plus there is no reason a person with AS can't lead a relatively normal adult life if they get help in their childhood.

But, on the other hand, it can very hard for a parent to axcept that there is something wrong, or different, about their child. Especially if he is her first or only child. It's one thing to compare your kid to someone else's, but it's another thing entirely to have two or more of your own for comparision. And with the first baby we always want to believe that they are perfect in every way, we're still in the dream stage of being a mommy. Not to mention that we, as human beings, tend to feel that if there is something wrong with our kids that is somehow our fault, or at least, that everyone else will think so. Denial is very common, it's part of the defense mechanism nature has instilled in us to protect our offspring. But then, this is all stuff you already knew.

Speaking as someone who works in the field, I have to say though that you may be the wrong person to approach your friend about the situation. If your friend is defensive about her son with you it may be becuase she doesn't want a 'shrink' telling her what to do or acting like they 'know it all'. I've run into this many times myself. I have also felt it many times. Both sides of the coin are hard places to be.

I guess my suggestion would be to see if someone else can bring it up. Does this boy's playgroup have a teacher? If so, you might express you concern to him/her and let them handle it. Also, don't point directly to the boy's faults or dx traits. If you find the opportunity to discuss a few autistic traits with your friend, go for it. But don't pose the examples around her son, leave him out of it. Are you married? I she? Do you all get together for cards or dinner ever? I once had to help a good friend who was in denial over his ds' severe ADHD. I knew I couldn't just stand by while the boy suffered in school and his relationships when I knew all it would take was a few minor changes in his life. My DH and I invited his parents over for cards one night and durring the course of the evening my DH started expressing an interest in my work. He posed it as a game to solve clinical vignette's. Our friends thought it was great fun, right through the point where we covered several cases of ADHD. Never once did either of us say "That's like your boy" or anything to the effect. When the boy's father stopped and said "Yeah, but aren't all kids like that?" I just shrugged and said "Yes, but only to a certain degree." We never talked directly about his son. A few days later he called me and started asking questions.

The idea is to get them to take the lead. The first step in getting a child propper help is the parent's acceptance, and that is a kind of change. No one is going to change unless they want to. Your job, as the friend, is to offer support. But be carefull it doesn't come across as sympathy, especially if you don't have an autistic child yourself. You mentioned that you have another friend who has an autistic child. Do they know each other? Can you introduce them? The person that helped me come to terms with my dd's autism the most was a lady with a severely autistic son. By setting an example she let me see that autism doesn't mean deffective and these kids are just as wonderful as every other kid out there. By watching her with her boy I was able to realize that its okay to have a child with autism and that life with an ASD has it's own rewards.

I wish the best for you and your friend.

Peace,

Candes

Peace,
Candes