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We noticed that our 3.5 year old child begins showing signs of Asperger. Each of these signs, by itself, could be explained with age, but in sum it appears noticeable.

I'm not going to list the signs and I'm not asking for a diagnosis.

At which age is it even possible to diagnose Asperger (or the lack thereof) with confidence? And, assuming our suspicion doesn't fade, at which age is it worth it given that there is not much that can be done about it?

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Have you talked to your pediatrician yet? You should be going to visits at least once a year at this age, and at least my pediatrician specifically asks questions related to ASD to determine if she should investigate further. –  Joe Apr 23 at 20:32
    
No, our next regular visit will be in 6 Months. I don't know how deep questions in this directions will be asked. –  barbaz Apr 23 at 20:49
    
I'd see if you can make an appointment with your pediatrician soon, then. Unless it's very expensive to do so, this should be your first step - your pediatrician should be knowledgeable about ASD, and should be a reasonably easy way to find out if your concerns justify further investigation. –  Joe Apr 23 at 21:29
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5 Answers 5

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I don't know what the "official" age is where one can be diagnosed with Aspergers with certainty. I'm sorry I can't answer that question for you. Regarding the second aspect of your question:

assuming our suspicion doesn't fade, at which age is it worth it given that there is not much that can be done about it?

My answer to that is as soon as possible.

I disagree with your statement that "not much that can be done about it." True, there is no cure, but that's hardly the same as not having any options.

You should trust your instincts and get your child evaluated. The worst thing that could happen is that it turns out that your child is normal. However, if your child is NOT normal, whether it is because of Asperger or something else, you can begin seeking treatment/support right away. Just because there is no "cure" for Aspergers does not mean you should be sitting around doing nothing about it. There are tons of resources available to help your child and your family get the most out of life no matter what.

I had added this link in a comment (which I deleted in order to post this answer) and I do hope its relevant; if you are in the US it should be. I really think that Early Intervention can probably help you. The site has a lot of good information about how to navigate the various services and options that may be available, and also has lots of good links to other resources.

The advantages of early intervention cannot be overemphasized. Children who receive intensive therapy can make tremendous strides in their overall functioning and go on to lead productive lives.

The above is quoted from the Autism Society's website's screening page, which also mentions that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends autism (the spectrum of which includes Aspergers) screenings at 18 months of age and again at 24 months. If your doctor hasn't already brought it up, it is NOT unreasonable for you to do so the next time you are there, if you choose to wait until your next scheduled check-up. To prepare for the visit, you can start by keeping notes of the situations where your child's behavior concerns you. Also, here is a questionnaire from the Easter Seals that you can take that may help you identify whether or not your child is on track developmentally.

Finally, if your child is too old for the EI program, your local school district may be able to help you. See if you can find a local outreach organization (usually associated with the local school district), such as Child Find, that does screenings of pre-school aged children. These screenings evaluate children in various areas of development- social, emotional, physical, academic- and usually also for hearing and vision problems.

I am sorry if you are not in the US and all of this is not applicable to you. What I'm trying to say essentially is, no matter where you are, you need to be an advocate for your child. You don't necessarily need to rely on your doctor to get the ball rolling- that is up to you.

I am not a special ed professional, nor am I social worker; I am a mother who felt strongly that her child was a little off when he was very young. I didn't wait for someone to validate or confirm my suspicions. I found a local outreach center and I called them up. It was an intensive process- the evaluations, that is- but it was worth it. My son had a speech delay. He was my first child and I didn't even realize he was that far behind with his language, but the frustration that he felt by not being able to communicate was the source of his other symptoms. He was 2 when he was "diagnosed" and by the time he was 4 he was developmentally equivalent with his peers. I realize that what you are concerned about is a little bit more serious than a speech delay, however, the lesson learned is that the earlier you start, the sooner you see results. And, you can prevent what could be a minor problem from compounding into something much more complex and difficult to resolve/treat.

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As soon as possible. You can notice some of the characteristic signs as early as 12 months (e.g., no pointing or gestures) [1]. By 3.5 years there should be plenty of information for a specialist to work with, and if the child does have Asperger syndrome, an early diagnosis is very helpful. While it's true that not much can be done about it in the sense of curing it, you can do a lot to help them enhance their communication skills, behavioural skills, etc.

[1] https://apa.org/practice/guidelines/autism-screening-diagnosis.pdf

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The article you quote says Asperger is hard to detect with small children ;) That's exactly our problem, what is conspicuous and what is age-appropriate weirdness? Somehow, I don't want to go to the doctor "Hey, here is a list of everything I don't like about my child, please tell me if it's normal" –  barbaz Apr 24 at 20:07
    
@barbaz I understand your hesitation, but that's a professional child psychologist's job, to tell you what's conspicuous. Go see them. –  deworde Apr 25 at 10:43
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@barbaz It is difficult; this is not a situation where a blood or urine sample will get you a diagnosis. But the article also says "In 1,300 families recently surveyed, the average age at diagnosis of autism was about 6 years, despite the fact that most parents felt something was wrong by 18 months of age". If you feel something is wrong, how can it hurt to get a professional opinion? –  lmi Apr 25 at 18:11
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I thought I might share our experience with our son, now just gone aged 5 and mildly ASD (so more or less Aspergers as was). An astute creche worker spotted the signs when he was three and he was referred for assessment (this is in the UK). He had two visits from a health team to his nursery when he was aged three or just gone four, and from there was referred to a specialist paediatrician. She made a recommendation and an assessment team made the diagnosis when he was four - mild autism, largely focused on speech and social skills.

We start our kids early to school here - he started aged four and a half - and so it was crucial to get the ball rolling early. In the part of the UK we live in the National Health Service liaises with the education system with these kinds of needs, and so we were keen to have something in place for him early in the School year. As it happens, with a very helpful head teacher, a very sympathetic and skilled class teacher and good work on the part of the assessment team, we had a dedicated special needs assistant in the classroom with him by mid-Autumn. He just thinks she's a teacher and we have a sense he may not need that level of assistance after a few years, but each kid is different and who knows.

Point being regarding your question: get moving as soon as possible, push for the help if there is resistance, and establish educational needs asap (mainstream versus dedicated schooling; assistance or simply information for teacher; exercises and help at home). And that I know of, the Aspergers diagnosis has simply been redefined as a kind of ASD now (I'm not sure about that).

By the way, he can be cheeky as anything and is not the most articulate, but all in all we have a lovely lad on our hands with a good circle of friends that he has built himself and a great sense of humour. He is going to have it very tough, but he's no disaster. We count ourselves very lucky to have him in our lives.

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Having just gone through the autism evaluation process with a four year old, the process does feel a little silly and inexact if your child is just "showing a few signs". Parental evaluations are weighted rather heavily when your child is young, so it feels like you're providing incriminating evidence to the prosecution every time you describe your child's behavior.

The diagnosis isn't really that useful to me, what I want is the resources and knowledge to help my child thrive. For instance, my child is socially awkward with his peers. There are programs where my kid can get together with other kids that have the same difficulties and work together in a group setting. There are classes like "Teach me how to play at recess" and other things that seem oddly specific yet are the exact things I don't know how to help my child with. Child development psychologists know about all of these resources and can help you find ones that are appropriate for your family.

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Thanks for sharing your experience! –  barbaz Apr 26 at 11:53
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Pay no attention to the psychobabble about such things. Everyone has a different way of thinking and the proper thing to do is to adapt to whatever the child is capable of.

The mind has two basic functions: ordering and grouping. Children who are heavily focused on ordering may seem to be defective to you because they pay no attention to you. It is a mistake to think this. Just because the child does not pay attention to you, does not mean something is wrong with it. In fact, I wish I paid less attention to my parents. You should also not assume that the child does not "hear" you, if they do not respond. It is one thing to understand, another to respond. With a child that is a linear thinker, an orderer, they will focus on only one thing at a time. Trying to get them to do several things at once is a mistake.

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While I agree that adapting to the child is most important, I don't feel that rejecting the knowledge of professionals who have a better understanding of how brains of people with similar conditions work is helpful in that regard. –  barbaz May 7 at 11:35
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