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My daughter turned 3 in March. My wife has been her primary carer since birth. She attended daycare very briefly for 2 days/week shortly after she turned 2, but this only lasted a month or two as we weren't particular happy with the daycare centre.

At the end of January this year (shortly before she turned 3) she started 3YO kindergarten. Because she is a March child, and the end of April is the year cutoff for determining what year children go into kinder/school, she is one of the youngest in her class (the age ranges from just-turned 3 to 4 1/2).

2 days into starting at kinder, the teacher told us that she was some seeing some behavioural signs which are common with children that have mild Aspergers syndrome. She doesn't really like to socialise with the other children, preferring to keep to herself and read or paint, doesn't respond to her name very often, and sometimes repeats herself when she talks.

We booked herself a consultation with a developmental pediatrician. The first consultation was a bit of a disaster; my daughter was in a terrible mood and the only way to console her was to give her my phone to flick through photos, which she did for most of consultation. Signs weren't positive, but we tried to end on a positive note at the recommendation of the pediatrician.

On the second consultation, she was a different child. She looked at the pediatrician and didn't appear to be showing any signs that she was suffering from an ASD. The pediatrician almost went to the point of saying that a child with an ASD wouldn't have acted the way she did at that second consultation, as she was adapting to her surroundings and appeared to be showing a level of empathy (appropriate for her age) towards him. She even reached up to him at the end for a hug. This allayed much of our anxiety, albeit temporarily.

We have also been seeing a speech therapist as we are concerned about her being difficult to understand when she speaks. After the first speech therapist consultation, and when we mentioned the "A" word, she recommended for her to go to her kinder with another speech therapist to observe her behaviour. We received a report about their observations and they had many concerns, mirroring what the kinder teacher had originally told us.

Whilst she appears to be awkward socially, there are some circumstances where she is much better. She has a cousin the same age who she gets on with really well (they were playing hide and seek together the other day). She gets along very well with her grandfather on one side of the family, being very interactive with him, building blocks together, great eye contact, great 2-way communication. At home (when she's not being defiant and having tantrums) she can be great with us, although the tantrums are getting more and more difficult to deal with.

When we read reports of the way she is acting in kinder, it really concerns us and stirs up our anxiety.

When reading about aspergers and other ASDs, you often hear about "red flags" which are certain behaviours to watch out for which could indicate a problem. There's no doubt that she is showing some of these red flags in certain social situations, but there are other times (in areas she is more comfortable in, or people she is more comfortable with) where she seems like she could be a typical (albeit shy and reserved) 3YO (call them "green flags" if you will).

Does this sound like the behaviour or a neurological "normal" (I hate to use the term) child?

Update

I didn't originally list all of the behaviours that the speech pathologist was concerned with, but some others that the speech therapist observed while she was at kinder were:

  • When other children try to engage with her socially, she ignores them and walks away
  • Doesn't ask for help when needed
  • Randomly starts doing counting from memory (rote) (she loves numbers, but does have other interests)
  • Talks in a sing-song rhythmic voice (high-pitched)
  • Kept engaging in a certain activity when other children had finished (head-shoulders-knees-toes dance)
  • Avoids eye contact with other children
  • "Reads" books with her finger, and will turn through every page of the book running her finger along the words

Except for her odd voice intonation and love of numbers, I'd say some of her other behaviours can change based on the situation or circumstance, e.g. with her 3YO cousin who she seems to connect to better.

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Is it worth being "worried sick" ? Many people don't consider AS as a disorder… –  Skippy le Grand Gourou Oct 13 at 9:17

3 Answers 3

I am not so sure this is an answer, and I am not a medical practitioner, but you are drawing conclusions based on tiny bits of information, much of which is conflicting. Sometimes your daughter displays behaviors that are possibly indicative of a behavioral condition, and sometimes she behaves in ways that are absolutely "normal." The only real issues you describe are some problems with speech and some defiance/tantrums, both of which are not unusual in a 3-year-old. Other behaviors, like sometimes keeping to herself, repeating, sometimes not responding to her name, are not problematic at 3 years old, and are also age-appropriate.

It might help to keep a journal of behaviors you consider odd so you have a realistic picture of how often these behaviors happen in order to gain perspective. You may find that she doesn't respond to her name three times in one day, but she does respond 12 other times. Maybe she keeps to herself in one environment but is social in another environment. Watch for patterns and for events that might trigger certain behaviors.

Your daughter is in school for the first time, and this is stressful for someone so young. The little things you are seeing, the tantrums even, may just be her outlet. Until you can establish a pattern of behaviors or until any particular behavior becomes worrisome on its own, you might just observe and try not to worry so much.

Keep breathing!

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thanks for the detailed answer, I added an update to my question. Not sure if this changes your answer (possibly not). I'm guess I'm just looking for reassurance; it's always hard hearing/reading about potential problems with your own child. –  Worried Parent May 7 at 5:19
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Definitely keep track of positive AND negative reactions, that's important. It's very easy for us to see negative patterns because we ignore the 'normal' results. If I eat potato salad fifteen times, the only one I'm going to remember is the one that made me sick, not the fourteen that were perfectly normal. –  Joe May 7 at 13:37
    
+1 yeah really, 3 year olds act all kinds of random ways, nothing here seems abnormal to me. –  mxyzplk May 7 at 22:02

This is not a direct answer to your question but a suggestion on how to gather more data.

If you don't know any of the other kinder parents, enlist the teacher's help in identifying sympathetic parents.

Approach them and ask for a playdate (one at a time). Discuss with them the issue and that you want to see if your daughter is just overwhelmed by the number of children. You want to try to foster a relationship/friendship with one or two other children as a bridge.

Have the other parents prepare their children by saying that your daughter is shy and may not want to play, but we'll try. Have them bring their own toys so that your daughter doesn't feel that her stuff is being taken. Then you can encourage show-and-tell, trading, etc.

Keep it relatively short, repeat if there's not a complete meltdown, and be prepared to cancel if your daughter's not in a good mood that day!

I'm divided on having the cousin there as well, but I think not--too distracting and too easy for them to go off by themselves.

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We are in a similar situation, except that we haven't talked with a pediatrician yet. My related question (At which age does it make sense to see a professional when suspecting Asperger?) was inspired by fear of exactly what has happened to you.

From what I have read so far, it is common that Aspergers symptoms are not always present, i.e., the child sometimes appears "normal". Furthermore, Aspergers is particularly hard to diagnose in girls.

So what we did is that we filled out a few tests (like the ASAS) and noted examples of behaviors both typical and untypical for ASDs, and we will have them with us when we go to see the doctor. This way we don't have to rely only on the child's behavior on that day, because, as previous experience shows, it is quite unpredictable. We'll see how this works out...

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