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?
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.