Not quite sure where to start?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by shawnb, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. shawnb

    shawnb New Member

    Our 13 year old son Michael has always been - quirky. I have no problem with quirky, as he has also been exceptionally bright. Positive. Generous - he loves to help out.

    But he's always had a narrow obsession with one thing or another. It changes over time. A few years ago, it was video games. More recently, paintball gear. Currently it's the rock band Green Day. He goes to a catholic school, & his classmates are excellent. They've always been pretty tolerant of his eccentricities. But as they head into teen-hood, Michael's teachers relate that his behavior is pushing him further & further from the rest of the class. EVERY project, assignment, every schoolyard discussion, whatever, he turns to Green Day... The class groans & rolls their eyes collectively... And they tell me so...

    All his life he's shown a number of other symptoms. Professorial speech, socially clueless, physically clumsy (though his class is so small, they need all boys playing sports, and he does play).

    The social queue issues are not extreme at all. He can make eye contact. He talks normally, no monotone. He can understand others' frustrations & needs. Just not when it relates to him.

    His teachers tell me he plays with his hands all day at school, with a pen & a compass. They just leave him be & figure it helps him concentrate.

    So far, so good, nothing too far out of the ordinary.

    However, lately he's been trending in the WRONG direction... Fighting with his mom over homework, but not in a normal teen way, in a quite vicious way. Two classmates who saw this tried to tell him not to be so uncool to his mom. His response: "It's OK. I'm winning. I got her to cry last night."

    I want to shave his head & look for 666s.

    Many other symptoms - lots of tantrums showing up lately, when we discipline him for bad behavior, when we take away the computer, when we try to force certain actions on him. E.g., for years he's been an altar boy. Actually, he loves (loved...) helping out. This last weekend, he didn't want to go. We didn't want the church to be left without a helper, so we tried to get him to do at least a couple more weeks. He threw a tantrum that would shame a 3 year old when we told him he couldn't use his iPod unless he served at church.

    We're having lots of factual disconnects, e.g., were assignments turned in? Did we agree to take him to the store? He calls us liars, when we know exactly what happened. I can't tell if he knows he's lieing to us, or if he's just hoping nobody else notices? The behavior has turned devious at times.

    We had an eye-opening conference with his teachers on Friday with Michael present. It was very difficult, but they caught him in another few layers of lies. They did agree that his grades were shot, but that's not the important thing. We started the meeting off thinking we might kickstart his efforts back at school. We ended up agreeing we may need a doctor's help. I call his pediatrician tomorrow.

    My suspicion - yet to be confirmed - is mild Asperger's. Possibly with a touch of ODD.

    Any input would be appreciated.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Sounds like Aspergers to me. Has he ever had social skills classes? Any ODD is probably caused by the frustrated of untreated Aspergers. My son is an Aspie.

    Has he ever seen a neuropsychologist? If not, I recommend it.

    Welcome :)
  3. shawnb

    shawnb New Member

    No, he's never taken any special classes or seen a doctor for any of this. We start down that path tomorrow, when I call his pediatrician.

    Thus far, I believe we've been lucky for two reasons. First, I think the symptoms have been fairly mild. Also, due to his small class size & generally good-natured classmates, everyone's been cool with him. Maybe chiding him / goofing on him a bit to point him in the right direction.

    But as they all march off towards puberty, his teachers tell me the classmates are a lot less tolerant than they had been. I'm sure there are pressures on my son there; he's sensing a widening social gap.
  4. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    Wow. Your son sounds like my cousins son. I think that many people put his quirks off to being socially challenged, or to his high intelligence level etc. Up until now. As he hits his near teens, it is apparent (to me though its been apparent for a very long time) that something is not quite right with my cousins son. I wondered about Aspergers with him. However some of my cousins sons behaviours don't fit Aspergers.
    I don't have any advice or answers, but I do believe you are very eloquent in stating what issues you have noticed over time. That is a great starting point if he is evaluated in the future etc.
    I do hope your sons path gets easier. High school is so difficult for kids who fit in completely, let alone any of our kids who are in any way different than "the norm".
    I hope that he can be stopped with the tantrums etc. Hang in there!!!
  5. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    Um...I STILL have cyclic obsessions. Currently I am into 'Tepuis'. They are located in Guiana and areas of the Venezuala. They are high mesas of volcanic rock that survived as the softer sedimentary rocks around them eroded away.

    As a result, tepuis tower over the rest of the landscape. Each one has it's own microclimate, flora and fauna due to them having been so isolated for so many eons. To add to this, they have their own springs so that waterfalls run down their sides. If you websearch them, you will see just how beautiful they are.

    Mostly, as an adult who learned the hard way, I've learned not to bore people with the obsession du' jour, but yeah...LoL
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    My son's quirkiness is more noticeable now that he's older. At the same time, he has had lots of social skills classes and is doing better than many kids with Aspergers. He spent a lot of time in Special Education because he learned better in a small environment. He made friends there and was sort of a leader. Now he has kept those friends and made new friends. They aren't the popular kids, but Aspies are usually disinterested in being popular :tongue:. The other kids at school call his lunch table "the geek table" because all the kids are so smart. He doesn't mind, he smiles when he tells me that.

    The Aspies I met basically are naive with hearts of gold. My son is the greatest kid with the best heart. He had meltdowns as a young child, but he doesn't now. I think he feels more secure with who he is and is less frustrated.

    I think social skills classes may help your son a lot. In the real world, people are less tolerant of our quirky kids. Take care!!!! :)
  7. shawnb

    shawnb New Member

    Thanks for the encouraging words, all. If Michael could learn to keep these little obsessions to himself more often, it would sure help him socially...

    I read somewhere here about a "3 day punishment" rule in some writing, some session? Does that sound familiar? I've poked around a bit & can't seem to find where the sessions are stored....
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Well, Lucas can't keep his obsessions in check. Even when I force him to do sports or other activities, his mind is on his obsessions. It's part of the spectrum and it's normal for our kids. I don't punish him for being different because he is and it's not his fault or even a bad thing. It's how he was made.

    Never heard of a three day punishment. In what regard would it be used? I can try to search for it and see what I come up with :tongue:.
  9. shawnb

    shawnb New Member

    An update...

    Spoke with our pediatrician, outlined the general concerns & symptoms. I have been very concerned about the recent spate of tantrums, emotions, meanness, especially directed at his mom. I've never been particularly concerned about his overall 'passions'/quirkiness, figuring he is who he is. My conversation with the pediatrician was almost comical... His concern was the other way around. Regarding the recent emotions, his initial take based on our 20 minute conversation was that we have a teenager on our hands... :surprise: It was the 'passions' & sometimes extreme social awkwardness that concerned him a lot more, as they might be indicative of something that needs to be looked into.

    He gave me 4 references, I made all 4 calls. Two aren't taking more patients. The third seemed younger, crisper, more scientific, but wasn't on our health plan. The fourth seemed more like a kindly old uncle, was very spacey (kept losing my phone number & couldn't call me back), however, seemed very experienced & empathetic. Plus, he was on our plan, so visits will be a minor co-pay, oh, two orders of magnitude cheaper than the other... I guess I can handle a kindly old uncle. We're going to hook up next week. That's assuming he doesn't lose my phone number again... :ashamed:

    Things have improved dramatically since the watershed conference with his teachers that started this thread. Teachers report he's more like his old self in class. He's cut his mom a lot more slack at home. He's thrown a couple of very short tantrums when I've laid down the law over basic things like homework completion.

    I've had a fair amount of conflict with my wife, over a few things. She doesn't buy there might be an underlying psychiatric issue; I think she feels if we keep pushing him hard, he'll straighten up. She continuously yells/bickers at difficult child. Why isn't he going for extra credit at school? Why is the quality of homework/projects so horrible? Why is he lying on the couch, when he could be reading his book. Frankly, this tone freaks everyone out, including difficult child's kid brother. And just contributes to difficult child's simply ignoring his mom; disrespects her.

    I've been trying to focus on a couple of things. First, focus on schoolwork completion, not necessarily quality. An important step in getting things back on track - he'd been defiantly hiding homework, progress reports, assignments, etc. In other words, pick our battles. Hard to argue over quality when things weren't being done. When my wife starts raising her voice, though it's usually for something understandable, I've had to ask her to just plain STOP, once quite forcefully. Third, firm, long-term consequences to show difficult child we're serious. He loves using the laptop; it's been off limits for weeks for treating his mom with disrespect, and I think he's getting the point... Couple of tantrum-ettes over that, but I think he gets the point.

    I've been cutting out of work early to head home & be there to keep the peace. Very difficult in my job, but some things are more important than others...

    House is a lot more peaceful. At least schoolwork is getting done, which is a major improvement. Conflict between mom & difficult child seems reduced.

    We've gone from feeling like we were living outtakes form "The Exorcist" :devil2: to feeling like extremely normal parents of a teenager. :faint:

    Of course I'm pursuing the psychiatrist. I'm very concerned things will trend poorly as we go through the transition to high school next year, which I know will be a major problem. He cannot make it to his school of choice, and that will be a major blow (though probably a blessing in disguise, he deeply desires the 'elite' school, which looks like a recipe for disaster...). Wherever he goes, he will know very, very few kids there, & will, hopefully, be his quirky goofy self... It's going to be a hard transition no matter what happens.
  10. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    First of all, welcome. I'm a bit late coming into this as I seem to spend most of my time lately on the watercooler page. You'll find this is a great place for support, information and just generally people who "get it".

    It sounds as if you're headed in the right direction. Even the kindly uncle can do testing or send you to someone who can. You'll get there. As for your wife, why is she against the possible Aspergers? Do you think it's a denial of mental issues in general or a fairly typical parental reaction of "There's nothing wrong with my child"? You'll need to figure out the root of her denial (for lack of a better term) because when it comes to getting your son the interventions and/or help he needs/may need down the road, you both really need to be on the same page.

    If you think it could be helpful, encourage her to come here and look around or even ask questions. If she's afraid that we are just trying to find something wrong, that's not the case at all. What SHE will find here are parents who understand the fear and confusion and who have been in her shoes. The combined knowledge here can and has put professionals to shame.

    Anyhow....welcome again.
  11. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    Actually, autism is not a psychiatric disorder; it's a neurological/developmental disorder.
  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I'm sorry I'm so short of time at the moment becaue I can see so much of our situation in your descriptions. I'll try to be brief.

    First, the conflict with your wife - he is a teen. she is acting in the beleif that he just needs a firmer hand and harder pushing. If this is Asperger's, then that is almost certainly why you're seeing manifestations of ODD. While that pushing your wife wants will work wonders with a lot of kids, it is often exactly wrong for Aspies 9and some others) because it is directly challenging the kid's own NEEDS to have some sense of control in his life, somewhere.

    We often think we, the adults, need to be the ones in control. And we can be, but with these kids the sooner they learn appropriate, adult-like self-control, the better. They are wired differently and need to be handled a different way. The more you push them, the worse it gets. It's like the grass bending in the storm and surviving, while the strong willow tree trying to stand stiff and solid in the teeth of the gale will eventually break and fall.

    Plus he's a teen. That makes it worse.

    The obsessions - he needs them. Don't try to change them or dcontrol them. Instead, he needs a therapist to work with him to help him learn appropaite social skills. It's OK to have obsessions, even extreme obsessions. But he needs to learn that not everyone shares the same obsessions, nor to the same degree. He needs to learn that he is different but that's OK. And it's not his fault, or a flaw, to be different. However, it DOdeS mean he needs to learn to adapt, since he is the one who differs from the majority, not the other way around.

    The obsessions can be useful, as can the degree of intense focus he is capable of. Help him learn to use it, help him learn how to use his own desperate need to be in control, to learn to manage his own needs and responsibilities.

    Do not expect him to be age-equivalent socially. He will take longer to get to where he should be. For example, difficult child 1 had to have his baby sister tie his shoes for him. For years, even into high school, we got him velcro-fastening shoes instead of lace-ups. In so many other ways he seemed clueless and helpless, even into early adulthood. And yet - he is now married (at 25) and in the last year (1st anniversary coming up) he has made amazing progress. His wife does a lot to organise him but he is also a wonderful support to her in her anxiety issues and her panic attacks. Having another person to look after has really helped him make that last great leap in maturity.

    Then there's difficult child 3. A work in progress. Despite some great development and amazing efforts all round, we still have problems. A lot of them are due to the clashes between him (and his stubborn insistence on always being right plus he sees himself as equal to anybody, including his parents, so he will TELL us how to behave in the same way we try to tell him) and his father, who still when tired and stressd falls back on the strict "I am the father" parenting style indoctrinated into him. Intellectually husband knows this is not only ineffective but sends progress backwards; but when tired, he just falls back into old habits. We all do. But it often means that their relationship is rocky.

    It's good you've joinedus here. We can give instant help now plus provide ongoing support for you and your wife. And your son.

    You're not crazy, any of you. And Heater is right, this is not a psychiatric disorder (which could make your wife feeel better). It is neurological. Certain parts of your son's brain wiring are very different. It causes problems in some areas, notably the "social sense" is damaged or missing. However, these kids still feel emotion every bit as much as the rest of us, often more. But they don't always show emotions in ways we would normally recognise.

    Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids have their difficulties but they also have some wonderful qualities. They are intensely loyal. Law-abiding (to laws as they understand them). Often able to concentrate in minute detail and for considerable time on the things they really enjoy. This means that potentially, they can be valuable workers to the right employer. There are other issues too.

    difficult child 3 is into computers and computer games big-time. Always has been, since infancy. So I explained about his autism to him using computers as an analogy. I told him that if we print off a text document that hs been put together in an attractive, tidy font with al lthe paragraphs done as we want them, text bolded or italixised as we want it, al lthe words where we want them, we can have two documents side by side looknig identical. ONly one has been put together on a Mac while the other was done on a easy child. The documents can be made to look identical. However, the software and actual programming language needed to tell the computers how to do this, is vastly different and often incompatible, Mac to easy child and vice versa.

    And some people have Mac brains, others have easy child brains. The important thing is to identify which YOU are, and make sure you get the right sort of programming (ie education) assistance.

    SOme suggestions which will come your way from others too:

    1) Get your hands on "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. Whatever the diagnosis of your son, this book will help you both learn how to cope. Your wife especially needs to read it so she can find out how to get into his head. You need to begin where he is, not try to drag him to where you are. He is the one with the neurological disability, plus he is the kid. We do this with babies - we listen to their cries and respond accordingly. We feed the hungry baby. We put the tired baby to bed. We change the wet nappies. And so on. A baby isn't good at communicating, we have to learn to listen to the baby. A Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kid still needs the same level of intense listening, because even if they're highly verbal, they can't always explain why they are so frustrated because identifying their emotions is a part of social sense. They feel the emotions, but can't always understand them.

    2) Try to work towrds a neuropsychologist assessment. It needs to be sufficiently detailed so you can get useful information from the suub-scores. There may be other assessments needed (such as speech pathology) which need to be similarly detailed. Don't look for the IQ score, thay single number is not going to be very useful and in Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) is generally an understimate. Instead, look for the multiple smaller subscores, look for the diffierences between the high score areas and the low score areas. Lookat the categories, then use the child's high skill areas to help develop the more challenging parts of his brain. These kids generally want to fit in, they want to be seen as normal although to a certian extent they will always feel different. But they are generally very smarty, at least in some areas. Use that smarts (or help them learn to use it themselves) to help them learn how to face their difficulties and get stuck in. Avoidance is bad, and a bad habit to allow to develop. These kids can be incredibly stubborn - teach him to use his stubbornness to get the job done.

    3) To get a better, but informal, idea of what is wrong, go to and look for their Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) questionnaire. YOu can't use it to formally diagnose but do the test, if you're not sure of a question ten click on it and read the more detailed info on how to accurately answer it. When you're don, print it out (even if he scores as normal - I'm betting he won't) then keep a copy. Take a copy to the specialist appointment and use it as leverge to get help. It will at least indicate, all together in a couple of pages, the sort of problems that are concerning you.

    Now put all this together. Try to get your wife to read the posts here too. Even if you think your relationship is perfect and your communication totally mind-to-mind matching, you may be surprised at just how much this site can improve what already may seem perfect. And if it's not perfect - this can help even more.

    My husband began lurknig here, reading what I posgted. Even though these were things we talked to one anoter about, somehow reading it was like taking a dose of highly distilled medicine. Very powerful, very effective. husband would come home and say, "I read your post today about that woman's kid. Now I tihnk I understand what you were saying about difficult child 3, only I wasn't getting the info all at once so it didn't make as much sense to me. I think I get it now."
    Sometimes he would say, "I don't agree with what you said in that thread today. Why did you say that?" and it would get us talking about the reasons. Sometimes I had been right; sometimes I had been wrong. But it got us talking, and even though we have always been a great team, it has been immensely more effective now.

    He now has his own sig, logs on in his own name and sometimes posts.

    Anyway, welcome to the site. I'll try to check in, it's been purgatory here for the last few weeks and there's more to come. But I'll try to check in to see how you're going. husband will be in as well.

  13. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    Michael sounds like my oldest son, who is textbook Aspie. Try reading Asperger's Syndrome by Tony Atwood and look at his website - google him.

    At least Green Day is a band you can listen to. My son used to obsess over this German techno band, Rammstein.

    If SF is really where you're located, you might be able to find a HS that would be better for him than parochial school. My son went to an alternative HS geared to Aspies. He had friends, especially when he was your son's age and went through his paint ball phase (he convinced his younger brother to have a paint ball Bar Mitzvah!), kids who didn't care about how annoying his obsessions were because they were busy with their own. Ultimately, he learned to be more tolerant and less vocal about his obsessions.

    The bright spot (pun intended) is that many Aspies are very bright (uber smart as my Rammstein fan would say) and if they are properly directed can succeed. The bad spot is that they tend to mature later. My son is now 19 and his closest buddy is my 13 year old son. They are each about 16 in maturity level. However, I see so much positive change in my son. He is in college now, though he 's not doing great, he is going and enjoying it. However, from about 16 through 18, he made me crazy. Blowing curfew, dropping out of college, general rudeness. It was the kind of behavior that a neuro-typical 14 to 16 year old displays, but he had a driver's license! If I had it to do over again, I would not encourage him to get his license as soon as he was able, just so I could have controlled his behavior a little bit more. It was hard not to let him drive, because he was also willing to drive his sibs around.

    Good luck and the best thing to remember is that Michael is NOT doing these things to annoy you (for the most part) but because he doesn't have a different mental model. Some social skills therapy in a group might be beneficial.