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Autism

Does Teenage Son Have Asperger's?

02/02/2009

Question:

We have had difficulty ever getting a firm diagnosis (diagnosES) for my son. We have sought multiple venues, however, and he receives support from school. Opinions vary, but he displays many of the Asperger`s Spectrum behaviors. He is having a hard time in 7th grade. His stereotypical movements have increased. He is much more emotional (although thankfully, he is not a MIS-behavior problem.) Sensory-wise, he has always been an extremely picky eater and now he is down to eating even fewer foods and dropped some of his all-time favorites. The expectations of 7th grade have increased. He is bright and certainly capable of meeting these expectations. He also has ADD. Anxiety. Do you have some resources to recommend? Do you have any advice? We feel like 7th grade has overtaken our whole family. I am also frustrated because often times he has so much homework and his "issues" make it hard to complete the homework that then he doesn`t have time to do the pleasurable/calming/sensory activities that he NEEDS to relax and refocus himself.

Answer:

While it can be frustrating not having a firm diagnosis, it is not always necessary to have one to provide some treatment for a person's symptoms or problem behaviors.

From your description, your teen does have many behaviors seen in Asperger's but these also could be seen in a teen with ADHD, anxiety, and sensory issues.

For some problems, the treatment will be the same regardless of the underlying diagnosis. For example, the same medications would be considered for treating the ADHD or anxiety symptoms, sensory integration treatment would be recommended for his sensory issues, and so on.

I would recommend discussing these concerns with your teen's primary care doctor. There are non-medical treatments for anxiety and sensory problems that can help him learn self-calming techniques. Medication may be part of the overall treatment plan, either for the ADHD symptoms or the anxiety symptoms.

There are some books for parents that can provide some practical help or at least provide you with the knowledge that there are other parents experiencing similar concerns with their teens. "Maybe you Know My Teen" by Mary Fowler is about teens with ADHD, and "Raising a Sensory Smart Child" by Lindsey Biel is about dealing with the many sensory issues some children on the autism spectrum encounter.

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Response by:

Daniel   Coury, MD Daniel Coury, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University