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Old 08-30-2013, 12:42 PM   #1
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Asperger's vs. High Functioning Autism

I know this is a Disney board, but I know there are a lot of mommies on here with kids on the spectrum that might have some insight into this for me. DS (11) was just recently diagnosed on the spectrum after 11 years of misdiagnoses. He was labeled "anti - social" by his pediatrician. They also gave him a diagnoses of ODD. He also has a diagnoses of ADHD. I have suspected autism for awhile. In fact, if you want to get right down to it, I am probably an undiagnosed adult with Asperger's myself. (And so is my dad). I have seen sooo many similarities between my son and myself which is probably why I understand him so well and probably also why it took so long to get a diagnoses because a lot of his behaviors I thought were just his "quirks". Little quirks like I myself have. Anyways, he started having MAJOR behavioral issues at school which prompted me to seek other avenues for him. We saw a consular who took one look at him and said Autism. The first pyscologist agreed stating he had high functioning autism. The pyschatrist disagreed and says he has Asperger's. I am completely confused as to what the difference is. I assumed they were pretty much one and the same. Can someone please clarify this for me? Also, I could totally use any help or resources you can direct me to when it comes to helping my son. This is all completely new to us and we are starting down this new path for us completely blind.
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Old 08-30-2013, 01:16 PM   #2
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I use the terms synonymously. My understanding is that different doctors are more comfortable with one label over the other and will have differing opinions as to which diagnosis a child should be given. Some doctors will only use one or the other.

Basically, you've already jumped the important hurtle of getting the ASD diagnosis so you can get him the therapies and/or accomodations that he needs. The specific diagnosis is actually irrelevant as long as the school and specialsts all understand his particular set of issues and needs and treat/help him accordingly.

As the mom of an Aspie who's als a self-diagnosed Aspie who's got a brother, father and grandfather who I also believe are Aspies, I get where you're coming from with your thoughts over the years regarding your son's behaviours. My DD is a mini-me in a lot of areas of her personality as well as many of her quirks.
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Old 08-30-2013, 02:02 PM   #3
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My understanding is that the only difference is when language skills developed. Kids who had normal language development are diagnosed Asperger's, while language delays signal an Autism diagnosis. I'm pretty much with pp though, no real difference between the two.
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Old 08-30-2013, 02:14 PM   #4
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The way it was explained to me is that the higher functioning end of the PDD-NOS spectrum is the high functioning with language delay diagnosis. I think no two doctors use the same criteria. The professionals we've worked with don't actually give a HFA diagnosis and say that using the term high functioning autism is just a descriptor rather than a diagnosis. It's no wonder there's so much confusion around all of this. Even the professionals don't agree.
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Old 08-30-2013, 03:12 PM   #5
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I have another question: I have already been told by the school, that we will have problems getting an IEP for him because academically he is doing just fine. He has to be having problems academically to be approved for services. I think this is being a little short sighted. My child isn't having problems academically (because he is ridiculously bright), but he is having problems with the social aspects of school. His behavior has caused problems in school like getting suspended for two days last year. He only does what is asked of him; bare minimum. He probably would get better grades and such if he were to actually apply himself which he doesn't do because of attention issues. SO, because he isn't having actual academic problems, he won't get services like being able to get a "time out" when he is being overwhelmed. They will treat hs outbursts like a behavioral problem and not a symptom of some other issues that are going on. Does that make sense? How do I go about dealing with this and getting the services I think he needs like being able to talk to a counsler at school if he is having a rough day or quiet, less stimulating places for test taking and studying, etc. ??
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Old 08-30-2013, 03:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nixie View Post
I have another question: I have already been told by the school, that we will have problems getting an IEP for him because academically he is doing just fine. He has to be having problems academically to be approved for services. I think this is being a little short sighted. My child isn't having problems academically (because he is ridiculously bright), but he is having problems with the social aspects of school. His behavior has caused problems in school like getting suspended for two days last year. He only does what is asked of him; bare minimum. He probably would get better grades and such if he were to actually apply himself which he doesn't do because of attention issues. SO, because he isn't having actual academic problems, he won't get services like being able to get a "time out" when he is being overwhelmed. They will treat hs outbursts like a behavioral problem and not a symptom of some other issues that are going on. Does that make sense? How do I go about dealing with this and getting the services I think he needs like being able to talk to a counsler at school if he is having a rough day or quiet, less stimulating places for test taking and studying, etc. ??
Here is a lot of information about special education eligibility from Wrights Law.
http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/elig.index.htm
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Old 08-30-2013, 05:55 PM   #7
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I have thought for the last several years that my ds12 might be on the spectrum as well. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD after seeing a psychologist when he was in 4th grade and he started having bad behavioral issues at school (flat out refusal to do work, lots of crying/tantrums, detention at least once a week all year, several fights and one Saturday session). Up to that point I was told he was "lazy" because he would do the minimum amount of work to pass his classes. He did have a speech issue when he was little and went through 3 years of therapy starting in Kindergarten, because of that he was never able to "get" phonics so his reading level is behind. He has a few friends, but he does not make friends well. He's playing footfball this fall but I've noticed that he stands off to the side and doesn't join in with the other boys on the sideline. He had one friend that he was friends with for 5 years - the boy did something that made him mad (that I was never able to find out what) and he hasn't spoken to him since. He started jr high this year and I'm worried that he will have trouble falling behind because he is so disorganized - just finished the 2nd week and he's already forgotten to bring home books twice that he needed for assignments. His first psychologist said we could get a aide to help him with getting organized before/after school and helping him with other needs but I'm not sure how I would go about getting this help or if he would even want it. He is now seeing a different dr that I don't really like, but my ds does. I haven't brought it up because I figure he'll just brush it off. After all, he wasn't concerned at all when the pediatrician threw a fit when ds lost 40 lbs over the course of a year and a half and refused to even try a different medication (luckily his weight leveled off but he still has not gained any back and he's falling behind on his growth as well - he's 5' tall and weighs 70 lbs.).
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Old 08-30-2013, 06:07 PM   #8
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I have another question: I have already been told by the school, that we will have problems getting an IEP for him because academically he is doing just fine. He has to be having problems academically to be approved for services. I think this is being a little short sighted. My child isn't having problems academically (because he is ridiculously bright), but he is having problems with the social aspects of school. His behavior has caused problems in school like getting suspended for two days last year. He only does what is asked of him; bare minimum. He probably would get better grades and such if he were to actually apply himself which he doesn't do because of attention issues. SO, because he isn't having actual academic problems, he won't get services like being able to get a "time out" when he is being overwhelmed. They will treat hs outbursts like a behavioral problem and not a symptom of some other issues that are going on. Does that make sense? How do I go about dealing with this and getting the services I think he needs like being able to talk to a counsler at school if he is having a rough day or quiet, less stimulating places for test taking and studying, etc. ??
I would think that you should really push for an IEP. School is not just academic. Many, if not all states, do also have standards for social/emotional learning at school...that is TOTALLY part of the purpose of school. He should not be getting suspensions or other penalties for a disability. No way. I'd be going up the chain of command in my district. Start with teacher, then principal, then superintendent, then school board. Tempting as it is to go straight to the top, you will get a better solution(even though it takes a while) if you go step by step through the chain of command. Document all your conversations/emails as you go along. You will learn a lot too, which will also help you as you work through this over the next several years.
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Old 08-30-2013, 09:22 PM   #9
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I have thought for the last several years that my ds12 might be on the spectrum as well. He has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD after seeing a psychologist when he was in 4th grade and he started having bad behavioral issues at school (flat out refusal to do work, lots of crying/tantrums, detention at least once a week all year, several fights and one Saturday session). Up to that point I was told he was "lazy" because he would do the minimum amount of work to pass his classes. He did have a speech issue when he was little and went through 3 years of therapy starting in Kindergarten, because of that he was never able to "get" phonics so his reading level is behind. He has a few friends, but he does not make friends well. He's playing footfball this fall but I've noticed that he stands off to the side and doesn't join in with the other boys on the sideline. He had one friend that he was friends with for 5 years - the boy did something that made him mad (that I was never able to find out what) and he hasn't spoken to him since. He started jr high this year and I'm worried that he will have trouble falling behind because he is so disorganized - just finished the 2nd week and he's already forgotten to bring home books twice that he needed for assignments. His first psychologist said we could get a aide to help him with getting organized before/after school and helping him with other needs but I'm not sure how I would go about getting this help or if he would even want it. He is now seeing a different dr that I don't really like, but my ds does. I haven't brought it up because I figure he'll just brush it off. After all, he wasn't concerned at all when the pediatrician threw a fit when ds lost 40 lbs over the course of a year and a half and refused to even try a different medication (luckily his weight leveled off but he still has not gained any back and he's falling behind on his growth as well - he's 5' tall and weighs 70 lbs.).
My advice for you would be to get a different doctor. I know you son likes the one he has now, but I would get another opinion. My son has been with the same ped since he was 1. The ped totally missed the signs and me being probably on the spectrum as well thought that most of his behaviors were normal. Like I said above, it literally took all of 10 mins of the consoler talking to me, him and observing him to diagnose autism. We saw the pyschatrist about a month later who said the same thing. Your son sounds a lot like mine. Some of the other behaviors my DS has (and so do I LOL), very limited interests like my son will watch the same You Tube video over and over. He has an obsession with Minecraft. He knew everything about the game and such and hadn't even played it (we finally did get it for him.) He has a fascination with moving parts and things. He would not want to ride on his bicycle when he was little, but turn it over and just spin the wheel over and over. He is very disturbed by loud sounds. He is very "stand offish". He does not like to be touched or have his personal space invaded. He does not interact with his siblings. He would much rather stay in his room and play by himself. He won't talk about his feelings or anything. He gets really uncomfortable in social situations. He won't intiate conversations. Most of his answers to questions are one worded, quick answers. He will try anything to get out of a prolonged conversation. He will not look you in the eye when talking to you. In fact, most of the time he will be looking to the side or completely not even facing you when you try to talk to him. He has some anxiety issues like if he sees a bee he freaks out. It doesn't matter if the bee flies away, he will keep check and rechecking to see where the bee is. He has a very distorted perception of pain. He had an ear infection that was so bad once it ruptured his ear drum, yet he didn't even complain about it once. I didn't realize what was going on until blood was running out of his ear. Contrast that with when he was admitted to the hospital for a Staph infection. He had to get an IV and got himself soo worked up; he threw up. He doesn't do well with change at all. You have to "warn" him about up and coming things and give him enough time to adjust. He is also extremely impulsive and doesn't think his actions through before he does them; that is probably what gets him into the most trouble at school. He is very picky with foods and extremely underweight for his height. We actually actively trying to put weight on him. He went one whole year only eating chicken nuggets and French fries. I didn't mean to write a novel LOL. This is just a few of his "quirks". Unfortunately most of it I thought was normal because I do a lot of this myself. It wasn't until he had a major issue at school that this has all finally had light shed onto it.
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Old 08-31-2013, 10:31 AM   #10
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I have another question: I have already been told by the school, that we will have problems getting an IEP for him because academically he is doing just fine...
As others have said, high-functioning autism and Asperger's are the same thing. It's pretty petty to have arguments over that.

My one word of advice - NEVER let anyone stop you or your child from receiving the care or accommodations they need. I've had an aspie kid in and out of the public school system for 13 years. I've learned through the years to always fight when you're not happy with the decision, and if you need to go over someone's head to get an answer, do it.

Your son may not qualify for an IEP on autism alone. My son didn't until he was in high school just because the district reestablished what their guidelines were for autism. But when he didn't qualify for an IEP he did have a 504. He only qualified for an IEP when his grades took a nosedive.

So, do as others have said - get a second opinion, or a third. Talk with the school counselor/psychologist. But don't give up and don't loose hope.

One online site is called OASIS (or something like that). It really helped me out a lot when my son was first diagnosed.
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Old 08-31-2013, 10:47 AM   #11
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Thank you all soo much for the information and support!
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Old 08-31-2013, 02:57 PM   #12
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If he did not have a speech delay when he was a small child he cannot be diagnosed with Autism. There is no diagnosis of "high functioning Autism/moderate/low" it's either Autistic Disorder, or PDD-NOS or CDD. There isn't really much of a difference when it comes to academics and higher end of Autism and Asperger's Syndrome, however there is a bit of a difference in speech patterns of someone who has Autism compared to someone with Asperger's Syndrome.

Get another opinion just to be safe, yeah sometimes there is a thin line between Autism and Aspger's Syndrome if you are on the more functional side of the umbrella but it's better to have a correct diagnosis than an incorrect one and since right now Autism seems to be the fad diagnosis you may want to just be extra careful.
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Old 08-31-2013, 04:33 PM   #13
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Yes under DSM-IV the child with a speech delay would get a diagnosis of Autism and without Aspergers. This has all gone away with DSM-V but everyone still uses the term Aspergers for our high functioning kids.

Under DSM-V there are 3 levels of Autism

Never let a school tell you that academic needs are required for an IEP, that was cleared up many years ago. Functional needs (social skills, executive function etc) are just as important as academic skills and must be taught and accommodated for.

And yes many of us went though alphabet soup from unqualified clinicians before receiving a proper diagnosis. We are only are few years away form genetic testing for Autism genetics so once that happens our children will be much better off and get the supports they need much earlier.
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Old 08-31-2013, 06:48 PM   #14
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I have another question: I have already been told by the school, that we will have problems getting an IEP for him because academically he is doing just fine. He has to be having problems academically to be approved for services. I think this is being a little short sighted. My child isn't having problems academically (because he is ridiculously bright), but he is having problems with the social aspects of school. His behavior has caused problems in school like getting suspended for two days last year. He only does what is asked of him; bare minimum. He probably would get better grades and such if he were to actually apply himself which he doesn't do because of attention issues. SO, because he isn't having actual academic problems, he won't get services like being able to get a "time out" when he is being overwhelmed. They will treat hs outbursts like a behavioral problem and not a symptom of some other issues that are going on. Does that make sense? How do I go about dealing with this and getting the services I think he needs like being able to talk to a counsler at school if he is having a rough day or quiet, less stimulating places for test taking and studying, etc. ??
I am not saying whether or not YOUR child needs an IEP. There are many, many children with Autism/ Asperger's who do not have IEP's and do well in school. My nephew (14) is one of them. He had an IEP throughout much of elementary school and spent part of the day in a separate classroom. By the upper elem. grades he no longer had any need for an IEP. Middle school was a little rough socially (he did go to counseling) but he was very strong in his classes and got good grades. He is starting High School this week and we will see. OTOH, there are many children with Autism/ Asperger's who do qualify for IEP's.

As a special education teacher there are 3 questions that we (the team made up of teacher, parents, therapists, principal etc...) must answer (by law) in order to qualify someone for Special Education. The first asks whether or not the student has one of a specific list of disabilities. Since autism is on the list, the answer in your DS's case would be yes and you can move onto question 2.

Question 2 is where it gets fuzzy. The question is: Is the child making effective progress in school? If the answer is no, then the child does not qualify for an IEP and may be entitled to a 504 plan. If the question is yes, then you can move onto question 3. The problem is, "effective progress" is completely subjective. You could argue that if your child has passing grades, then they indeed are making "effective progress." On the flip side, you could argue that suspensions are hurting his "effective progress."

This is why the school is saying he may not qualify. It also may be pressure from administration. I know our principal likes to keep the numbers down and we groan when she attends a meeting because we know if it is a child who is on the fence that she will push us away from qualifying him/her and that there will be repercussions if we disagree with her.

My suggestion to you would be to document. Document difficulties/ successes; what works/ what doesn't. Look and see if he really needs specially designed instruction or if he just needs accommodations/ related services that could easily be covered under a 504 plan. And, my biggest advice is not to go to a meeting alone. They can be completely overwhelming. Bring your spouse, parent, sibling, friend... someone else who knows your child.

I wish you the best.
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Old 09-01-2013, 04:06 PM   #15
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I am not saying whether or not YOUR child needs an IEP. There are many, many children with Autism/ Asperger's who do not have IEP's and do well in school. My nephew (14) is one of them. He had an IEP throughout much of elementary school and spent part of the day in a separate classroom. By the upper elem. grades he no longer had any need for an IEP. Middle school was a little rough socially (he did go to counseling) but he was very strong in his classes and got good grades. He is starting High School this week and we will see. OTOH, there are many children with Autism/ Asperger's who do qualify for IEP's.

As a special education teacher there are 3 questions that we (the team made up of teacher, parents, therapists, principal etc...) must answer (by law) in order to qualify someone for Special Education. The first asks whether or not the student has one of a specific list of disabilities. Since autism is on the list, the answer in your DS's case would be yes and you can move onto question 2.

Question 2 is where it gets fuzzy. The question is: Is the child making effective progress in school? If the answer is no, then the child does not qualify for an IEP and may be entitled to a 504 plan. If the question is yes, then you can move onto question 3. The problem is, "effective progress" is completely subjective. You could argue that if your child has passing grades, then they indeed are making "effective progress." On the flip side, you could argue that suspensions are hurting his "effective progress."

This is why the school is saying he may not qualify. It also may be pressure from administration. I know our principal likes to keep the numbers down and we groan when she attends a meeting because we know if it is a child who is on the fence that she will push us away from qualifying him/her and that there will be repercussions if we disagree with her.

My suggestion to you would be to document. Document difficulties/ successes; what works/ what doesn't. Look and see if he really needs specially designed instruction or if he just needs accommodations/ related services that could easily be covered under a 504 plan. And, my biggest advice is not to go to a meeting alone. They can be completely overwhelming. Bring your spouse, parent, sibling, friend... someone else who knows your child.

I wish you the best.
Thank you for this. This really helps. I guess I am asking too much of our school? The principal told me he wouldn't even qualify for a 504 because he isn't struggling academically. I am not expecting him to be put into different classes or anything. I totally don't think he needs that. What he does need is a little more emotional support during school. When something "goes wrong" for him, he shuts down. That can turn into anything from him literally acting out in school by yelling or screaming to hiding under a desk, to running outta of classroom, or like last year, physically threatening a teacher. That is what I was hoping they would help me on so it doesn't get to that point for him. I want him to have an avenue open that if he is feeling like he is getting to that point, he can talk to someone (eventhough he won't want to. they will have to prod and encourage him to explore what is going on). This is what we do at home. I guess this is beyond what should be expected for a school to be able to do for him. They seem to be more focused on the academic part than the actual social/emotional part which is what he is having the biggest problem with. I am looking into some social groups and such in our area that he can attend after school, so we can start helping him learn to identify and manage his emotions and what is considered socially acceptable behavior.
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