We count our blessings that Brandon is high-functioning autistic.
Here are some of the early symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome and how we dealt with each of them with Brandon…
Early Symptoms Of Asperger’s Syndrome
Brandon was not diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until he was 6 and in the first grade.
In hindsight, he showed symptoms of Asperger’s when he was 2, and possibly even from birth.
Children with autism tend to have large heads, as Brandon did. He also had meltdowns from a very early age and as he grew, other signs of Asperger’s were evident. However, not having any previous knowledge of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, we didn’t recognize the signs.
For example, Brandon flapped his hands — which is called stimming (sometimes it’s spelled stemming). Whenever he was excited, he flapped his hands and did a little dance. This resembled the actions of a football player when he makes a touchdown.
A Love Of Trains & Thomas The Tank
Brandon had a love of trains and toy cars. This started before he turned 2. From morning till night, he breathed trains and cars. He loved Thomas the Tank Engine. Research shows that many autistic children are attracted to Thomas the Tank.
Brandon had track, engines, and freight cars, and he knew the names of all of them. He could tell you almost anything you wanted to know about the Island of Sodor. He also knew how to set up the wooden track, complete with bridges and switches. He had the round house, fire station, and many other pieces of this Thomas the Tank train set. He spent hours every day pushing those little wooden trains along the track, over the bridges and into the round house.
When he wasn’t playing with his trains, he was playing with his collection of Hot Wheels cars. He’d line the cars up in precision order, and if anyone moved them or if the cars weren’t lined up exactly, he would rearrange them in perfect order.
At 5 years of age, Brandon loved studying the cross-sections of trains and could tell us every part of a steam engine and most components of a diesel. This was yet another indication that something wasn’t quite right, but we didn’t really think anything of it. We just thought he was extremely intelligent.
He poured over these books for hours and would ask questions about what he was seeing in the books. Once we told him, he never forgot. It was as if his brain was a mini computer and stored all of the data that he was given. We never thought that he had a developmental disorder.
School Days With Asperger’s Syndrome
When Brandon was about halfway through kindergarten, his teacher told us that he was lacking social skills and was immature. He wasn’t able to zip his coat or do some things that other children his age could accomplish without difficulty. We tried to teach him how to zip up his coat, but he just couldn’t master it. Then his teacher mentioned that his motor skills were lacking. We watched him carefully and realized that she was right.
In first grade, Brandon received a suspension for touching a certain boy’s hair. This boy had curly hair (a sort of afro) and it wasn’t something that Brandon had seen before. He was obsessed with it and touched that boy’s hair every chance he got.
In school, Brandon was labeled a troublemaker. It seemed every time his parents or I went to pick him up from school he was in the principal’s office for one thing or another.
After careful observation by a special education teacher, it was noted that whenever the classroom became noisy he would act out. Of course, this got him sent to the principal’s office — where it was quiet. Brandon loved being there and didn’t view it as a punishment.
All of these factors put together eventually led the special ed teacher to suggest an assessment by a behavior specialist. Within 6 months, Brandon had been diagnosed with high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome.
This allowed us to see the reasons for his behavior. The journey had just begun.
More About Asperger’s Syndrome