I’m new on this forum and was really hoping to find some help here. Sorry about the length of the post :/
I have a 3.5 year old son who exhibits some odd behaviour, which is starting to concern my husband and I. He’s always been great with adults but never been very social with peers. At 12 months, he started pulling hair and hitting his peers. The situation seems only to have gotten worse as he gets older. His language skills are not a problem, he started talking in sentences at 2 and has an above average vocabulary – almost too good – but not at all good at expressing emotions/feelings or talking to other kids. He also seems to lack imagination – he rarely plays with toys and when playing “pretend” he only ever pretends to be machines or race cars – never really anything that’s a living thing…He doesn’t play dress up, or pirates, or superheroes or anything that involves creative thinking. He doesn’t talk to stuffed animals or play pretend with toys having conversations etc. The only things he does like playing with are puzzles, lego and sometimes toy cars (sometimes just lines them up). He also NEVER plays by himself (and never stops talking) and says he’s scared to be alone.
He wants nothing to do with other kids and when we do happen to have a play date or go to a park where there are other kids, he yells at them if they try to talk/play with him and almost always ends up hitting them. At play dates, he wants to play with the moms, never the kids! Last time we went to the park he called a boy stupid for asking him his name, then pushed him off the 4 foot play structure!!. I’m at the point that I’m genuinely concerned for the safety of other children and have started isolating ourselves from all social situations because I just don’t know what else to do.
He also hits me and his 17 month old sister on a regular basis (which is somewhat normal ) but what really worries me is that he hits me almost every single time I play a game with him or even joke for example if I joke (very obviously joking) that I’m going to eat his yummy sandwich if he doesn’t eat it up quickly – he gets really angry and calls me names – or if chase him playfully – or if we play tag, at some point he turns around and calls me stupid and hits me! When I ask him if he can tell the difference when I am serious or joking he says no. Is this normal for this age?
He also always NEEDS to be in control and becomes aggressive if we try to make him do anything. He’s pulled out chunks of my hair, scratched my face, smacked me in the face, thrown metal cars down the stairs at me, smashed his sister in the face with a remote control bus, kicked her in the face, pushed her to the floor and made her mouth bleed (then laughed about it) etc. – The only way to get him to co-operate is if we are 100% respectful - and that only works half the time.
A little more background:
While we’ve always done our best to be good/loving parents, we are certainly not perfect and have made our share of mistakes. My son has always been really difficult to parent from the day he was born…very high needs, clingy, dependent, aggressive (even as a baby) and cranky… and we haven’t always had as much patience with him as we should have. We don’t spank but I’ll admit that at times I have been more rough with him than I think I should have because I was not getting any co-operation and he is quite strong and I needed to use a little force to get him dressed or diapered (when he was smaller). We also used to punish with time-outs, taking toys away, threats etc, but none of that ever worked and only made him even more aggressive – extremely aggressive - and so we stopped with all of it and are now taking on a much gentler approach, but we are still experiencing many of the same problems (on a less intense level)
My husband works from home and I am a stay at home mom so the kids get as much of us as we can give. We also don’t have much help so they are almost always with one of us.
I’m starting to suspect that there may be a disorder or something else we are not seeing. We are going to have him assessed for Autism (I’m thinking Asperger’s ?) , but there is a very long waiting list and so I’m looking for some opinions in the meantime …Am I overreacting? Are the things I describe typical of a 3.5 year old boy or do I really have some cause for concern?
It's hard to say, but from my perspective, I don't see AS or autism so much in your description. It's possible, but they don't usually diagnose AS before about age 7. I'd say your main concern is emotional and behavioral, but, not being an expert, I can't tell if he's out of the ordinary. But, I'd support you going forward with an evaluation by a developmental psychologist, not necessarily an autism screening, but a whole-child screening.
Autism diagnoses are being made earlier and earlier now (our daughter was three) so services and screenings are becoming more common at his age. If you have any concerns at all, definitely contact his pediatrician for a referral to a child psychologist or a developmental specialist. And take a deep breath--if he meets the diagnostic criteria and is given a diagnosis, it's a good thing as you now have the key to unlock the toolbox that will help you understand each other better. He's got a bright future with such a dedicated mom behind him!
Mom to my blondie girl M1 (April 2009) and my gingersnap girl M2 (November 2011)
Thanks for your replies ladies! We are now scheduled for a screening for April 13th. Hopefully we will have some more answers once we have seen the pediatrician. I think part of the problem for me is never having been around kids or anyone with kids pretty much until I had my own. I have few friends with kids even now, and none of their kids seem to be anything like my son which makes it even harder for me to assess if he is just being a 3 year old boy, or if there's more to it than that.