Gifted vs. Aspergers - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 28 Old 03-18-2008, 01:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello all,

It seems that I remember seeing something about this topic before but I couldn't find the thread in looking back through so I apologize if I'm repeating..

I have a dd who is 11 years old. She is in sixth grade and has been identified by our school system as highly gifted. DD has social challenges which I had always written off as highly gifted issues but last week she and I went to see a child psychologist who has been helping one of my other children deal with my recent divorce from the kids' dad. After speaking with dd, she asked to speak to me privately and asked whether I knew anything about Aspergers. She wasn't ready to diagnose dd as having AS but has concerns that way. Of course, I went home and read all I could find about AS and I'm now really confused. I see some behaviors of dds that would indicate that the psych could be correct and quite a few others that indicate not.
On the yes side, dd has social challenges, she has no close friends right now. She doesn't seem to get many "social rules" that other kids absorb, she doesn't get very well how other people are feeling or whether she's being rude. She doesn't make eye contact. She isn't very good with the normal flow of conversation (especially when the topic doesn't interest her, she goes off on unrelated tangents). She doesn't modulate the loudness of her voice appropriately.

On the no side, dd has no problems at all with changes in routine (vacations, summer camp, and school changes have all happened without problems), she is pretty globally gifted and does well in any school subject. She is functioning at school as a student just fine according to her teachers without any interventions except those we've made to accomodate the giftedness. She has good abstract reasoning ability and is able to understand non-literal language easily. She has no problems with anxiety.

So, does anyone have any experience with this situation? I'm not trying to tell myself that she doesn't have it if she does; I just really want to get the right diagnosis so that we can help her socially, as she is beginning to feel upset by her lack of friends.

TIA for any comments,

Laura
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#2 of 28 Old 03-18-2008, 04:22 AM
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i think it's totally possible. the thing is, if she's functioning well and not in need of occupational therapy speech therapy etc (not having friends when you don't want any or not being around anyone secure enough to hang with the smart chick does not constitute dysfunction) then why pursue the label?

all the therapies really focus on getting kids to the point where your daughter already is. the rest of the tweaking must be done solo. she may benefit from learning some of the "rules" in case she wants to use them but that can be done with the help of family and a regular therapist.

DH and i never had many friends growing up. does she have problems in school, in part because she is so bright? i mean, are the other children rude/insecure? DH and i both got into groups focused around our interests and learned social rules by observation, making scripts to ease into meeting people.
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#3 of 28 Old 03-18-2008, 08:52 AM
 
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Aspergers is part of a spectrum of disabilities that fall along a curve -- the line between the "disabled" part of the spectrum and the "quirky" part of the spectrum is pretty much invisible, and there are plenty of kids who dance along this line -- sounds like your daughter may be one of them. People can spend a lot of time in "is she in, or out?" of the disabled category, but IMO that's not really helpful unless you need a diagnosis for things like school accomodations -- which it sounds like you don't.

Given that I'd approach this as a series of questions about what her strengths are (you seem to have a good handle on this) what things are hard for her right now, what kind of supports she needs. To answer the last questions you'll probably want to read some things on Aspergers and NVLD, because whether she meets the diagnostic categories it seems like she's got enough in common with those kids to benefit from some of the same strategies.
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#4 of 28 Old 03-18-2008, 01:58 PM
 
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s I'm sorry mama, your are in a tough spot, I know what it is like to have concerns about possible diagnoses. Does your psychologist have experience with gifted and highly gifted kids? That may be important here. If not, maybe try contacting one who does or try contacting the Gifted Development Center in Denver to see if they can help. Other than that, listen to what your gut is telling you.

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#5 of 28 Old 03-18-2008, 02:43 PM
 
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I would pursue it and see about knowing for sure one way or the other. Even if it doesn't change anything you know it for the future. Maybe right now it's not a problem and you won't need to change anything, but you might need that knowledge later.

A lot of your dd's issues do sound like a friend of mine's daughter who has autism. I don't know if she specifically has asbergers or not, though.
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#6 of 28 Old 03-18-2008, 07:42 PM
 
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If your DD does have aspergers (or possibly a similar issue like hyperlexia) it sounds like it isn't having a huge impact on her school life. Since it does seem to be having an effect on her social life, I would consider that worth pursueing therapies to help her. However, in that pursuit I would keep in mind that the purpose of it is to help your DD have a happy and comfortable future, not to make her fit into a "normal" mold.

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#7 of 28 Old 03-18-2008, 08:48 PM
 
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It can be a lot to sort out. Does the doctor who saw her know much about giftedness?

Have you read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Misdiagnosis-D...5883940&sr=8-1

More than the diagnosis or not, I think it is important to find someone who really understands what her specific challenges are and can help her find solutions. Any diagnostic label without that, won't do you a lot of good. If she doesn't have problems with attention or anxiety, I would honestly probably leave the diagnosis to the side and focus instead of trying to help her learn social skills and sort out the friendship stuff.
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#8 of 28 Old 03-18-2008, 09:39 PM
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Your dd sounds EXACTLY like mine.

But I'm not pursuing a label (which could be damaging to her self-esteem, IMHO) since she functions well enough.

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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#9 of 28 Old 03-19-2008, 12:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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They've really helped me put this in perspective. I am also concerned about a diagnosis that may not be necessary and may do more to damage her self-esteem than help her at a time of her life where she's going through so much (adolescence, her dad's and my breakup). To be quite honest, I think at this point in time I am more worried about the social stuff than she is. Just the other day she commented to me that "I just don't find the other kids very interesting to talk to- the girls only talk about boys and the boys only talk about sports!" Our family (both our nuclear family and xh's extended family with whom we are still close) contains a great number of gifted/quirky people and she seems pretty content most of the time to socialize within the family. I guess I just take the longer view and worry about her future relationships.
During the meeting with the psychologist last week, she suggested an initial strategy for me to use to help dd realize when she's being inappropriate socially in a gentle way. I'll be happy if we can do more of that to work with her and maybe not pursue a formal diagnosis right now.
It's a good point, to about whether the psychologist is experienced with gifted children. I will ask her about that and, if I'm not comfortable with her answer, I do know a psychologist in our area who is universally acknowledged as the local expert on gifted issues. Maybe I will make an appointment with her to discuss this issue.
Thanks for the book suggestion, too, Roar, I will check into that; it looks like it could be usefull to me.
Thanks again for all your thoughtful comments,

Laura
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#10 of 28 Old 03-19-2008, 08:28 AM
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Just on the social front, I found a lot of interesting/helpful info when I read more about Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD). Michelle Garcia Winner has some interesting materials and we borrowed some library books such as The Hidden Curriculum and some videos by Winner and another one that was a presentation on Aspergers and had a drama component just to get a sense of developing social sense and sensitivies in a highly verbal kid.
DD is sometimes amazingly perceptive and other times amazingly blind to social cues, but these were some things that really helped me understand and discuss these "invisible" rules with her.
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#11 of 28 Old 03-19-2008, 02:56 PM
 
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Originally Posted by A&A View Post
Your dd sounds EXACTLY like mine.

But I'm not pursuing a label (which could be damaging to her self-esteem, IMHO) since she functions well enough.
Ditto to both...except mine's a son.
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#12 of 28 Old 03-20-2008, 12:32 AM
 
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Your dd sounds EXACTLY like mine.

But I'm not pursuing a label (which could be damaging to her self-esteem, IMHO) since she functions well enough.
Yes, this is us too.

There is a strong overlap between giftedness and autism spectrum conditions. I am gifted and autistic; my oldest is gifted and autistic (though undiagnosed); both giftedness and ASCs run in our family. I do not believe that ASCs are medical problems and thus do not require medical intervention, so I think if she is healthy and happy, there is nothing to worry about.
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#13 of 28 Old 03-20-2008, 06:29 PM
 
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My ds is gifted and has Asperger's. Gifted runs rampent in the family, as does general quirkiness of one sort or another. We did get him tested for Asperger's and he is aware of being an Aspie, but that was more so those who work with him at school can understand him better (though for the most part, the school has been wonderful and he has had fabulous teachers and support staff working with him.) My son is aware enough about himself to know that he thinks outside the box...as he told me so one morning as he took a kiwi for the teacher (any kid can bring an apple, lol!) We explained to him how having Asperger's explains to us why he thinks the way he thinks, so we understand him and his thought process better.

Now, my ds has also had a couple issues that he could use help working through and I do plan on taking him to someone to help him figure out how to work through those. It never occured to me that the doctor or therapist would have to be familiar with gifted children because the problem isn't his giftedness, but emotional. Not to mention, a good child therapist in our case will have worked with kids with Asperger's, and so I'm certain they would have stumbled across one or two other Aspie's who are gifted...my ds can't be the only gifted Aspie out there
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#14 of 28 Old 03-20-2008, 07:47 PM
 
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Asperger's Syndrome often corrisponds with giftedness, not just "can" not just "is possible", but often. It is really not a case of "either-or"

I am one of those aspies who has an easy time with changes in routine, but it is just a front, my routines are just secret and invisible. Because of the way my routines are structured some things that appear to be big changes to other people are no big deal to me, while some things that seem small can be a very big deal.

As far as self-esteem is concerned, I think this is an issue you need to address now. If your fear is that she will feel bad if she finds out she can be classified as having Asperger's then that will become the reality. Asperger's is a description of her behavior, not a de-valuation of her self worth, and as her mom it is really up to you to help her see it that way. It would really be beneficial to you to look in to the concept of Neurodiversity. Finding out I have Asperger's Syndrome was one of the most positive things that has happened in my life. I gained a greater understanding of who I am and how I relate to the world. I gained the confidence to let my quirks shine, and even confidence to utilize my "genius" to find professional success. I was paralized by an identity crisis for many years, being gifted and weird, not being sure if I was a genius or a failure, a psychotic or a shy person. If you treat it like a problem, then it will become one. If you treat it like a treasure trove of information about how other people who are similar deal with the world, then it becomes less like a disability, and more like a super power.

One thing that is fairly universal about aspies that I have met is that we are not really afraid of information. Many of us horde and crave information, and a diagnosis, or a suspicion is typically treated as interesting information. So long as it is not presented to us like a death sentance.
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#15 of 28 Old 03-20-2008, 08:08 PM
 
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neurodiversity...perfect...i've been looking for a term to describe this...i'm only gonna hijack this thread for a minute...

when i was working with folks at this job training site i became totally convinced that their "disabilities" were not disabilities at all but just different ways of seeing the world.

they were diagnosed with all kinds of things...autism, mental retardation, blah blah blah...(not to discount those labels or say they're not useful in learning how to interact with some folks, i just don't remember them all)

anyway, most of my coworkers were overworked and jaded and considered me just a young stupid pothead...but i became totally convinced that these people were fine the way they were, and what they needed was a chance to interact with society as themselves and not in groups of other people with cognitive disabilities out on a trip to the mall once a week.

to me they represented just a different perspective. just as some people are dark brown and some are light cream and others are ruddy...these people just saw things differently.

now i have a word for it: neurodiversity...thank you!!!!!!!!!! sincerely!! i try to get this concept out there but i've never had a name for it and i thought i was the only one who felt this way!!

back on topic...i say you're daughter sounds wonderful! and it seems like until this psychologist brought it up you wouldn't have considered her having a problem at all...so don't see it as a problem! if she seems to have issues with things, then work on those specific issues, but don't be coerced into getting a specific diagnosis because from what i've seen that could just put bars around her development.

as for the person who said that them finding out they had asperger's was beneficial...i'm not discounting your experience, but did you find out you had asperger's as an adult? i think trying to pin a label on a child would be much different, especially as they get to like 13-15 and become very label conscious.


GO NEURODIVERSITY!!!

(oh yeah, and i'll add that none of these "disabilities" runs in my family...it seems so far that the only people who endorse this concept are folks who have the disabilities...you'd think people would listen to those folks who live with these conditions...it's like a white person trying to tell a black person they have a melanin disability, or a man telling a woman she has a testosterone disability!)

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#16 of 28 Old 03-20-2008, 09:23 PM
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Asperger's Syndrome often corrisponds with giftedness, not just "can" not just "is possible", but often. It is really not a case of "either-or"

I am one of those aspies who has an easy time with changes in routine, but it is just a front, my routines are just secret and invisible. Because of the way my routines are structured some things that appear to be big changes to other people are no big deal to me, while some things that seem small can be a very big deal.

As far as self-esteem is concerned, I think this is an issue you need to address now. If your fear is that she will feel bad if she finds out she can be classified as having Asperger's then that will become the reality. Asperger's is a description of her behavior, not a de-valuation of her self worth, and as her mom it is really up to you to help her see it that way.


I see your point of view.

But, personally, I find being "quirky" hard enough. Being labeled clinically quirky would be worse, IMHO.
My dd functions well enough that she doesn't need special services in school. Beyond that, I can't think of a reason for me to label her anything. She just is who she is.

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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#17 of 28 Old 03-20-2008, 10:38 PM
 
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Just to address the "are labels damaging to self esteem?" issue, I find my dyslexic label more helpful than damaging. Now it's possible that since I had so many issues growing up (really weird disfunctional family dynamic) that I took it differently than most people would.

I find it helps me understand why other people don't understand me sometimes. I find it extremely important to mention it when giving directions that inlude things like turn left at X intersection. Knowing I'm dyslexic helps me know when I should ask for help, like "honey read this contract for me the words are just swimming." It helps me understand that my complete inability to follow knitting or crochet patterns isn't b/c I'm either stupid or a bad crafter, but simply b/c it's a complex decoding task.

I think it also helps that I understand that along with the disabilities of dyslexia comes certain abilities that are good.

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#18 of 28 Old 03-20-2008, 11:05 PM
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Just to address the "are labels damaging to self esteem?" issue, I find my dyslexic label more helpful than damaging. Now it's possible that since I had so many issues growing up (really weird disfunctional family dynamic) that I took it differently than most people would.
I can see that with dyslexia.

I've had three students (high school) who were labeled autistic or Aspergers. For two of them, there was a clear need for a label so the child could be understood and supported. For the third, she was just a little socially out of touch. For that particular child (and for mine), I think a label is more harmful than helpful. So, it depends on the kid. Since the OP's dd sounds exactly like mine, my advice is to not get her tested.

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#19 of 28 Old 03-21-2008, 03:00 AM
 
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for the many teen and adult aspies I communicate with daily, it is the difference between quirky and alone, or Aspie and understood.
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#20 of 28 Old 03-21-2008, 03:20 AM
 
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Asperger's Syndrome often corrisponds with giftedness, not just "can" not just "is possible", but often. It is really not a case of "either-or"

I am one of those aspies who has an easy time with changes in routine, but it is just a front, my routines are just secret and invisible. Because of the way my routines are structured some things that appear to be big changes to other people are no big deal to me, while some things that seem small can be a very big deal.

As far as self-esteem is concerned, I think this is an issue you need to address now. If your fear is that she will feel bad if she finds out she can be classified as having Asperger's then that will become the reality. Asperger's is a description of her behavior, not a de-valuation of her self worth, and as her mom it is really up to you to help her see it that way. It would really be beneficial to you to look in to the concept of Neurodiversity. Finding out I have Asperger's Syndrome was one of the most positive things that has happened in my life. I gained a greater understanding of who I am and how I relate to the world. I gained the confidence to let my quirks shine, and even confidence to utilize my "genius" to find professional success. I was paralized by an identity crisis for many years, being gifted and weird, not being sure if I was a genius or a failure, a psychotic or a shy person. If you treat it like a problem, then it will become one. If you treat it like a treasure trove of information about how other people who are similar deal with the world, then it becomes less like a disability, and more like a super power.

One thing that is fairly universal about aspies that I have met is that we are not really afraid of information. Many of us horde and crave information, and a diagnosis, or a suspicion is typically treated as interesting information. So long as it is not presented to us like a death sentance.
Yes... but this is the key part (what I bolded). I don't think that knowing that one is autistic is damaging to self-esteem; however, having one's personality and innate characteristics described in clinical pathological terms, being medically "treated" for them, being taught explicitly or implicitly that one's identity is a sickness... this is what is often damaging to self-esteem and why we will not have our older daughter diagnosed. If we lived in a pro-neurodiversity utopia, it would be different. But we don't, and *in our current society,* I think that being labeled with what is called a disorder is indeed often detrimental.
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#21 of 28 Old 03-21-2008, 10:52 AM
 
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I guess it would also depend on how/when you use your label...among friends and family who know you would it be better than say...telling the person who's interviewing you for a job, or the social services rep who wants to make sure your kids are "safe"?

btw...for people with autism or asperger's...are there laws in place that would prevent workplace discrimination?

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#22 of 28 Old 03-21-2008, 01:07 PM
 
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this is what is often damaging to self-esteem and why we will not have our older daughter diagnosed. If we lived in a pro-neurodiversity utopia, it would be different. But we don't, and *in our current society,* I think that being labeled with what is called a disorder is indeed often detrimental.
Oh, I didn't mean to give the impression that I am pro-diagnosis, we are not seeking one for me nor my son. I was more trying to speak to the labeling portion of it. One of the human characteristics that is heightened in my is that I need/want/strive to categorize things. Not having a category for my behaviors was really distressing. I am much more comfortable with my label than I was without... and I did not need a doctor to give it to me, as it is not a medical condition. I would label myself as an artist if I were focused on art, I would label myself as a musician if I were focused on music... It is just something we do.



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I guess it would also depend on how/when you use your label...among friends and family who know you would it be better than say...telling the person who's interviewing you for a job....
I list many of the Asperger diagnosis criteria on my resume, and I speak to those criteria (i.e. hyperfocus, obsessive interests, etc etc) in interviews... In my line of work Asperger's Syndrome is a competitive advantage. The top 3 wage earners in my department (risk analysis software development for the biggest U.S. Bank) meet all or most of the Asperger's criteria.
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#23 of 28 Old 03-22-2008, 01:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm so glad I asked because it's been eye-opening for me to read all of your responses over the last couple of days. I still don't know exactly where I stand on the whole diagnosis idea. I really understand the concept that it can be empowering to have that information. In fact, I see many of these traits in myself, my xh and my ds as well as my dd and had always attributed all of them to gifted/quirky but reading about Aspergers really gave me an "aha moment" so to speak about all of us. I think I really need more information from a couple of qualified people in our community about exactly what a formal diagnosis could mean for dd before I make that decision. I think she is completely awesome the way she is but I do really have concerns about her ability to have good relationships with other people without some help in that area. I was actually concerned about it before the psychologist said anything and what she said sorta verified my thoughts and gave them a name I hadn't used before. Dd is pretty happy with the way things are right now but has expressed some amount of sadness about not having close friends. I also know that her best friend from elementary school has distanced herself from dd lately because her feelings get hurt when dd ignores her in conversation (I learned this from the friends' mom, with whom I am close). I know that dd has felt that distancing, feels badly about it and doesn't understand why it's happening. So I'd just like to help her with that stuff and I'm not sure right now how best to do that.
Anyway, thanks for all your responses, they are giving me so much to think about.
Laura
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#24 of 28 Old 03-23-2008, 09:11 PM
 
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I list many of the Asperger diagnosis criteria on my resume, and I speak to those criteria (i.e. hyperfocus, obsessive interests, etc etc) in interviews... In my line of work Asperger's Syndrome is a competitive advantage. The top 3 wage earners in my department (risk analysis software development for the biggest U.S. Bank) meet all or most of the Asperger's criteria.
Wow. I just find this so interesting. Dh and I often say that our son's greatest attributes as an adult, in the work force, will be these very same traits. They're the ones that make it really hard to be a kid in the mainstream world, sometimes, but contribute to super-success in any of his individual pursuits. It is so nice to hear that they "work" for you in your life!
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#25 of 28 Old 03-23-2008, 09:50 PM
 
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Can I ask those of you who have experience w/Aspergers where the best place to start reading about it is? I have a very good friend whose DD is scheduled for a neuropsych eval, and one of the suspicions is Aspergers- my friend is terrified, and I'd love to be able to point her towards some good, accurate info. TIA to anyone who cares to share their input

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#26 of 28 Old 03-23-2008, 09:53 PM
 
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Girls tend to slip under the radar when it comes to Asperger's. You're very lucky to have found a practitioner able to recognize it in a girl. I was considered gifted as a child & I have AS. My son is gifted and has AS.
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#27 of 28 Old 03-23-2008, 10:11 PM
 
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Originally Posted by meowee View Post
Girls tend to slip under the radar when it comes to Asperger's. You're very lucky to have found a practitioner able to recognize it in a girl.
I agree.

I was/am gifted (I have a terribly short attention span, tho, unless I'm obsessing) and have figured out that I have Aspergers (as an adult with 2 Aspie sons). Growing up as a female in the American school system, I did very well in school, but had pretty bad social skills. I think at the age of the OP's dd, I couldn't have cared less about making friends (and I, indeed, tended not to have any), but in high school, a dx of Aspergers would have helped me understand myself tremendously.

I suggest get the evaluation and if she's got AS, don't make a big deal about it. But, as she gets older, if she seems to be unhappy with the way her social life is going, perhaps mention the dx to her and help her become more socially apt.

I didn't understand how to make friends until I was about 25 years old. If I had been helped to understand myself better and taught to be more socially clued in when I was younger, some young adult angst could have been avoided. It's not always easy being a weird chick, altho I completely embrace it now.

Yes, yes.  I'm fabulous. loveeyes.gif  Moving on...

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#28 of 28 Old 03-24-2008, 02:02 AM
 
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Originally Posted by KayleeZoo View Post
Can I ask those of you who have experience w/Aspergers where the best place to start reading about it is? I have a very good friend whose DD is scheduled for a neuropsych eval, and one of the suspicions is Aspergers- my friend is terrified, and I'd love to be able to point her towards some good, accurate info. TIA to anyone who cares to share their input
I always refer people to www.neurodiversity.com. There are other sites but that's the best starting place for all things ASC.
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