Age: 13

Sam was late in being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. His mother had been aware of his difficulties relating to peers and being in a group situation since he was aged two years when he started to receive negative reactions from other toddlers. Despite repeated visits to professionals to express her concerns, this diagnosis was not suggested as an explanation of his difficulties. During his years at primary school, teachers frequently called his mother to complain about his anti-social behaviour. Sam was regarded as rude and spoilt as he would not share or take turns with other children. When teachers asked him, ‘What have I just been talking about?’, he would imitate word for word what they had said.

One professional suggested that Sam was emotionally disturbed as a result of a short separation from his mother when Sam was three years old. Initially, his mother wanted to accept this explanation, although she felt it did not adequately explain the nature or extent of his problems.

When Sam started secondary school, he started to show signs of stress. He would burst into tears for no apparent reason in the evenings and developed a bad skin rash. His mother took him to see their GP who took a careful history. She noted that the quality of Sam’s social overtures was unusual. Most children were initially shy in her surgery, whereas Sam didn’t meet her eye but answered her questions very confidently and also asked her detailed questions about her car. The GP suspected Asperger syndrome and suggested Sam be referred for a full assessment.

Assessment led to diagnosis and Sam’s mother was very relieved. She felt the blame was lifted from Sam and herself and they could start to make sense of his problems and devise solutions. For Sam, it was a preferable label to the ‘naughty/rude’ ones he’d acquired. However the family also had to adjust to the fact that this was a lifelong diagnosis and he would continue to need their support and advocacy in adulthood.

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