My Son Isn’t Weird; He Just Has Asperger’s

It was when Hayden said his first word that I knew there was something that set him apart from other babies. We were at a restaurant, and Hayden sat straight up. He looked at his father and me and yelled “CLAP!” and began clapping. I thought, “Wow, my 8 month old is a genius!” He had never really babbled or anything; he just said words. After clap, came bird, daddy (not dada), and car. Soon after Hayden began to talk, he was like a sponge soaking up information and spitting it out every time I turned around.

A couple of months after his first word, I knew something was kind of “off” with him.

brynn phone 2013 841I’d constantly have to repeat his name to get him to turn towards me, like he was always distracted. I’d yell, “Hayden, Hayden, Hayden,” and finally after 4 tries he’d turn. Getting him to look straight at a camera was harder then anything on the planet. He could sense when I was about to pull it out, and he’d run, or look the other way. When I asked his pediatrician if I should get him tested, he dismissed me. At almost every well visit after that, I brought up something new Hayden had done that really wasn’t sitting well with me. Like he’d go into convulsions from being so scared of his talking Tigger. He was more then “high maintenance;” he just couldn’t be made happy. It was like he had anxiety or something. Hayden never ever slept through the night, and napping, well, you can forget about it. When he woke up at night, it would be in a blood curdling scream; imagine how fun it was to be woken to that 3 and 4 times a night. Every time I brought up testing, I was told there was nothing wrong with him, and it’s probably just a phase. It didn’t help my “parental paranoia” when the doctor explained Hayden would start saying 2 syllable words at his 18 month well visit. Hayden pointed to a picture above him and said “ELEPHANT!” The doctor looked at me like “see nothing’s wrong,” and I thought “great, thanks Hayden.” So, I just went on like nothing was wrong.

We enrolled Hayden at St. Louis King of France the summer of 2011 when he was 2. I quickly began to notice Hayden was drawn to his teachers more then the other students. I’d come in at dismissal, and he’d be far away with one of them, while the other teacher would be with the group. Hayden knew his ABC’s, numbers, colors, and was even speaking Spanish at home, so I figured he was just bored. One of the teachers pulled me aside halfway through the year and suggested we should get Hayden tested, but for what? He didn’t really exhibit ADHD traits; he could focus on a topic that interested him, and he was absorbing the information he needed. The doctor still said nothing was wrong, so what in the world should I do? I was so freaking frustrated!

Hayden finished the school year, and at his PK2 graduation he acted a total fool.

He screamed the entire time the other kids were singing the songs they had learned. The other kids were so excited. They were ready for big school and posing for pictures, while my son was running brynngie 239around on and off the stage. I was mortified! Again, I was told these things could just be a phase. He’s only 2, and he would grow out of it.

We enrolled Hayden at St. Pius X for PK3 the fall of 2012. The first full day I received a call from the principal saying Hayden was uncontrollable. He had gone to the bathroom, came out with his pants and underwear around his ankles, and unrolled all the toilet paper to the floor. He wouldn’t participate in circle time and wouldn’t lay down for nap, so they brought him to the office to be sent home. The second day, I received another call to pick him up. This time, he had stood on a chair in the cafeteria, and yelled out, “Hey Mrs. Fullam!” to the principal, was unruly, and refused to take a nap. Mrs. Fullam explained to me that we needed to get him tested and that Hayden could not return to school there. More then frustrated, I kept Hayden out of school that year. I kept telling myself, “3 year olds don’t need to be in school anyway.”

That year, I began to really notice that things were different.

561058_4384565092892_135285297_n[2]Hayden’s nanny would tell me that she was noticing Hayden played in a strange manner with the other kids. He’d get 2 inches away from their face and scream what he was trying to say. He also wouldn’t really play with toys; he’d just line them up and repeat their names. I was also noticing strange habits he was picking up, like he’d only sleep with a silk pillow and stroke it. Hayden would yell, cover his ears, and have a meltdown any time he heard a train, vacuum, or fire alarm. I’d have a fight if I wanted to dunk his head to wash it, he’d pee in his toy box, and he’d poop on the rug and paint with it, even though he would freak out if he ever got dirty. He was also very attached to his iPad. He played the educational apps (even reading 3 letter words in the Dora rhyming game), but he always turned to YouTube and obsessively listened to toy descriptions from toy collectors. He would become so engulfed in what he was listening to that he forgot to eat, and probably wouldn’t sleep, if I didn’t take it away. He would also look out our condo window to the parking lot and name cars. “Look mom, Mr. Sean has a Porsche, and Mr. Ron has one too, but it’s an SUV. Look it’s a Jaguar, and we have an Infinity! Mom, where’s your white Mercedes?” I had that thing a year ago, and I didn’t even know Porsche made a SUV.

In the summer of 2013, we enrolled him in camp, again at St. Louis King of France, and it was rough. He refused to stay with the group, was deathly afraid of the pool, and would dart off from line. Ms. Beth was his counselor that summer. Everyday, she’d report something new, whether it was his refusal to sit next to a girl because she ate strawberries, or him pulling the fire alarm (yeah, that was a fun afternoon). The way she handled Hayden was different from any other person I’d met. She helped me talk with the head of lower school and suggested the psychologist I should use to evaluate Hayden. When we had the evaluation done, the doctor said he had high sensory “issues” and scored a 107 on the Asperger’s Scale, which is high/probable. With that information, Ms. Beth suggested we hold Hayden back to PK3, in her class that fall, and she would work with him.

I’m constantly doing my research on Asperger’s.

Hayden hits almost every description to a T: the high sensory problems, the lack of coordination, the high intelligence, and the poor social skills. He worries about the most horrible things like, “Mom, are you sure you’re going to get me after school? Promise me you won’t forget me.” “Mom, you really love me right?” “Mom, Tommy doesn’t like me and he doesn’t ever want to be my friend.” I constantly have to reassure him that everything will be ok. Any change in his routine is a guarantee for a meltdown. For example, if his grandparents visit on a school night, I can bet I’ll be getting a note the next day. The triggers are the major problem. Once in PK3, he told his teacher if she didn’t leave him alone at nap, he’d punch her in the face, and he did. When I came to pick him up, he was clawing the walls of the assistant principal’s office like an animal. At an emergency session, the psychologist explained something must have set off his behavior. When we’d take him to Occupational Therapy, he’d kick and scream to not go. He doesn’t know how to properly express that there might be a smell, or something he’s seen that he doesn’t like, so we don’t go anymore. It’s not worth the battle for us.

Hayden is one of the most loving children you will ever meet.

He really does have a heart of gold. He is honest to a fault, and even tells on himself when he’s done wrong (I guess he thinks that will lessen the punishment). He doesn’t know it yet, but he has the most brilliant sense of humor. He never meets a stranger and lights up a room the minute he walks in. He’s a true character,

aspergers featuredHayden is currently at St Louis King of France and is in PK4 with Ms. Beth. I don’t know what I would have done without her and that school. The entire faculty seems to know how to handle Hayden better then I do sometimes. His teacher knows how to calm him down when something triggers him, and trust me when I say that by now, she’s seen her fair share of meltdowns. She tells me she knows certain things that set him off, like not to get to close to him after she has had her morning cup of coffee. I know to make sure Hayden has had plenty of rest and stays on a strict routine to avoid meltdowns.

It’s a day to day challenge with Hayden; what worked on some days to keep him calm might not work on others. A family friend, that runs the special ed program at Grace King said, “It just takes a little creativity to open that locked door, and once you’ve opened it, keep repeating it.” I’m much more at peace knowing that what I thought was “off” about my baby isn’t really all that off. One in 88 children are said to be diagnosed with Asperger’s, which is an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I pray what sets Hayden apart with Asperger’s doesn’t make him a target for bullies. Children can be so mean when they notice another child doesn’t fit into what they have been taught to be “normal.” I hope that by sharing my story, the parents reading this can teach their children to celebrate what makes us all different. I also hope to help the parents out there that see that unique quality in their child that might need further investigation but don’t know what to do. Some may think Hayden might be different, or even weird (I call it quirky), but that’s ok. It doesn’t mean he isn’t completely perfect to me, just the way God made him.

About Brynn Srahan

Brynn bioBrynn Strahan has lived in New Orleans since she was 4. She went to St Pius X, Cabrini High School and UNO. She married her husband Troy in 2008, and he owns two local companies Associated Building Services and LA Design and Build. They have a son Hayden, born in July of 2009 who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2013 and a daughter Parker, born in November 2013 who diagnosed with congenital glaucoma at birth. When her two little munchkins aren’t keeping her busy, she’s running around for her husband as his unofficial personal assistant. They currently call Lakeview home.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Brynn for sharing your story. our almost 5 year old has some sensory issues and has always been “quirky” as well. I have also been concerned about it because he is super smart and does well in his preschool class a couple mornings a week, my concerns have always been dismissed. Next year he will start kindergarten. 5 days a week , all day away from me and I have been very worried. I don’t know how he will do at school that extended period of time and in a much more “over stimulating” environment from his small church preschool. I plan on being more insistent when talking to my pediatrician at his next check up appt. Did you get a referral from your pediatrician and who did you have him tested with? A developmental pediatrician? I don’t need a “diagnosis” more than anything I just want to know that when he has meltdowns or freaks out about how loud things are I am handling it correctly and teaching him how to handle situations where he gets overwhelmed. Thanks again for this story. I definitely needed it.

    • My is 16 now and he wasn’t (correctly) diagnosed with Asperger’s until he was 11. I always noticed noticed “different” things about him from day one. A lot of them you mentioned that your child did mine did also, he barely slept form day one and currently takes medication to do so. But it was after Katrina that ALL of his symptoms exacerbated!! The part of your story that hit me the most was when you said that he peed in the toy box. Matty (my son) did that (he was 8 tho) and I freaked out, I punished him, I call the doctor right away but he dissmissed me every time. Immediately after the storm you know mental health system was in crisis, especially for children. I had to pick who ever and cry my eyes out to get him to see him. Well after MANY different medications and two years the doctor (probably by divine intervention) quit his practice. I was forced to find a new doctor; which was THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED. I found a doctor who specialized in Autism Spectrum Disorders (oh by the way I brought the possibility of Asperger’s to the old doc; he hadn’t thought of it :/). He now sees Dr. Mark Sands and sees a therapist every week. His actual diagnosis is Asperger’s with Adhd and BiPolar mood disorder so he takes medication for that and as I said before to sleep. The ADhD meds made him very violent and I lost my job and had to pull him out of school and am currently home schooling him. Every thing happens for a reason and he is thriving now. From being in school he hated being called Special but I explained to him that he IS Special but it is a good thing because God MADE him special. Matty too has such a kind heart he would give the shirt off his back if some one needed it; which has gotten him taken advantage of by not only kids but adults; he is big for his age and looks older than 16 and “Normal” so unless you understand the signs you would never tell he’s different at all. I enjoyed reading your blog, it’s always good to know that your not “the only one” going through these things with our Au-some kids. We live in Metairie. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures in Autism 🙂

      • my son is 14 yrs old and didn’t get accepted to DeLaSalle high school. Unfortunately, we put all our eggs in one basket and now we don’t have a high school for 9th grade next year. Where does your son attend? Thank you, Jakki

  2. Ugh, I know how you feel! I was a mess when Hayden started school full time.
    I did get a referral from our pediatrician. He gave me several pediatric psychologists to choose from and went with Dr. Scuddy Fontinelle in Old Metairie. He evaluated Hayden and gave a thorough report afterwards to give to the school. The only thing that was kind of a pain in the butt was getting a referral for OT. I had to push and beg and kind of twist info around to get a referral. It’s actually easier to get your kid Adderall then a referral for that!
    Oh and OT anywhere has a huge waiting list!

    I hope everything goes well for you and your lil one! Thanks for reading the article, I’m so happy I could help!

  3. Thank you so much for doing this story. People definitelt need to be aware of how common ASD’s are these days. Our almost 3 year old was diagnosed about 9 months ago with an ASD. Would love to hear more stories about special needs kids and their parents in the New Orleans area and especially the programs and schools available for them. I find it’s so hard to find information about this.

  4. I am a mom to a 6yo with autism. My son used to attend school at Within Reach in Metairie and the was wonderful for him. ABA preschool for kids under 6. There are several other schools like that opening in the area. ABA therapy at home has helped as well. Another thing we started right away was GF/CF diet. That helped with anxiety for us but for others it can help with speech and focus. We have done lots of biomedical therapies as well like checking for vitamin deficiencies and yeast. Many kids with this diagnosis I have underlying gut and health issues that can make a big impact in the way they respond to their environment. We have also found that limiting toxins from the environment can help as well. My son is now in inclusion in first grade and doing pretty well. We have worked with many area doctors if you need any recs.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Hayden is lucky to have such a loving mama. And thank God for people like Ms. Beth who go the extra mile.

  6. Ah, such a frustrating (and so familiar) start… just wanted to assure you – it will get better! My little Aspie who was failing first grade is now a junior in college. He has struggles and sensory issues but we’ve taught him to manage them – that’s part of the process. Parents need to control the child’s environment as much as possible (smart teacher, keeping the coffee smell away because she knows it bothers him) and gradually teaching the process to the child. Mine started to blossom when he was about 11 or 12 years old and though he’s functioning independently, he still hits roadblocks from time to time, and to my delight, he comes to me for advice. It’s also delightfully ironic that, though all of his social skills are taught, his intelligence makes him very good at them and he gets mad when others are rude and don’t follow the guidelines he has learned (he hates it when people get overly absorbed in checking their cell phones all the time, and has come to cherish the family dinner). You have a great kid – love him and teach him and you will be amazed! Best of luck!

  7. I have a 6 year old boy aspie. We also live in Lakeview. If you want to have coffee or swap therapy notes, I would love to meet you.

    Thanks for your article. We looked at St. Louis King of France… Wasn’t a fit for us but I am glad to hear your family is having success!
    Take Care,
    Shannon

  8. I cried reading this because I know the struggle you went through! We fought to get our son, Colton, assessed for Aspergers when he was two and it took till he was 6 to get it done. When I read your story I could have thought you were writing it about Colton! This post was great!

  9. That was a good read, and thank you for sharing your story. I worked with young adults and kids with Autism and Asperger’s. 1 in 88 will actually be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, not Asperger’s specifically. Also, I want to say that having worked for years with young adults with Asperger’s specifically, people cal get lulled into thinking they are more functional with the activities of daily living than they are. This is because they tend to be very smart. However, I worked in a residential program with these kids (some with IQs as high as 170), and it really brought home the importance of teaching them daily living skills. They all struggled with hygiene, cooking and cleaning, laundry, banking, etc. Not to mention socializing and job skills (which are also highly social skills). So PLEASE work with your kids at an early age, both with social skills and the activities of daily living, at home and in a formal setting like school or group. You’d be surprised how many kids don’t end up finding jobs or living on their own. Our program had a high success rate, but it was also intensive 24 hours a day for 2 years and cost a mint. So the more you can do and the earlier you start, your child will have a much higher chance of living independently and having a job.

    • Oh, yes, absolutely – work with your kids at an early age and pinpoint where their struggles lie. I’m on a Yahoo group with adults with Aspergers and many of them are either unemployed or underemployed despite their high intelligence. That’s one of the problems in explaining the condition to other people who say “he’s so smart! How can he have problems?” Ms A – kudos to you on your work with folks on the spectrum.

  10. This is pretty my story from when my son was just a tot. He is now 18. My son didn’t get his diagnosis until he was 7. I noticed oddities when he was a new born. I switched pediatricians on a yearly basis. I wanted a doctor to see what I saw. Everyone of them told me that he was going through phases and would out grow them. I guess it’s been a 18 year and counting phase!! We have had many up a and downs. He has dealt with numerous bullies and several awful educators. There have been a few really good ones and I thank God everyday for those that truly cared. My son is now out of high school and in a transition program where he is flourishing. I see great things in his future. I expect to see more progress being made in diagnosing our kiddos and more help from schools and society in helping these kids integrate into society.

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