Sunday, January 20, 2013

Let's talk about Jack...

***(no time for proof reading. forgive the spelling mistakes. or don't. doesn't matter.)

I really liked that title at first and thought it could be a good name for a book, until I remembered "We need to talk about Kevin"...and I quickly changed my mind. Still a good name for this post though.

Jack isn't like other kids. You could call it a mothers instinct but I really don't think it was.  I, myself, wasn't fully aware of it until he was about 19 months old and we'd started joining "play groups" to "socialize" him. It was then that I really got to see the differences. How he didn't seem to notice the other kids were there and preferred to play off to the side by himself by spinning the wheels of a toy car. Over the years when I've voiced this I've gotten..."well he just had you and Jason for so long." (19 months really isn't that long is it?) Or..."he's just were quirky.  He's a smart kid, he does well in schoool, he's fine!"

One day, when he was about 3 years old, I saw that T.V. special with Jenny McCarthy speaking about her sons autism. I was folding laundry in the living room and my jaw literally dropped, and I had to sit, while listening intently, as she fully and completely sat there describing my son. At that point I  went on a rampid search for information and became obssessed with finding out as much as I could about this particular disorder/syndrome or whatever it was. I approached his preschool teachers with my concerns.  They admitted to noticing what they referred to as "autistic tendencies"  ie...toe walking...arm/hand flapping, singular/obssesive play with one object.  They also admitted he was extremely sensitive/emotional. However, he DID seem able to play with the other children, he was bright and communicated right on target.  There didn't seem to be any "delays" so to speak.  Their advice was just wait, watch him, and not be too quick to "label" him. 

At that time, I have to admit, I felt a sense of relief. If they said he was "okay" then he was okay. It was in the back of mind, but being obssesive and anxiety prone myself, I tried to tell myself it was just me. I was just prone to worrying.

Shortly after that, my husband and I divorced, and Jack and I moved to Central Massachusetts. A new life, a new place to live, a new pre-school, and no Daddy.  His new pre-school expressed concern with his over emotional behavior. I may have been pre-conditioned to resist them as it was a religious pre-school and already I didn't agree with a lot of their ways of teaching. I finally agreed to let him be evaluated. (in fact I'm going to find those papers just to refresh my memory). They recommended counciling for him to deal with the divorce and pretty much attached all of his quirky ways to the seperation anxiety of it all. I tried to tell them that wasn't the case. That this was Jack. This had always been Jack even before the seperation. You can't really argue with the professionals though. From that point on I stuck with the original thought of...well he's not behind  and he will grow out of the daily crying.

By Kindergarten he did actually grow out of some of the the walking on his toes and flapping his arms. He was still very sensitive and emotional. Since then he's just kept progressing and none of his teachers have had any real concerns that they have brought up to me. "Jack is bright, writes wonderful detailed stories and draws wonderful detailed pictures. He's kind and helpful and always follows the rules. He does however get lost in his own thoughts from time to time and I have to call him back." 

Nothing out of the ordinary, I suppose, but recently he's been having a lot of anxiety about to school. (Something I can understand) One reason in particular raised a red flag for me and has sent me back on this mad quest for information once again. It was silly or would seem silly to a normal person but for him it caused a lot of confusion and anxiety.  He was supposed to run laps in Gym class and he had to be the leader (meaning he had to know what he was doing rather than just imitate everyone else) They apparently run three laps and walk the fourth. He didn't know what that meant. Does he start counting one when he starts running?  When is the lap over? People will blame me if I mess up!  I took a book off his night table and pretended it was the Gym floor. You start here, okay?  In your head, when you start...say start!  Once you run around one time you then say one! then when you run around again... say two!  and again say three!  After you say three you know it's time to walk and once your are done're done!  "OHHHH!" he says..."Okay...I didn't get that at all."  Silly?  Simple?  Not for everybody.  Given that I'd recently read..."Children and Adults with Aspergers Syndrome will have trouble copying dance steps, aerobic moves, or direction in Gym Class."...yes, a little red flag.  The bigger red flag was remembering back when I had to "teach" him how to play with cars/toys rather than letting him line them all up in neat little rows. "Children with Aspergers have to learn things that come instinctively to others."

Of course one memory lead to another and before you know it I'm watching old videos and youtubing asperger syndrome and reading blogs. Obssesive? Slightly. On one hand I want answers and on the other I do find the research interesting. The biggest driving force, however, is the one coming from my gut. The one that I've let other people convince me to ignore. I'm still not sure that I'd want to label him, if in fact, he does have Aspergers, BUT, at the same time he is getting older and is around other people more than me. People who won't be able to understand his inability to understand.  The reason I understand is still to be determined, but given my own unique behavior, I have my suspicions.

For now, I just had to get this out as I've been living with it in my head for a few weeks (years) now. In my research I was able to pinpoint so many behaviors/character traits that my son has exhibited over the years that line up with this Syndrome. Some of which I (and quite possibly his Father) share as well. 

Jack as a Baby:

Little eye contact over the age of 6 months

Rarely responded to name

Would cry/arch back when picked up, held, rocked, etc...

Would cry when changed, bathed, did NOT like water

Hands were in constant motion, which later turned in arm/hand flapping

Rarely smiled and people would comment that he was an "old soul"

Wouldn't wave

Screamed and wouldn't sit in the cart at the Grocery Store

Screamed at all Doctors appts

Screamed when brought in water

Sat up, crawled, walked late

Learned to walk on toes

Always had to have something in his hand (a large blue lego was his favorite choice) and still does

Jack as a Toddler:

Continued to walk on toes

Flapped arms/hands

Talked on schedule but mostly repeated things like a parrot and recited T.V show, commercials or songs

Was very polite...repeating the pleases and thank you's.

Memorized things easily

Wrote Backwards

Knew exactly how to get places in the car and what road went where

Very sensitive to clothes, food textures (would vomit)

Wouldn't walk barefoot on grass

Wouldn't walk in snow at all.

Still screamed when brought in water

Developed an obsession with Telephone poles

Developed and obsession with Vacuum Cleaners. (we had to look at them every time we went in the store.)

At Gymboree he would wander away from the group and do his own thing without following direction

At play groups he would ignore other children and play alone with one object

He would scream when other children tried to touch/hug him

At the playground he rarely played on the slide/swings but would wander off collecting sticks or rocks with me following behind

If he did swing, he'd rarely smile

Would snuggle a little more than as a baby but not for long unless falling asleep

Stayed clear of the kiddie pool!!

Didn't know not to touch strangers and would often follow around other adults at the park instead of kids.

At home, he lined up his bath toys/cars/trains/socks. Only "pretended when he was mimicking a T.V show or movie.

At three would decide not to go to the park when we got there saying there were too many kids.

Jack Today:

Keeps a select interest or toy for a year or more...from trains to cars to legos and video games.

Still has food issues but is now more willing to try. Rarely gags or vomits.

Toe walking only returns on occasion. No more arm flapping

He's not a nail biter but rather a nail picker/peeler

Constantly singing and humming movie theme songs or T.V. jingles or making sound effects. Constantly. Did I mention it was Constantly?

When he draws it's not just one picture...he goes through 10 or more pages making one after the other

Prefers video games and electronics and legos to playing outside or with other people

If he's not playing a video game he has legos in hands (constantly) making sound effects.

Doesn't like to have to go anywhere. Would rather stay home

Rarely has to be diciplined. Once he knows the rules he sticks to them and would like for everyone else to as well.

Is heartbroken if he does happen to do something wrong.

Is having anxiety about going to school which is mostly centered around not being sure he knows the rules or what he is supposed to do.

Hates to make mistakes on homework, or drums, or video games and is very hard on himself when he does, occasionally hitting himself in the head and crying. Wants it to be perfect.

Has develped the fear of dying

Seems to have a lot of empathy/sympathy and cries easily

Has the end of the world syndrome when he knows he's done something wrong

Is very honest!

Loves knock knock jokes but often has trouble recognizing when someone is joking with him.

Very sensitive to teasing even when it's in fun

Can be very literal and often looks to me for clarification. (was he joking?)

Is easily scared by unexpected motion/loud noises (BOO!)

Has strabismus...little to no depth perception and appears to be color blind...on and off?

Expresses his love for his immediate family often and easily. ('re the best son in the world're the best mommy in the world.)

Enjoys other children, laughs, is silly, but will often just watch them play and only engage in his own personal interests.

Doesn't like sports. Doesn't want to be blamed for doing something wrong. Is only competitive against himself.

Will now only wear comfy pants. No jeans. No buttons. No zippers. Would stay in PJ's forever. :)

Poor balance and coordination

Doesn't like candy or gum or soda.

Likes advance notice for any change of plans

Apprehensive to try anything new


Is very routine without me asking.


Wow. I didn't realize I had noted so much. Much of this I understand and have done/been the same way in my own life. Some may be considered normal. Many things could be attributed to some sort of Sensory Processing Disorder. Mostly though, to me, they've always just been personality traits. What takes you off guard is when you find a list of those exact personality traits being linked with Asperger Syndrome. Which is the case here.

I'm not sure what to do at this point, but for now, at least it's out of my head and I have a hard copy of traits to print out if it's ever needed.

Hope, who, of course, enjoyed writing the list.


  1. Aidan was close to being named Jack.

  2. Jack was always Jack. In fact, there were a couple in line ahead of him, but apparently he picked the biggest straw.

  3. Obviously, you know him and understand him better than anyone. Not only that, but given this post you're certainly paying attention in a way that a lot of people wouldn't be able to. Whatever you or anyone else determine about his health, you'll be exactly the mother he needs at exactly the right times. Anxious or otherwise. :)

  4. Thanks. :) Honestly I couldn't imagine him being any other way and I don't think I'd want him to be now, I just want to be sure I'm not ignoring something out of fear.

  5. Enjoyed this post immensely. What a great list of traits you've compiled, and I love that you've included the positive traits in there as well. Thank you for sharing it with us

    Jordan (SAHD to a 6 year-old named Jack on the spectrum).

  6. your love for your son shines through..yes, your exactly the mom he needs.