Special interest or gifted trait?

Posted by: Eskes

Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/10/17 09:05 AM

How do you know the difference between a special interest as a symptom of ASD or a gifted trait? My DS9 has been diagnosed with mild ASD, but I don't agree. He is also in the gifted program at school. His therapist says his intense interests are ASD related such as engaging in his origami hobby for hours a day. He has a number of interests usually related to science or creating with his hands, but will focus intensely for several hours or days before switching to something else. Do gifted children have the same level of focus/intensity without a diagnosis of ASD?
Posted by: suevv

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/10/17 11:27 AM

Our DS9 (DYS) was assessed at age 3 and 6 because of struggles arising out of his intensity. Two different assessors. Teachers were concerned about potential ASD. Both assessors found him to be profoundly gifted but not ASD. For all his life he has had super intense interests like you describe. They have ebbed and flowed over time (Supercuts, ocean life, rocks and minerals, magic the gathering, Hamilton and the revolutionary war, politics and the presidential election come to mind). I can't say whether this is relevant to you. And I'm guessing that a lot of the coping strategies are the same either way. But DS is apparently not on the spectrum despite sounding similar to your child.
Posted by: Eskes

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/10/17 07:41 PM

Thank you Suevv for your feedback. It was helpful. I am concerned that maybe my son was misdiagnosed and could just be showing some gifted traits. He does not socialize with kids at school and does not like recess. However he is able to have friends outside of a school setting. I just can't get his therapist to agree.
Posted by: Eskes

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/10/17 11:35 PM

Thank you for your response Portia. I really think my DS uses the information he learns creatively from what I can observe. For example, when making origami birds he follows the instructions for several types in a book and then goes on to make his own bird creations. He also makes up his own board games and spends hours perfecting them. He is a very quiet child and will not share much of any information he learns or reads unless you ask him. I do think I need to find another therapist for him. His school counselor describes him as very creative and a deep thinker.
Posted by: Thomas Percy

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/11/17 06:28 AM

Why did you have a therapist for him? What issues are you trying to solve? I think special interests/intensity can be thing for so many kids and it really doesn't have a lot information. Who diagnosed ASD? Did they do an IQ test as well?
Posted by: greenlotus

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/11/17 06:56 AM

Originally Posted By: Portia
Gifted also display the intense interests. Those not familiar with gifted traits will point to ASD. The difference is not in the what, it is in the how and it is very subtle. Is the information learned used creatively or simply regurgitated?


Portia - can you expand upon this statement? Our DD12 (DYS) is also crazy intense, fairly introverted, and just is - different - than so many kids. We read up on girls on the spectrum, but it never quite fits. I am interested in your info used "creatively vs regurgitated". Therapists have wondered about DD...
Posted by: Eskes

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/11/17 09:04 AM

Thanks for your feedback Thomas Percy. We had DS in therapy thinking he was having anxiety issues. He was refusing to go to school in second grade and had no friends. He also was struggling with other social settings such as team sports. The therapist thought right away he was on the spectrum and sent him to a developmental pediatrician who officially diagnosed him. In third grade DS still had no friends at school but no longer refusing to go to school and over coming a lot of his anxiety issues. We pulled him out of team sports and he is now taking piano lessons. This is a much better fit for him. He was tested by the school and was determined gifted with their cognitive tests. No formal IQ testing. He does very well academically so the school will not pay for this. We can not afford it privately.
Posted by: Thomas Percy

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/11/17 10:27 AM

This is hard. The only thing that can give you a definitive answer probably will be a full neuropych evaluation. If you go to some of the main children hospitals, your insurance often picks up most of the expenses.

Failing that, I would think the approach to his social deficits are going to be similar regardless of diagnosis. My son, who has no diagnosis, goes to a social skill group because his teacher thinks he needs to be more assertive and less timid in new situations, and one of the kids in his group has Aspergers. So ASD or not, they both benefit from the same group.
Posted by: indigo

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/11/17 11:08 AM

Originally Posted By: greenlotus
Originally Posted By: Portia
Gifted also display the intense interests. Those not familiar with gifted traits will point to ASD. The difference is not in the what, it is in the how and it is very subtle. Is the information learned used creatively or simply regurgitated?
Portia - can you expand upon this statement?...I am interested in your info used "creatively vs regurgitated".
Although I am not Portia I will jump in to mention that some kids can recite memorized facts (regurgitated information) but do not make connections or see the opportunity to apply the information in fresh new contexts (using information creatively).

The article from the Davidson Database which is linked in this old post may be of interest, as it discusses gifted traits, ASD traits, overlap between the two, and some distinguishing features.
Posted by: BananaGirl

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/11/17 05:48 PM

http://mcgt.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/%CB%86x-Giftedness-Asp.Dis_.Checklist.pdf

I found this checklist the other day while researching the same thing.
Posted by: Eskes

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/11/17 10:31 PM

Thank you for sharing this checklist. What does it mean when they have an even amount of checks on both sides?
Posted by: indigo

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/12/17 06:01 AM

Great checklist, BananaGirl! (In case this is helpful for future reference, I see the checklist is also backed up on the WayBack Machine Internet Archive, here.)

While an article, book, or checklist can help raise awareness, a diagnosis can only come from a full neuropsych eval.
Posted by: Nolepharm

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/12/17 06:40 AM

http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10167


http://www.grcne.com/giftedAsperger.html

I liked these 2 links
Posted by: Thomas Percy

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/12/17 10:42 AM

Originally Posted By: Eskes
Thank you for sharing this checklist. What does it mean when they have an even amount of checks on both sides?


Maybe he is both? Gifted with Aspergers?
Posted by: ElizabethN

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/12/17 11:12 AM

Originally Posted By: Thomas Percy
Originally Posted By: Eskes
Thank you for sharing this checklist. What does it mean when they have an even amount of checks on both sides?


Maybe he is both? Gifted with Aspergers?

As a mother of two gifted children on the spectrum, I can confirm that I check a roughly balanced number of boxes on both sides of the chart, except that they are all on the right side for motor skills.
Posted by: polarbear

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/12/17 12:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Eskes
I am concerned that maybe my son was misdiagnosed and could just be showing some gifted traits. He does not socialize with kids at school and does not like recess. However he is able to have friends outside of a school setting. I just can't get his therapist to agree.


Eskes, I don't have experience with autism, but I have a 2e ds who is diagnosed with dyspraxia, which includes some symptoms also found on the autism spectrum. I'm going to share a little bit of his story with you, not because I think that his symptoms/diagnosis are related to your ds, but because I can identify with the questions you've asked and perhaps my journey as a parent might help with thinking through how you want to proceed.

My ds is in high school now, but fwiw, when he was very young, before he entered school, we (parents) had no clue that he had any type of challenge - he fit in very well at home and preschool, he was clearly highly intelligent based on his verbal communication skills, and he was happy. School, starting around 2nd grade when the demand for academic work began, brought a lot of difficulty. None of that made sense to us as parents, because we knew (at home) our ds as this obviously highly intelligent kid. His teachers, otoh, saw a child who couldn't communicate, was isolated socially, and was staring off into the ether as if he didn't have a clue what was up during class. When I talked to the teacher, I was coming from the point of view of a parent who saw my child as high IQ and the expectation on my part was that ds must be bored or a perfectionist or the classroom was a misfit or whatever... the teacher otoh, with experience teaching a wide range of children, saw my ds as a kid who was having severe difficulty in the classroom and based on her experiences felt she was seeing a child with ADHD. Neither one of us was "wrong" - but neither one of us had the correct understanding of how to put together the pieces of what was really challenging my ds.

I wouldn't toss out a professional's diagnosis or report etc off-hand because it doesn't fit what you feel you're seeing - there's value in both what you're seeing and what the professional saw. If you haven't had either a development pediatrician assessment or a neuropsych evaluation, I'd consider one or the other as the next step in better understanding what's going on with your ds. I wouldn't think of that step as a step toward either removing or retaining an ASD diagnosis, but instead look at it as an opportunity to find what tools are available that will be helpful to your specific child.

Our ds was diagnosed through a neuropsych evaluation, and the diagnosis wasn't what either myself or his teacher had anticipated - but it was spot-on, and so very helpful to ds and myself in making a plan forward for remediation and advocacy.

If you've already had a neuropsych eval or developmental ped assessment, and that's the diagnosis you're feeling isn't accurate - consider having a follow-up evaluation if the evaluation was several years ago. We've returned to our neuropsych when our ds started middle school as the age/grade and maturity changes he'd been through meant it was time to re-look at what his needs were relative to his challenges. Since that time we've also consulted with other professionals as needed (SLP, counseling etc) all based on what we learned from the original neurospcyh as well as what we've observed and what ds feels his needs are as he grows. You'll find that there isn't one answer at one point in time - kids grow, demands change (social, academic, fine motor, communication... just about everything!) as time passes.

Quote:
He does not socialize with kids at school and does not like recess. However he is able to have friends outside of a school setting.


Sorry for quoting this a second time, but fwiw, this describes my ds in middle-elementary school. It took a long time and a lot of research on my part in addition to the professional evaluations, but eventually I was able to put the puzzle pieces together (and it helped a lot as ds grew and his communication skills increased). The reason my ds was able to get along in social settings outside of school but not within school was a combination of the dynamics of communication required in each place - at home and in the after-school activities we attended there was a lot of predictable social structure as well as a lack of a specific type of need for communication that was required at school and on the playground. Over time, this inability to communicate and make connections with peers at schools led to a build-up of anxiety. I would suggest not putting aside this lack of friends or solitary time at recess at school as just a misfit situation due to giftedness - perhaps it is, but it's a really difficult situation for a child to be in. I'd want to really understand fully and address what's behind the lack of connections with peers regardless of the cause.

Best wishes,

polarbear
Posted by: Eskes

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/12/17 10:37 PM

Thank you so much polar bear for sharing some of your story. It was very helpful to see your journey. I can tell I may have a longer road ahead and there may not be a simple concrete answer I was hoping for. Just reading your story is encouraging and a reminder that there is some cause of his social struggles at school regardless of a diagnosis. I never viewed my son as gifted until the school brought this up to us as parents in first grade (he was not formally tested by the school until the end of third). During that same time he had started staying in the classroom instead of going to recess and he has continued to not make friends or socially interact at school with children. He did have an evaluation by a developmental pediatrician who gave him the ASD diagnosis. It seems so unclear to me but it maybe just because he is 2e.
Posted by: polarbear

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/13/17 04:36 AM

Originally Posted By: Eskes
During that same time he had started staying in the classroom instead of going to recess and he has continued to not make friends or socially interact at school with children.


Eskes, does your ds' have any kind of social skills training or goals in his IEP (if he has an IEP)? Does he have support for social skills at school or is the school staff working with him to help him with social skills? Is staying inside during recess his choice or the school's choice? Is he still staying inside during recess?

I realize I'm only seeing a snippet of the full situation in a post here, but the first thought that crosses my mind is that not participating in recess is going to add to social isolation among an elementary school group rather than help a child who is having difficulty forming connections with classroom peers. On the other hand, there are many things that could be actively done by school staff to support your ds in forming connection with his classmates. It's possible he's in a situation where he's so far beyond the curriculum etc that he needs a different academic fit, but if the social isolation is due to a different challenge, it's important that helping provide support and a chance to practice social skills at school can be invaluable.

Best wishes,

polarbear
Posted by: Eskes

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 09/13/17 09:06 PM

Thanks Polar bear. DS does have 504 that we got last year. The school said he did not qualify for an IEP because his issues did not impact his academics. They did have him go to a social group once per week during lunch. The school counselor said he was like an expert in the social skills group. However, the group was during recess and after the educational piece the other children chose to go to recess and he stayed by himself with the counselor playing games or puzzles. He knows the social skills but still not applying it with peers or interacting with others on the playground. I am not sure what will happen this year yet. He is a very sweet and quiet child. The school is great but I don't think they see the need to help him since he does not cause problems. They have lots of children who need more support.
Posted by: Shift

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 11/01/17 01:31 PM

Also, as some others have pointed out, if you're on the spectrum and gifted, the profile may have more features of a typical gifted child and perhaps fewer classic autistic traits. For instance, I am autistic, but I had a well-developed understanding and frequent use of sarcasm and idiomatic language by the time I was eight, a bit earlier than many of my neurotypical peers. I also didn't relate to the "distraction from internal source" point. Disruption of attention has nearly always been due to external sensory factors (or more accurately, my oversensitized perception of them), such as loud noises or lots of movement, such as in a crowded lobby or classroom.

I was also keenly aware of how different I was from the time I began going to school. While I could have a relatively sophisticated understanding of social dynamics when considered from a quiet, low-distraction room, with the enormous amount of sensory bombardment of real social situations, I couldn't apply it. I was too busy processing basic sensory input like what words mean, trying to filter background noise, and trying to formulate words and detect a lull in the conversation so I could participate as well, so I couldn't stop and analyze social dynamics in the moment on top of that. To even think about what someone else might be thinking was sometimes just too much for me to do, even if it would be obvious in a quiet room with the time to go through it step by step, as an observer.

Actual practice with the social skills will be key. You can't improve something you don't practice, after all, even if it's tempting to avoid due to social feedback (social skills difficulty is tricky that way).
Posted by: kchow1

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 11/02/17 11:52 AM

My son is autistic. He has a medical diagnosis, and gets ABA therapy at home. He is high functioning, so people that meet him don't think "autistic", they think "shy". The therapist is working through the book now called Social Rules for Kids-The Top 100 Social Rules Kids Need to Succeed. It's an awesome book, and it's designed for kids age 8-14. It gives him lots of chances to practice his social skills. And if I look into his future, I can definitely see him as an engineer. Super good at math, a little socially awkward. But it's important to be able to communicate with other people, and to also relate to them socially. I'm hoping that the ABA therapy will really help him have less anxiety socially because all of those skills will be more practiced.
Posted by: Eskes

Re: Special interest or gifted trait? - 11/03/17 01:28 PM

Thank you Shift for sharing. My DS also uses sarcasm frequently and understands humor more than his older sibling. Your input is helpful in understanding what may be happening to him in social settings. He is not able to articulate what is going on but hides in his coat with hood at the playground or other areas where there is a lot of peers/noise. My guess is he is having a sensory overload but can not verbalize it.