Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Does Bipolar Boy on Newsweek Cover also have Asperger's Syndrome?

I cut and pasted the excerpt below from the cover story for the May 26 edition Newsweek magazine. In case you haven't seen it, the title of the article is "Growing up Bipolar: Max's World." Does anyone else think this boy might have Asperger's Syndrome (AS)? I put some of the sentences that made me think of the possibility in italics. The sensory problems and rigid play were red flags to me.

Excerpt: "After a year, the jokes gave way to worry. Max was reaching and surpassing his milestones, walking by 10 months and talking in sentences by age 1, but he wasn't like the babies in parenting books. Richie carried his son to the backyard and tried to put him down, but Max shrank back in his father's arms; he hated the feel of the grass beneath his small bare feet. Amy gave Max a bath and turned on the exhaust fan; he put his hands over his ears and screamed. At 13 months, he lined up dozens of Hot Wheels in the same direction, and when Amy nudged one out of order, he shrieked "like you'd just cut his arm off." At day care, he terrorized his teachers and playmates. He wasn't the biggest kid in the class, but he attacked without provocation or warning, biting hard enough to leave teeth marks. Every day, he hit and kicked and spat. Worries became guilt. Amy had been overweight and dehydrated in pregnancy. Was Max so explosive because she had done something wrong?"

My thoughts: His mom joked in the article that if a condition has a letter in it, then Max has the condition. She was thinking more along the lines of ADHD, etc. However, I don't think she was thinking of ASD, though many times people with Asperger's syndrome or autism also have been diagnosed with ADHD or Bipolar disorder as well. Near the end of the article the mom mentioned she was glad Max did not have autism like other children in his school because they couldn't tell their moms they loved them nor could they hug them.

What this mom needs to know is that she is defining autism by referencing stereotypical behavior. While it is true that some children cannot exhibit affection in either way she described, some children on the spectrum are able to exhibit affection. For example, my child who has either a milder form of autism or AS does say "I love you" occasionally. Usually he is responding to my three little words, but on rare occasions he does volunteer those words without anyone saying them first.

I imagine that Max's mom is getting bombarded with opinions and suggestions at the moment. I'm sure many others have suggested that her son has ASD. Whether he'll eventually be diagnosed is unclear.


Anonymous said...

Yes, you are right on here. M's very first diagnosis was EOBP. It fit her but yet it did not. I think many children are being diagnosed as BP that are actually Autistic, vice versa or maybe it is comorbid?

I saw this article as well and had similar thoughts. Every time I see shows on children with EOBP I think the similarities to Autism are striking.

Both diagnosises respond well to Anti Psychotic medications as well.

It is all quite confusing. For years we decided we would not obsess about diagnosis but treat M's symptoms. Easier said than done when we were trying to get her services in school too. EOBP does not get you very good school services. Autism usually does. Interesting too that the stigma attatched to BP is much more intense than Autism.

It is all fascinating and frustrating. I would encourage parents early on to be open and not worry too much about an exact diagnosis. If you obsess and only think about BP you are losing out on great programs geared towards Autistic children that would help BP children as well.

Anonymous said...

Funny you mention this. I was wondering the same thing when I read that article not too long ago in a doctor's office. I think there are a lot of similarities between mental illness and other nerological disorders like autism.

In terms of sensory sensitivities, When I read of Temple Grandin's squeeze machine in "Thinking in Pictures," I could picture exactly how something like that could be calming and grounding, as well as her spending time on the roof. I do have a bear hug [pressure] vest (not a weighted vest) that I wore to calm down when I was extremely struggling. I've even tried the ME protocol, but it doesn't work so well when you do it on yourself.

I'm not sure if all this has to do with my own brain abnormalities or if it's just a coincidence, but it does half convince me that everything's somehow related.