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Does a three year old diagnosed with autism with social phobia feel let down by adults when he is encouraged to mix with peers?

Posted by Kathleen Fitzsimons

Our three year old relative has been diagnosed with autism. He was slow to speak, walk etc but now he is doing quite well. His major difficulty is that he views other children as a threat and goes into a major state of panic when he thinks that he is "trapped" in their presence. For example he will only use the slide in the park after having a long look around to make sure that no other child is going to use the same slide and if he is ready to come down and realises that some child is approaching he goes rigid and will even hurt himself in the urgency to get away from this situation.

He has been registered for school in September. He has been very well monitored since birth and will have appropriate assistance when he gets to school. However since he sees other children as posing a serious threat to his 'safety' how does he view the fact that we are arranging to have him go to the place of his greatest horror. We know that small children learn to trust when their needs are met by primary caregivers and other adults in their lives. How does he view the fact that we are taking him into school (for him the lion's den) and expecting him to stay there for many years. Will he grow up with trust issues. Relationship difficulties? What can we do now to prepare him?

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I wanted to tell you that this child sounds a lot like my daughter. I would like to venture a guess... it isn't social phobia but severe tactile defensiveness. Sensory processing disorder (which most children with autism have and some have as a stand alone disorder) can make one so sensitive to touch - especially touch they don't know is coming- that navigating a playground is scary. My daughter used to run away and cry and not be able to interact with other children. There are SO MANY THERAPIES that can take care of this issue for this child. He doesn't have to feel this way. There is the brushing protocol, jumping for spinal input (get him a trampoline and help him jump), neuronet, and the list goes on and on. People are social beings but SPD can look like generalized anxiety or social phobia. After 4.5 years of working with my daughter, she now plays on the playground and doesn't run away or look pained!! You have to prepare him NOW and put him in these situations with assistance and reassurance but most importantly you need to find him an occupational therapist who specializes in SPD!
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