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number obsession?


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Not sure where to start with this: I had a child start at my setting two weeks ago. He is two and a half, and is not overly keen on playing with the other children, but will play alongside them. He does play with the train set for a short period, but his main interest is number. He can count to 10 easily and recognises the numerals..............and can write them down, in order, correctly and then write them down in reverse order too. He can also make the numbers out of pipe cleaners! Now, my colleague and i were talking about this and we both said, well, ok he can write and recognise the numbers 1-10......what next?? and when he was next in and writing numbers, I sat beside him doing some accounts.........and he watched, then spontaneously said........'that's 104' ( one hundred and four), so i started writing down any old numbers, in twos or threes.......and he got every single one right. Then I thought I'd be smart and wrote down 1000. His answer?? THAT'S One hundred and zero!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Obviously, i have asked mum where he got his interest in numbers and she shrugged, said she didn't know, he has always been 'into' numbers, but then she went very quiet on me and said that her mum is worried the child might be Autistic, and what did I think?? I said I wasn't qualified to diagnose, or comment really, but it was quite extraordinary what he can do with numbers. I asked who he plays with at home and mum said there is no-one around at all, he plays with his nana and great gran, no other children. Observations ( and it IS very early days) show parallel play, but no interaction with other children; when he writes numbers ( which he does constantly, on any surface he can find!), he jumps up and claps after each one, and he seems very partial to number three ( I wonder if that's because he will be three on his next birthday???). I asked mum if he had seen the HV recently and he is booked to go to his 2 year check in a couple of weeks time, but she is convinced the HV will say her child is Autistic. I have limited knowledge about Autism, and from what I have seen and observed,I would say this child does display some Autistic tendencies, but what do you think and more importantly, how can I support this little chap in my setting?

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Number obsession and lack of cooperative play are definitely common traits of ASD. Are these the only reasons for concern? It sounds like this parent may have others.

 

http://www.autism.or...mpairments.aspx

 

The webpage I've linked to gives an overview of the type of difficulties a child with ASD may experience. This triad is also an important tool for diagnosis. It may be helpful if you were to see whether there are links to the traits described in your obs to help with assessment by a paediatrician. You're right that you can't diagnose but you can make a helpful contribution to the assessment, if there is one, as they need to know how the child behaves out of the home environment.

 

There is information for professionals on the site which includes how to manage the environment for a child with ASD which may be helpful if it looks like he will get a diagnosis.

 

If this mum is really concerned about autism she needs to insist that her child is referred to her community paediatrician for an assessment. Early intervention can make a significant difference and the assessment process can be very drawn out so the sooner it begins, the better.

 

I can also give you details of a very helpful, sensible and supportive online forum for parents of children with all types of autism including those starting on the road to assessment and diagnosis. If you think she'd like details please PM me.

 

The preference for the number three is probably not linked to anything logical like a birthday. My DD loves the number 4 (she is 9) and consequently 2, 8, 16, etc because they are linked to it. She will only ever take 4 sweets no matter how many are on offer and lots of things have to be done 2 or 4 times. We even had to move her hospital bed last week into bay 4 because it is so important to her. She was over the moon to be in Room 8, Bed 4!

 

One useful strategy is to use the child's deep interest to widen their play and encourage social interaction rather than trying to draw them away from it but I'm sure you would do that anyway.

 

Visual timetables, lots of notice of changes in routine, a calm place to withdraw from sensory overload, very familiar resources, perhaps from home, to have at times of high anxiety, and lots of very clear language explaining how others are feeling/thinking are good strategies to help many children with ASD.You'll soon learn what strategies can help him as you get to know him.

Edited by Upsy Daisy
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Thank you upsy daisy, lots of very helpful advice there. Had a quick look at the site, and a couple of things jump out, such as the arm flapping and putting his hands over his ears whenever anything is a bit loud, even just some music, or children singing. Will have a word with mum about the forum you were talking about and let you know.Thank you x

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Narnia- also check out the Natinal association website for gifted children - we had a little boy with very similar behaviour and knowledge of numbers - when he first started ( before i was there) he had no social skills despite having attended nursery and became very distressed and numbers and counting were the only distraction. His behaviour concerned me and when i spoke to area senco we both agreed there were concerns - after speaking to mum who broke down worried about his behaviour and lack of social interaction we agreed to ask HV to visit setting with mum there - it is possible this child is on the autisitic spectrum but it is also because he is gifted as children like this often are delayed in PSE which is why many are often misdiagnosed as having ASD - the childs mum contacted the NAGC and they assessed him - he is settling well at school and making friends . hope that helps :P

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most children at 2 1/2 only play along side other children.

 

his number is unique though but if he is playing with granny??

 

i would introduce other things, outdoor play, messy play of course not ignoring his number interests and see how it goes for a term and then if you are worried then

contact your senco.

 

He cerrtainly is G&T in numbers

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I agree Suer, our child was always encouraged with numbers , staff asking him to do sums like he was a side show and his interest was obsessive and therefore was not promoted to use it in other ways and he would have happily just wrote numbers all the time anywhere and everywhere, I started to encourage him to use his numbers in play e.g - when outside and all he wanted was to chalk numbers - we set up chalkboard and encouraged him to count the laps children were doing in the cars and trikes , we would write names and columns and give a focus to his numbers at this time though he was older than narnia's child.

His grandma was an ex head and encouraged literacy and numeracy but it was the obsessiveness that concerned us especially when he lacked emotional and social development - he would insist on a certain number of cuddles and kisses and became distressed or angry when unable to complete this routine. he worried about time ( he could tell time both analogue and digital ) and showed a lcak of interest in joining in any group games or put down children who could not read or write numbers as well as he did. Parents though it was because he liked to be in control ( sadly he was allowed to be most of the time at home )

 

another point was mum said he had a photographic memory that was apparent at a very early age

Edited by lashes2508
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Ok, all good points and I certainly don't see this child as a sideshow, because he most definately isn't. I'm really interested in what motivates him and want to help move him on in other areas. I had him in today, and all the usual number things took place.............but he kept on writing 'Tom' on everthing too..............we asked who Tom was and got no replay, so when mum came, I asked and she laughed......Treefoo Tom.........his latest 'thing' ! It's been interesting observing today; he has been very busy, lots of skitting around the room, and some parallel play, AND some joining in. He also insisted on giving my colleague and I a hug and kiss goodbye, mum said he's been very huggy lately. Granma is 82, and has him one morning a week, and apparantly does quite things such as drawing with him ( I have known granny for many years; she's a skilful knitter and definately not an ex head teacher etc, lovely caring lady though). When I changed his nappy, he clamped his hands over his ears ( the extractor fan is quite noisy, but not overly loud), so I aksed ' what's up? Are you ok?' and he started to cry and said, 'one, one, one, Thomas, one one one'........I realised that he was looking at a Thomas the tank engine poster I have near the changing table. When he got down, he went to paint.........1, 2, 3 all over the paper, then off to the sand tray, where he was counting all the toys in there and lining them up. We play outside every day, as the children desire I have discovered he loves bubbles ( we had some out today and he was chasing them to pop them as well as counting how many he popped) chalk boards are out, playdough is out, so lots of things to do.So, lots of questions going round my head. He's a dear little chap, and yes, may be some Autistic traits, but also G&T, so help.........

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I'm sure how you progress with this little boy will be right , my comment re side show was how some of the staff 9( no longer there now ) treated him as they had no experience or understanding and found it amusing to keep questioning him ,but i personally felt that he did not get the support that was needed initially as the training was not in place. his grandma is lovely, I know her too but personally think it was difficult for the family to accept his other needs which is understandable . I know his mum felt he would be labelled asd when there may have been other reasons - and having read the info on NAGC site i could see the similarities- oour HV and area Senco were very supportive and thankfully the school teacher and senco too and fingers crossed he continues to do well in all areas at school .

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lashes, I didn't think you were aiming the comment about 'sideshow' at me, I was merely agreeing that he isn't and I need to see what I can do to move him forward. In the past, I have worked with staff just like those you describe; thankfully, that isn't the case in my setting and no child here is treated in that way. I can see that mum is worried, in need of reassurance that her little boy isn't going to be labelled, or singled out. She keeps saying to me 'he isn't too bad, is he?' and I'm all about telling her how great he is. I have assured her that we're going to do our very best for him; as we do for all the children in our care, so whatever he needs we'll be doing what we can to provide it.

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Hi Narnia.....you are doing that right thing for this child already by getting to know him so well. I worked with a little boy on the spectrum who's obsession was numbers, this was his security blanket when anxious, stressed, etc. He'll probably always revert back to number(if this is a comfort), although particular focus on one number may change. Try having his favourite numbers on a expanding keyring to put in his pocket while he plays with other things...try a now and next board to include other activities so he can choose one activity to do then do 'numbers' again and like others have said incorporate numbers into other areas of provision.....i'd look carefully at your environment if the Thomas the tank with a number on is upsetting him at changing time i'd move it.....he won't learn to accept it being there if its a source of stress/anxiety. good luck.

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