Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad


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I have been reading some excellent blog posts by some great bloggers recently that have got me thinking, which is the whole point, I suppose.  Firstly, Laura at Life in the House That Asperger Built gave her take on the recent news that the court case involving a girl with a rare mitochondrial disorder developed symptoms of autism following vaccinations had been settled in her favour.  I’ve talked about the fear I felt when I took Cubby for his MMR, but Laura gives an informative and analytical post that is the antithesis of my wishy-washy vague approach to the whole vaccine debate.  It is excellent.

Then in Welcome to the Mad House, my friend Fi talks about her take on the issue of environmental triggers.  And again here.  It is both tongue-in-cheek and fascinating.  There subsequently followed a very interesting discussion in the comments about autism, anxiety and the influences of environmental factors.  While I firmly believe that Pudding’s ASD is a result of genetics, that she was born this way, at the same time I do think that there was also an environmental trigger.  If I think that she had an environmental trigger for her variety of autism, that does mean I’m open to the idea that there are other triggers, and other varieties of autism too.  There probably is an allergic kind, a premature/ difficult birth kind, an autoimmune kind, and other exposures too that would tip the balance in somebody already genetically prediposed.

So what is Pudding’s story?  For the first 18 months to 2 years of her life, she developed just like other kids her age.  She met her milestones right on target, and never gave her pediatrician any cause for concern.  Having said that, from birth she was a sensory seeker, she was demanding, and her language developed in a different way to her peers.  Pudding was a happy kid though, living a calm life where she was number one, and had all the attention she wished for.  Spectrummy Daddy and I both feel that had things remained that way, we would have continued living in blissful ignorance of Pudding’s differences until she began school, or possibly even later.

That wasn’t to be though.  Cubby was born a few months after she turned two, and suddenly life changed for her.  Here was a screaming infant whose cries hurt her ears, and took attention away from her.  No longer was mummy providing the same level of stimulation and attention, and when she got bored, she got herself into trouble.  To make matters worse, a few weeks later we moved, leaving behind everything that was comfortable and familiar to her.  It was too much.  She couldn’t sleep by herself, and would wake up screaming several times a night.  She would spin and pace around in circles.  She would flap her hands, repeat phrases over and over.  She was fearful of everybody but myself and her daddy.  She needed to be told what has happening all the time, or she became terrified.  She required complete control over her environment and possession.  She would line up her toys. Instead of playing with other children at the playground, she would get in their personal space, and touch their hair.  It was autism, almost overnight, or so it seemed at the time.  For 2 year-old pudding, this level of anxiety was the trigger.  I think that anxiety in this particular situation is a perfectly normal and understandable reaction, but back then I couldn’t distinguish between autism and anxiety.  A year later, I can see that this was anxiety, and for Pudding already predisposed to autism, this was the trigger for her.  As life has become more settled, so has she.  She hasn’t lined up toys in almost a year.  She is far less controlling over her possessions, though she does still like to know where people are going, and what is expected to happen.

I’ll always wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t moved.  If she was older, would she have been better able to handle things.  Or would there have been something else, sooner or later, that would have caused her anxiety which would have tipped the balance.  We’ll never know.

I do know that if I’d known beforehand that Pudding was on the spectrum, I’d have handled our move in an entirely different way.  If you’re wondering (as I have many, many times) why we continue in this lifestyle with such overwhelming changes with a child who had such anxiety as a result, I’ll tell you why.  I joined a group with other Foreign Service Parents of children with special educational needs.  There are a lot of us (was this the trigger for their kids too, or does this lifestyle attract people with certain genetic traits?) in this same situation.  I explained how we were struggling financially to do a domestic tour, but terrified of how Pudding would handle an overseas assignment.  I got wonderful advice from people in the exact same situation.  Who helped me realize that overseas we’d be supported, that we’d be able to create a tailor-made education for Pudding to make the most of her strengths, and assist with her weaknesses.  I’d be able to get the therapeutic assistance she needs.  That the reasons why we always believed in a nomadic lifestyle for our children are still valid, the diagnosis doesn’t change that.

One mother I spoke to has a teenage daughter with Asperger’s who told me that she thinks moving has enabled her to become more flexible, resilient and social (!), required it in a way that a static upbringing would not have allowed.  I have to hope that the same is true for my kids.  Cubby will be the same age as Pudding was when we next move- will this prove to be his trigger too?

8 Responses

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  1. Brilliant post! You’ve got me thinking even more now!
    I hadn’t considered all of those other kinds of autism.
    I started wondering…..if anxiety was the trigger for Pudding (and my son too)-shouldn’t peace and order then reverse autism? Or do you think it was lying dormant in her already being genetically pre-disposed and would have eventually been triggered by something else?


    September 13, 2010 at 7:17 am

  2. I think it would have been triggered. And I think that something much more simple could have been enough of a trigger (like starting school) but it was inevitable (with Pudding). I think SPD is enough (more than enough!) to cause anxiety, and a lot of other autism symptoms could stem from that, but I don’t know. I don’t think it can be reversed (in Pudding) as it was always going to happen. I do think she can learn to become more comfortable, but that will take time. And what is peace and order for us, might not be for our kids. So many things bother her that can’t be undone. I can’t send Cubby back, for example!


    September 13, 2010 at 7:24 am

  3. This is something I’ve thought a lot about too. I know that my son had things going on from birth – his sensory issues that is. But we moved when he was 4 months old and it was at that time he refused to take a bottle (and never would again), got more colicky (if that was possible), and other things started creeping out. Your post reminded me of something a nurse said to me then (when he hadn’t pooped in 6 days a week after we moved) – she said “the little bugger is probably just stressed out”. At the time I thought what? a 4 month old is stressed out? makes sense now doesn’t it. I was stressed, my husband was stressed…why wouldn’t he be as well? so I have to wonder if this was the beginning trigger. Not the cause – since I think it’s genetic – but the initial trigger. interesting…


    September 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    • Yeah, I think it is genetic too, watching Cubby is my confirmation of that. Though it could be just another excuse to blame ourselves for things outside of our control too!


      September 14, 2010 at 7:38 am

  4. I just found your blog today. I maintain a blogroll of Foreign Service blogs at http://lifeafterjerusalem.blogspot.com. I usually label the blogs as FSO, EFM, FSS, EFM w/kids, etc. I would like to add yours with a label about dealing with special needs kids in the FS. Yours is so far the only blog like it I have found, and I am certain there are a lot of people who could benefit from reading you. Particularly, there are a fair number of FS wannabees who read my blog and those with special needs kids may wonder how to navigate the service while caring for their family. Can I list your blog?


    September 13, 2010 at 4:47 pm

  5. I found your blog yesterday, and made sure I came back again today. Having just been diagnosed Aspie (and it fits!), I’m looking for information and real-life people of all ages who’ve had experience with the spectrum. Thank you so much for being here!

    I, too, feel that there are all sorts of triggers, and that a person on the spectrum will always be “wired” the way they are “wired.” Also, though, I’ve been looking into ways our symptoms can be worsened by all sorts of environmental bombardments, including food. I’m enough of a “real-food-cures-all-sorts-of-things” kind of person that I’m investigating the reported effects of diet on the exacerbation of symptoms. Have you (any of you) had any experience with GAPS, SCD, GFCF or any other diet? I’ve been reading on the GAPShelp group on Yahoo of some seemingly miraculous remissions of life-interrupting symptoms through diet and some supplementation (and *lots* of patience and determination, too).

    I don’t want to erase my eccentric-yet-positive Aspie traits; instead, I’d like to deal with the life-interrupting exacerbations and remediate them. GAPS is one option about which I’d like to have more info.

    Thanks, Sage~~

    PS: Yes, Pudding is adorable!


    September 13, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    • Hi Sage,

      Thanks for your comment. I really don’t have any experience or knowledge about GAPS and SCD. Pudding has been GFCF since May, along with some other foods she patch tested allergic too. Cubby is undergoing patch testing himself, with some very interesting similarities. Both of them started sleeping better when we removed gluten, but beyond that I’m yet to witness any changes. It is difficult with young children and I particularly dislike how difficult it is for my kids to share food, which is an important social function for young children. We are seeing a dietitian, and I suspect eventually all the foods we removed from her diet will be reintroduced at some point, with the possible exception of gluten. I totally endorse eating well, but do caution that too strict a diet can cause problems psychologically, creating a weird relationship with food. It sounds like you’re very well-informed though. I think some of my other readers do GFCF too, and perhaps other diets and perhaps they’d like to share their experiences too. If you do give it a try, please let me know what you find, I’m really interested in this as a therapy.

      Keep me posted!


      September 14, 2010 at 7:49 am

  6. […] Spectrummy Mummy did a really intelligent post about “triggers”–the whole toxic load and “what set it off” question.  (My new favorite blog, by the […]

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