Stop Diagnosing My Daughter For Being Introverted

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Introverted Children

My daughter Alicia is three and a half and an introvert. This is not in any way a surprise: both my husband and I are introverts too. That shocks some people, because we are still quite social – heck, my husband’s job requires meeting strangers, speaking publicly, and attending social events. But if you gave us our choice of a dream weekend off, I guarantee it would involve a quiet few days together and not an “everyone is invited” party.

In my daughter’s case, introversion manifested early. This is a child who, at about six months of age, wanted her bedtime routine to be “read me a book and then put me alone in my crib to play until I tuck myself in.” As soon as she was mobile, she wanted to play by herself. My son Ben, who is much more extroverted than any of the rest of us, constantly wants my attention; Alicia wants to know where I am, but I only have a place in her games when she invites me in.

As she’s getting older, her introversion becomes more and more obvious. Here’s a list of traits of introverted children: they do more listening than talking; they talk to family members but not to strangers; they like to spend time in their room with the door closed; they spend hours alone reading (or looking at books if they’re too young to read) or engaging in elaborate imaginative play. This basically sounds like someone has a camera in our house.

Frankly, I’m happy for Alicia. She is delightfully independent; she doesn’t get upset if I’m working and I can’t play with her right that second. I love listening in on the conversations she roleplays between toys – something she’s been doing since she was less than two years old – and the little songs she sings to herself. And believe me, after years of battling over bedtime with Ben, I practically wanted to weep when it became obvious that Alicia’s usually the first to declare it’s bedtime.

But there is a big problem that’s emerging, and the problem is not with Alicia: it’s with people around her. I am astounded at how little people in general, and even medical professionals who see dozens to hundreds of children, understand an introverted child. And what is really upsetting is that their lack of understanding sometimes results in a “diagnosis” – for things that are perfectly typical for introverted children.

A good example: at least three times in the past two years, Alicia has convinced people that she has a hearing impairment. Twice this happened at the child care room at the gym; I came back from my workout to have a sombre conversation with a volunteer: “Have you ever had her hearing tested? We asked her if she wanted to join the game with the other kids and she didn’t even look up.” (The second time I proved her hearing was fine by whispering, “Alicia, do you want to go get some Smarties?” I’ve never seen her cross a room so fast.)

Okay, but those are volunteers. They’re not trained, and they’re just trying to help. But last week Alicia went in for a routine public health assessment; in our area, every child meets with a nurse for a quick check at three and a half. I suspected what was going to happen, and I was right: I got the autism screening questions. “Does she make eye contact with you? Does she pretend to comfort a doll or stuffed animal? Does she respond to other children when they invite her to play? Does she come to you for a hug if she falls down?” All of these happened after the nurse called her name, and Alicia pointedly looked away and continued playing with the toy blocks on the table.

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  1. NorthernGirl

    June 30, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Very well said!

  2. melena gasper

    June 30, 2014 at 11:12 am

    I understand your frustration, but as a mom with kids on the spectrum, I’m kind of playing the world’s tiniest violin for you. Having the screening done will give you something concrete that says she’s NT. It’s not a big deal. You should be happy the adults in her life are that informed and tuned in, because a lot special needs parents endlessly fight for evaluations and services.

    • Momma425

      June 30, 2014 at 11:27 am

      I agree.
      I was screened for autism as a child because I was introverted. It isn’t something I really even remember. I know that it bothered my mother, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal to get tested and have doctors who were aware of me.
      Working in the medical field- every single patient that comes into our clinic does the MCHAT at 18 months and 2 years. There are certain signs that we are supposed to look for in kids of certain age groups. We only see kids when they are brought into the clinic. I’m sure the vast majority of them are more comfortable with their parents than with me- but I guess I would rather that some kids who DON’T have autism are checked, than kids who DO be overlooked and assumed to just be shy.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Out of curiosity, what’s involved in the MCHAT screening? I’d be interested to hear what kinds of assessments you do.

    • Momma425

      June 30, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      An MCHAT screening is a questionaire we pass out (20 or so questions) for parents to fill out at their well child checks. We give them to all parents when they bring their kids in at 18 months, and all parents when they bring their kids in at 2 years. If a child has some “autisim-like” behaviors (ie. parents saying they wonder if a child is deaf, parents noticing children making unusual finger movements near face, non-verbal) then the provider does some more in depth screenings and refers them to see a specialist.
      As the nurse, there are certainly times in which a child will not respond to what I am saying while rooming the patient, but will respond to his/her parents. That is normal.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      I think my doctor (prior to when we moved) did something similar at my daughter’s 18 month appointment, although it doesn’t sound like she was quite as specific (possibly because she knew Alicia very well.) But she asked if we were noticing particular speech patterns (starting to try longer sentences, using names in appropriate instances) and about her interactions with friends, family members, and other kids.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 11:55 am

      I can understand a lack of sympathy if you’re dealing with kids on the spectrum! Part of my objection, honestly, is that while people are spending time and effort on my daughter, who doesn’t need the assistance, that could be spent on the kids for whom the help will make a difference.

    • melena gasper

      June 30, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      I’m not “dealing” with them, I’m raising them, they are my kids and autism is a part of who they are.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      My apologies; that wasn’t a good way to phrase what I meant. I really just wanted to acknowledge that parenting kids on the autism spectrum has its own challenges that parents of neurotypical kids don’t face – including having to fight for the services you need.

  3. Marci

    June 30, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Your daughter has different symptoms than mine; who seeks approval from adults, but maintains a safe distance from children, but she received a DSM classification of a Social (Pragmatic) Delay, which just essentially means that our insurance may (but may not! Try it and see!) cover social pragmatics groups, associated therapy, and that her IEP with her preschool includes social goals designed to help her interact with other children.
    But yeah, basically, she’s an introvert who lives inside her head, just like her dad and I did at her age.

  4. Grace

    June 30, 2014 at 11:21 am

    This is a topic that I am highly passionate about. People don’t seem to understand the difference between simply differences in personality and a medical diagnoses. Autism Spectrum Disorder is just that its a spectrum, which means you can have kids who are unable to talk and coordinate their movements right down to kids who are just a bit introverted. When you say mild autism, people automatically think asperger Syndrome. But Aspergers is not the mildest forms of autism. Aspergers is about midway down the spectrum, meaning there are people with autism which is a lot milder. Do they all have to diagnosed? There is not always that much help you can give to people with the milder forms and so long as a child is happy who cares whether they are diagnosed or not. Can we just accept that just because somebody has a slightly different personality to what we consider normal it doesn’t mean there is something medically wrong with them.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 11:56 am

      I agree! I feel the same way about ADHD – I know kids who are borderline, and kids who are in need of various interventions, and people seem to respond the same way to all of them. But one kid may only need better study strategies, while another might benefit from tutoring, and a third may need medication.

    • Rachel Sea

      June 30, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      In my mind, if a kid will benefit the formal diagnosis then pursue it, if they won’t then there’s no need. A lot of people don’t know how beneficial an IEP can be until they have one. For older kids, and adults, sometimes a diagnosis can be a relief, acknowledgement that it’s not their fault, and they aren’t stupid for having a hard time with some situations. I have friends who didn’t get diagnoses for ADHD or Autism until their 20s or 40s, but those diagnoses were life changing.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      I knew someone whose ADHD diagnosis was life changing! When you see someone who benefits that much from a diagnosis, it’s wonderful.

      I think the problem with the spectrum disorders (autism and ADHD are good examples) is that there’s that big middle range where some interventions will help somewhat, and then you get into the wrangle of whether a particular intervention is “necessary” or just kind of nice to have. One of the schools I attended offered extra time on assignments and exams to people diagnosed with ADHD; guess how many people suddenly got diagnoses when they found that out? But more than half of them could finish the exam in the usual time, it was just nice to know they could have the extra time.

  5. Obladi Oblada

    June 30, 2014 at 11:23 am

    I don’t understand trying to find a medical reason for a kid who isn’t like every other kid at school. Sometimes it’s just the way that kid gets through the day. With that being said, screening for things like autism is absolutely necessary. A good friend of mine just had her son (who is not yet 2) diagnosed with mild autism because of a very in-tune pediatrician. He’s already receiving different therapies that we all know will only help.
    My youngest son (8 y/o) isn’t your typical boy. He loves dolls, wearing those plastic Cinderella heels, wearing wigs and having his nails painted. I’ve been told that he’s gay. I’ve been told to have him checked out by a psychiatrist. I’ve been told to ‘boy him up’ by making him play with ‘boy toys’. I’ve been told to make him kiss a girl to make him ‘right’. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve heard. The fact is that I don’t know if he’s gay and I don’t really care one way or the other. HE doesn’t yet know if he’s gay. I don’t care if he’s gay, he’s straight, bi, trans or loves to sleep with a golden unicorn when he’s 35. He’s a happy kid and that makes me happy.

    • Dooflin

      June 30, 2014 at 11:25 am

      You sound amazing and so does he!

    • Obladi Oblada

      June 30, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Awww…thanks. He’s a great kid. 🙂

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      June 30, 2014 at 11:25 pm

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    • noelle 02

      June 30, 2014 at 11:46 am

      I love that you accept him as he is without finding need to make assumptions. Your son sounds great to me!

    • Obladi Oblada

      June 30, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Thanks. He’s such a caring and good hearted kid. I’ll never understand parents that try to force their kids into some kind of mold of what they think they should be.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 11:57 am

      When my son was a toddler, he loved the pink and purple lifejackets at the pool; I used to laugh at the parents who tried to convince him to wear different ones. Because, honestly, what did they think was going to happen if the 14-month-old decided he liked that one today?

      I’m glad your son has you 🙂

    • Obladi Oblada

      June 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Thank you. I’m glad I have him. 🙂

    • castravete

      June 30, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      thank god your son has an understanding parent who’s not desperate to make him “right” and who will be patient and give him the resources he might need some day when he’s trying to understand who he is. bless you and your family!!

    • Obladi Oblada

      June 30, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Thank you. That was kind of you to say.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      July 4, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      I think I’d stand there and ask- Do you care? He’s not YOUR SON!

      My little bro was obsessed with make up, fashion designing and craft kits aimed at girls (purse sewing, beaded bracelets, lip gloss making sets, etc)

      My mom always encouraged it and I did ask her once was she ever worried about him?

      Her response, as always, floored me- “Who cares? He could be a gay rugby player or a straight jewellery maker, once he’s happy and healthy, I don’t care”

  6. Véronique the Attachment Shark

    June 30, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I always tell introverted kids that call in that I bet that they are great observers in their social settings, and although they don’t talk very much at first, when they do, I bet they have something really interesting to say. I also talk about other qualities: great listeners, great advice givers, they tend to think before they speak. I also reassure them that being introverted is also called “slow-to-warm”, and that once they are comfortable with someone, they act like everyone else – it just takes their pot longer to warm, and that there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I always find it sad because most of the time, it’s the first time that they are told these things. In our culture, being an extrovert is seen as the “better” personality trait, and introverts are often made to feel as though there is something wrong with them, that they lack confidence, or that they should change…

  7. Great Hall Academy

    June 30, 2014 at 11:41 am

    I wish people wouldn’t put children in to categories! Let them grow, they will go through phases from very social to very independent. Let them be children!

  8. Angela

    June 30, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I do get what you’re saying, but please keep in mind that a screening is not the same as a diagnosis. Medical professionals don’t know your child the way you do. We only have a brief interaction and relatively little information to go on so we really don’t have the option of letting even the smallest things slide without investigating further. We get that it usually turns out to be totally innocuous, but it’s our job to make sure. Really, any child with speech delays (even a mild one) should be screened for hearing and autism because the signs can be subtle and because early intervention makes a world of difference.

    Sure, if she’s a good nurse she would have observed what your child was telling you (provided she was speaking clearly and articulately enough to be understood) and taken that into account, but it still would have been necessary to probe further and determine what kinds of patterns you are observing with her. If anyone actually was pushing a diagnosis on you or pressuring you to medicate her (even worse) then I would absolutely agree with you, but there’s nothing wrong with questions or screenings. It’s the only way we have of identifying which kids have problems vs the ones that don’t.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks for your perspective! I do appreciate the difference between the screening and the diagnosis. I just also know so many people who are having to fight for resources their kids need, while other kids who are introverted, or who just had a bad day at their screening are getting referred for a variety of checks. I kind of wish if they had concerns, they would book a follow-up screening three or six months later, rather than referring right away.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      June 30, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      See, I was–and still am–socially anxious to the point that I will sometimes literally go out of my way to avoid interactions with people I don’t know very well or at all. I stopped going to the grocery store closest to my house in favor of one slightly farther away (three blocks, so realistically, NBD) because the farther one is usually less crowded and, most importantly, has dedicated self-checkout scanners. The closer one has those too, but if it’s really busy, you might get diverted to a stand with an actual cashier, and the thought of that upsets me enough that I’d rather walk or drive the extra way. It’s completely manageable, and if need be, I will suck it up and go to the closer store, but as long as your daughter isn’t developing behaviors where you could totally see her choosing grocery stores based solely on how many face-to-face interactions she’s likely to endure, it’s probably not worrisome at all.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      That must be really hard. I have great sympathy for people living with social anxiety, because until you think about it, you don’t realize how many little interactions you have each day – and how exhausting it would be if each one was a struggle.

      I don’t see Alicia making those kinds of decisions, although I do see her deciding to play alone after a while playing with other kids to sort of recharge her batteries. She’ll kind of dip in and out of social interactions. I definitely think she needs continued guidance on how to politely and socially appropriately do that; I just think it’s more a matter of practicing social skills than it is of having a specific issue. She can do other things that lots of kids her age can’t do – physically, especially, since she’s a very active kid – so she just happens to be lagging behind on the social skills front.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      June 30, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Well, from where I’m sitting in an armchair behind a computer screen, that doesn’t sound disordered at all! I think practicing social skills is good for everybody…I know a few extroverts who could use some guidance in how to interact with people who aren’t quite as outgoing as they are. And I have several friends who aren’t on the spectrum who need at least a dedicated night of Alone Time a week.

    • Jessifer

      June 30, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      That’s exactly what I was thinking too.

      In addition to this, many times parents will describe their children as “shy” or even “introverted” when outsiders can often see that there is something deeper going on. I’m not saying that this is the case with the author, but it does happen quite a bit. My cousin is on the spectrum and my aunt was in denial for several years despite being an experienced schoolteacher who was perfectly able of distinguishing what was “normal” behaviour for a child his age. Denial can be a very powerful thing when it comes to your own child. Had it not been for the insistence of various school staff and family members that he be tested, and not only tested, but that she BELIEVE in the end results, she would have never gotten him the help that he needed.

  9. wispy

    June 30, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Are screenings/referrals for every little thing just a “thing” in today’s world? My daughter scrunched her nose up at the dr at her 12 month appointment so they made her an eye appt at an eye specialist. Two hours away. She also looked at me and not the dr at the same appt when the dr talked to her and they wanted her hearing checked at another specialist. My other daughter had a tiny flat spot on her head so they wanted her to see a neurologist and get a helmet. I appreciate the “looking out” but I mean come on. They were fine and I knew they were fine so I didn’t go to any of those referred appointments.

    • JenH1986

      June 30, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      You can thank people suing for that. Doctors are so afraid of everything anymore. I stopped taking my birth control and then started taking a thyroid medication. My period went bananas. When I called like WTF? the doctor’s response was “we need you in here to screen for cancer”. Um, no, just tell me how long I can expect to be dealing with this.

    • wispy

      June 30, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      That is what we figured it was, that the doctors were just so scared. When I told them that I had cancelled the referral appointments all the doctors were fine with it, like they just had to check the box “in case” something had been wrong.

    • JenH1986

      June 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      the crazy part is, it is SO hard to sue a doctor, seriously the doctor basically really had to screw up, but everyone is so scared so insurance companies make a killing and doctors start requiring a myriad of tests just to cover their butts.

    • Bethany Ramos

      June 30, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      We were referred to THREE specialists for my oldest before 12 months. He was fine, and I really appreciated the care…. But out insurance sucks, and it did seem excessive.

    • wispy

      June 30, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      Very excessive. And in college I had worked for a doctor who was in cahoots with all these other doctors around town and they would refer appointments to each other “just because” so that made me leery of all of it, too.

    • Rachel Sea

      June 30, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      It varies doctor to doctor. I’ve had some who would refer me or write prescriptions for problems that didn’t exist, and ones who dragged their feet even when I desperately needed it. I like a more pragmatic doctor, who is with me that most things will clear up on their own, but that if I’m bothering to come in with a complaint it’s because I need more than a little wait and see

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      I’ve been so lucky with both my doctors that have been that way. We don’t overreact to minor injuries/illnesses, so if we’re there for an appointment, they take us seriously. They also never do the “prescription to make them go away” routine. Considering I ended up with each one by pure chance, I thank my lucky stars every day.

  10. mediocrity511

    June 30, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    To be honest, the questions mentioned are so few that they literally are just very cursory screening and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were standard for all children, or at the very least all children with speech issues. If you had been pushed into hour long sessions with psychiatrists, then yes you should be pissed. But 3 or 4 questions during a general health check, at an age when autism is often becoming apparent in children, seems like sensible policy to me.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      I do know that they’re not standard, because several of my friends have done the same screening with their kids, and even one who did have a speech delay didn’t get the same questions. As far as I could tell, they were entirely prompted by her unwillingness to interact specifically with the nurse.

      I think I should clarify that I’m not angry, so I hope the tone of what I wrote doesn’t imply anger. It’s more that I’m upset that a very typical personality type, introversion, is likely to result in more and more repetitions of this situation. A year or so from now, she’ll have an early years assessment in preparation for school, and I’m sure the same thing will happen then. I’m worried that she’ll start to feel like her independence and introversion is somehow wrong, because strangers keep commenting on them as being a sign of a problem.

    • JenH1986

      June 30, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Not if you foster them and model them appropriately at home. Just like you should be modeling for her how to decline play time with her brother or when she’s tired how to behave when she can’t just shut the door etc.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      I hope so! And we do guide her into how to decline play time (although again, typically for an introvert, she rarely does with people she knows well – she’s pretty well always up to play with Ben and the kids next door). I just know that, while support at home for who you are helps, it’s still hard to walk out the door thinking the world thinks you’re weird.

    • JenH1986

      June 30, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      Absolutely. But she’s going to know mommy and daddy are more like her and mommy says no easily/politely. I was a bit of an introvert growing up and knowing I could go home and just be me was wonderful. I loved school but I loved alone time too. Even now, as much as I love my husband there are days where I miss living alone. But seeing how you and your husband handle things and giving her a safe place to be herself now will go a LONG way later.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      Ha! I can definitely agree with wanting your own space. I never ended up having a solo apartment – went from residence to a shared apartment to married life – and there are days I dream of a bachelor apartment 🙂

    • JenH1986

      June 30, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      I totally recommend it. I lived alone for 4 years before I met my husband. I loved it. Sure I had days where I was bored. But some days I’d love to come home watch crap tv and eat cheese and crackers for dinner with a big ass glass of wine. But instead I have to come home and make dinner and I have less time to decompress. I think everyone should live alone for at least 6 months just to know they can do it.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      It’s really my only regret, to be honest, about getting married younger. In retrospect, I should have spent a little time living 100% on my own. Oh, well, 20-20 hindsight and all that 🙂

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      June 30, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      One of my absolute requirements should I ever date again (which, while I haven’t ruled it out, seems unlikely, given that most of the usual goals of dating–physical intimacy, marriage, children–hold no appeal for me whatsoever) is that there will be no cohabitation, ever. I like having my own space too much!

    • JenH1986

      July 1, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Should anything happen btwn me and the hubs I’ll be spending a lot of time living on my own. I’m not one of those people who hates it. I do enjoy the finer aspects of cohabitation, namely a rough day can end in a good hug and cuddling. But yea definitely won’t be miserable living alone.

  11. keelhaulrose

    June 30, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I have a child on the spectrum, she’s 2 and a half and non verbal with a bunch of stereotypical movements, and maybe it’s different where you are, but autism screenings aren’t falling from the sky. Your daughter may not have it, but she is presenting some symptoms that someone who doesn’t have daily interaction with her might interpret as being on the spectrum. There’s no harm in getting a screening, especially since she seems to lacks certain social skills, including responding to people when the situation calls for it. There is a difference between a child who says “no, thank you,” to an activity being offered and one who doesn’t even acknowledge the speaker. She may respond to you when you offer her a reward of something she likes, but that doesn’t preclude autism. If I say lollipop around my autistic daughter she’ll immediately drop everything she’s doing to attend to me because I’m offering something that ranks higher than her independent play situation.
    I’ll also say that there are a lot of parents whose children are “just introverted” or “just a little behind their peers” (according to their parents) who really do have a special need, but the parents refuse to get any form of screening done because they don’t want their children to get any form of diagnosis. My daughter’s kindergarten teacher told me he’s seen many kids come through his room who were more than what the parents thought in terms of their abilities or needs, but parents are afraid a diagnosis is an academic death sentence or they refuse screening because “I DON’T have an autistic/dyslexic/imperfect in any way child, they’re just introverted/bored by the work/whatever”. Not saying that is the case here, but I’m saying it is easy to be blinded by your feelings for your child and you may be seeing a warning sign differently because it’s your kid and you obviously don’t want a diagnosis. You’re doing a lot of dismissing of other people’s observations with the catch-all “she’s introverted”. Even that being put down to put herself to sleep at six months thing is a sign it may be more than introversion.

    • Spongeworthy

      June 30, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      I always appreciate your perspective on this topic. I totally agree with you about how some parents are in the camp of denying any red flags, or just not being aware of them. I think that’s why the mandated screenings are so crucial. It’s only a few minutes but could make a huge difference.
      I feel like my husband and I were kind of the opposite of these parents. We have relatives on each side of our family who have children with autism, so we were always pretty aware of a lot of the flags. But neither of us are trained on it, so having the screenings were still important for us.

    • keelhaulrose

      June 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      Thank you. I just feel that parents will make excuses for their kids and I totally get it, but it should be about the best interests of the child. It’s okay to be an introvert, it’s not okay to ignore someone’s request for your attention or to completely shun voluntary social interaction. We rely on social interaction a lot as we grow up, and it’s a very valuable thing to have throughout our lives.
      Do I think this is autism? Maybe, maybe not, I don’t have enough information to say much of anything other than if it is it’s mild. However I do see enough of the markers I was told to look for during my training and with my own daughter that I would think at the very least a screening is in order.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      I definitely appreciate your perspective on this! I know just how much you know about kids on the spectrum. Your comment about the sleep is particularly interesting to me – I didn’t know that was at all associated with anything other than an independent kid. (The comment about responding to my offer of Smarties was more about the “is she hearing impaired” questions – trust me, that kid can hear something she wants to hear from a mile away!)

      I don’t want to hide behind the “introverted” label, and I appreciate that lots of parents might. I guess I feel that, when you’re talking about a 3 1/2 year old, you can’t/shouldn’t be making any sort of assumption based on a single instance. I would have felt differently if the response was, “Let’s have her come back three months from now and see if she’s progressing.” I mean, even my relatively extroverted son has done exactly the same thing when he’s having a rough day. And when I know people who need help for their kids and are fighting to get it, it’s frustrating to me that resources are being devoted to referring her (for everything other than the speech, which I came in knowing probably needed further assessment.)

    • keelhaulrose

      June 30, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      The thing is your daughter is at a very critical age. A few months delayed is a few months where she’s denied therapy she may need to help her with a few social concerns I can see with what you’ve admitted. And they’d love to address it now for a variety of reasons such as: the longer you show a behavior to go on the more ingrained it becomes and if she does need some form of intervention if she gets it now she will probably be able to be maintained in kindergarten whereas if she doesn’t she may need to be pulled out for additional supports.
      I’m not saying this is 100% most definitely the case, but it is a concern, and the sooner it is addressed the sooner everything can be put to rest or the sooner some form of support can be put into place. Even if your daughter only an introvert someone doing a screening might have suggestions to help her realize that some situations do require a form of her attention and she should be having a little more voluntary interaction with her peers.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      I can see that if that’s part of the concern – and I know it makes a big difference to get the intervention if a child needs it.

      Out of curiosity, in your own experience, does your daughter’s social skill vary depending on who she’s interacting with? I think that’s the big thing that makes me feel like this is introversion, not something else: she’s very good at interacting with kids she knows well (her brother, the kids next door). But I freely admit that I don’t know a lot about how the social side of autism manifests, more the emotional side (the boy I knew who was on the spectrum had his biggest issues with handling stress and dealing with recognizing emotions in others.)

    • keelhaulrose

      June 30, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      My daughter’s social skills are extremely dependent on who she is with. I’m the top of the heap, she is very social and interactive with me. Just below me is her daddy, I’m only above because I’m around her more often. Next is her sister, grandparents, uncle, and therapists, and her skills with them change with her mood. After that are the people she “tolerates”, which are people she knows but doesn’t get to interact with on a regular basis, and finally there’s everyone else, who get at most an interested look.
      Does she seek out interactions with peers, or does she go along with it when they want to interact with her? When she does interact is it,, for lack of a better word, appropriate or free flowing, or is it awkward where she allows them to take the lead or doesn’t exactly play the same thing? When she’s upset what does she do to wind down?

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Interesting! I always find it fascinating to learn more about these things 🙂

      Alicia definitely has favourite people in her life, but she’s happy to go along with or approach new kids under certain situations. Typically, if there are a lot of people, she’s more likely to stick close to the ones she knows best, but not always – the other day at the McDonald’s playplace she walked over to a girl about her age (all the other kids there were older) and asked her to race. From what I can tell of what I’ve seen of other kids, the interactions are pretty freeflowing. She does get flustered if a baby or child is crying – so if someone she’s playing with falls down, she doesn’t seem to know exactly what to do; usually she’ll come over to me and say, “That girl/boy is crying” and try to pull me over to help.

      As for when she’s upset, she’ll usually come to someone she knows for a hug. If she’s quite upset (like, one hug/kiss just won’t do it 😉 at home, she used to say, “I need my bed” (as if she wanted to go to sleep) but recently she’s been saying, “I want my room” when she wants to calm down; she’ll go in for a few minutes and then come back out.

      All of this is very familiar to me, because I remember doing similar things as a kid – although I was much more verbal, possibly because I was an older child so I got a lot of one-on-one conversation time. I’ll be curious to see if her speech improves faster once her brother goes to school in the fall; being an extrovert, he talks over her a lot 🙂

    • keelhaulrose

      June 30, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      It really sounds like your daughter isn’t autistic, but she could use a boost in certain social areas, and many of those areas happen to be just the type of thing a teacher or caregiver would notice; struggling a bit with empathy (though not much), not responding appropriately to a social simulation (not every time but it is there), that sort of thing. A screening probably wouldn’t show autism, however it might give you a few ideas to teach her in some of the areas where the concern has been raised.

    • keelhaulrose

      June 30, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      She might also need a touch of speech therapy. She may not be totally confident in her speech, which is why she comes across as quiet or mumbling.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      That wouldn’t surprise me, and that’s actually what I came into the 3 1/2 year assessment saying: that there were particular speech sounds she wasn’t making clearly and that I wasn’t sure how much of that was a “wait and see” situation and how much might require intervention. So I’m pleased that we came out with a speech assessment referral, because that’s something I actually wanted for her! She’ll get her hearing checked too, by default, because if she shows up to the speech assessment their first question is apparently, “Has she had her hearing tested?” so we’re going in for the audiology appointment this Monday coming; speech will probably take longer to get an appointment.

      I think the thing that wasn’t factored in during this general 3 1/2 year appointment is Alicia’s birthdate; since she’s an early January baby, and home with me instead of at daycare, her social exposure and experiences are different than other 3 1/2 year olds. If she had been born a week earlier, she would already have done a year of preschool by the time of the appointment time; instead, she starts this fall. I think if she had done the year of preschool first, she would have already learned many of these skills there. Certainly, when she hangs out to play at Ben’s preschool, she fits in well – well enough that one of the TA’s forgot at one point that she wasn’t part of the class and tried to shepherd her over to circle time 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your perspective on this! It’s been a really interesting conversation 🙂

    • Aldonza

      June 30, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      I can’t agree more. I see certain behaviors in a lot of kids I have in various classes that some parents just flat out refuse to acknowledge, often times because they’re afraid of the stigma attached to certain diagnosis. In the long run though, they’re just making it more difficult for their child and the teachers who want to educate them.

  12. Lola

    June 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Sorry, I’m going to have to disagree here– the people who are ‘diagnosing’ your daughter are trying to be good helpers by pointing out some problematic things. Your daughter seeming to ignore teachers/helpers sends up warning flags; we’re trained to notice these things. A child not responding at all to a question or being addressed leads people to think there’s a reason for it; no teacher or volunteer is going to imagine your three-year-old is being rude by not responding– they’re going to think she can’t hear them or is unable to respond due to something else.

    If you’d rather your daughter be overlooked, then great, but at this age? What else would you like them to do? Wouldn’t you rather they care instead of ignore her?

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I appreciate that they’re concerned, believe me! What bothers me is that they will take one instance, or one “symptom”, and run with it. For example, at the same gym, she’ll sit across the room and sing along with the TV if it’s a song she likes.

      Notably, most of these people aren’t folks who spend a lot of time with my daughter. So, for example, my son’s preschool teachers, who see and interact with her three times a week when we drop him off/pick him up, say things like, “Oh, she’s a quiet kid; preschool for her is going to be about learning how to decline interaction politely.”

    • aliceblue

      June 30, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      My mother tells how she was stunned when preschool people said “Oh, Alice is so quiet.” Mom replied “no, that (points) is my daughter” sure there must be another Alice and disbelieving when told that her at-home opinionated daughter wasn’t talking much.
      One factor we discovered later is that I didn’t like doing “kid” things. When Mom asked why I had not taken part in a class activity (some song about teddy bears touching the ground and turning around that we were expected to act out) I informed her “that’s stupid!” (Not polite I admit but I was only 3+ or early 4 – learning to express my opinion politely was something Mom REALLY worked on with me 🙂 ) I did much better when I hit first grade and we had “real” classes (In my day kindergarten was still mostly fingerpainting and games.)

  13. Soon-ish

    June 30, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    This sounds like me when I was younger. Except for the screening for autism part, or being asked if I was autistic, your daughter sounds just like me when I was young. According to my mom, people thought I was being rude, or that I thought I was better than other kids, because I was shy and scared to talk to people. I played alone most of the time, reading or using my imagination. I can see the slight frustration in everyone assuming there is something wrong with your child because they don’t act like you think they should.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      I think part of the reason Alicia confuses people is because she’s not exactly shy; she just prefers the company of fewer people (or being by herself) to the company of larger groups.

      To be honest, another big element of the frustration is because I was sitting there listening to many of the screening questions (especially the ones about eye contact and about giving/receiving hugs and other forms of affection) and thinking, “But she just did that! Just now! RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!”

    • Wholockkie Head

      June 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      I am shy but I was mostly quiet, other kids were running crazy, screaming like banshees while I was playing alone.

  14. guest

    June 30, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    As a mother of two little girls, I feel you on this. My oldest is a born extrovert like her dad, and my year old baby is already showing signs of being an introvert like me. She will not respond if her name is called by someone she doesn’t know, and she often ignores other interactions unless I am holding her, but if you say “oh look, a puppy!” she starts paying attention. There is nothing wrong with her, but even at one she has started to prefer her own space and that baffles most adults.

  15. Rachel Sea

    June 30, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    I get the irritation, but as long as it doesn’t harm her, I don’t see the problem. Getting a screening wasn’t taking resources from any other kids, and if volunteers speak loudly at her to compensate for nonexistent hearing difficulty, and she doesn’t like it, she will learn to acknowledge their questions, if only with a nod or shake of the head. Having a shy kid will mean more work for you: to get her to understand that she is entitled to her boundaries, but she has to have good manners too.

  16. My2bits

    June 30, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    In the nurse’s defense, we get the screening questions at yearly check ups too and my two jabber her ear off as soon as she walks in the door. In many places, I think it is just a normal part of an annual exam.

  17. lpag

    June 30, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Your daughter sounds a lot like my son and is only a little bit older. I think you should look into speech therapy. My son gets it both in a one-on-one and in a group setting and it has made a world of difference. He will always be introverted- that’s who he is- but he HAS to learn to make eye contact with others, respond when spoken to (even if it’s only a word or two), and learn how to articulate well enough that anyone- not just his parents and teachers- can understand him. No one is pathologizing his shyness and we never push him to socialize or perform when he doesn’t want to. But when great-aunt Martha says hello, he has to look her in the eye and say hello back. She’ll complain that he won’t sing the ABCs for her, and we will never push him to do that, but he has to acknowledge her and respond, not exist in her shell. These are important life skills and he needs a bit more help in honing them than most other kids his age. Yes, there’s a fine line between just shy and something more, but it sounds like your daughter is too close for comfort to that line. I highly suggest you look into evaluation for social and communication skills. I also thought it was nothing, because my son is brilliant and talks plenty when he wants to. I am so grateful for my mom who nagged me repeatedly to investigate further (I have an autistic brother, so she knows what she’s talking about).

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks for your comments! Yeah, I’d agree that some speech practice (whether it’s one-on-one therapy sessions or just the exposure she’ll get at preschool this fall) will be a big deal for her, so I was happy to get the referral for a speech assessment – I went in to the appointment asking about that. And I definitely agree that she has to learn the basics of polite behaviour – saying hello/goodbye, or please and thank you, even to strangers.

  18. Tera

    June 30, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I was an introverted kid (I believe I was defined as shy and quiet) and I am now an introverted adult. But I am a well-rounded person. I have friends, I work in an industry that requires me to talk to people and I like to go out every now and then. Granted, I’m more inclined to stay in, but I have my moments. It’s nice to see parents (mine weren’t worried about me either) who can see that their child is just shy and introverted and not in “need” of medical help.

  19. tk88

    June 30, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    You know, the only thing that doesn’t sound normal about your daughter is the fact that she doesn’t respond when called. It’s one thing to be introverted (I often am and was as a child) but I at least LOOK at people if they call me. You should teach your daughter that people perceive her as rude if she ignores them. I also want to add that as someone who has dealt with special kids, the not responding is something I would see as a red flag. But with today’s sky high rates of autism, you have to expect this stuff. And feel relieved that you’re the one walking out of that office with a healthy kid who just likes to sing to herself. Lots of people aren’t so lucky.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      We’re definitely working on that! I think it’s her (very childish) way of closing things out when there’s just too much going on around her. I’m hoping that preschool will also be a help with her learning how to politely decline interaction (as opposed to just acting like it’s not happening).

  20. NotTakenNotAvailable

    June 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Wow, the pendulum has really swung the other way. When I was first going to school (’91), awareness of ADD, ADHD, and autism was starting to circulate into the general consciousness, but you had to be REALLY acting out before anybody would go out of the way to suggest you get screened or tested for any of those issues. That’s why I never received an official diagnosis–I was always a little off, but not “off enough.” The fact that I have so many traits that correlate to what used to be called Asperger’s hasn’t had a noticeably negative impact on my life, however, so I’m echoing the commenters who say that a screening probably isn’t worthwhile unless your daughter shows signs of having serious troubles coping with school or any other aspect of daily life.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      It does seem to me that smaller and smaller things will get kids flagged at this point. I know part of that is because early intervention can make a big difference, but I must admit I worry (specifically in terms of my daughter, but also generally) that we’re starting to pathologize a lot of neurotypical character traits.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      June 30, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      I think that there will be a happy medium eventually, but there’s so much fuzziness in psychology generally speaking that it’s going to take a few decades before mental health professionals have a definitive checklist of traits that clearly indicate what needs immediate intervention and what can be worked on at home by invested caregivers. But that is true about pathologizing otherwise NT behaviors…another commenter remarked that anybody can be characterized as being “on the spectrum,” depending on how broadly you extend said spectrum!

  21. Jezebeelzebub

    June 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    My ex-husband decided that our 6 year old daughter had Oppositional Defiant Disorder because she didn’t want to clean her room, and when he made her do it (without supervising her), she did a crappy job. At no time did it ever occur to him that MAYBE she was a six-year-old who just didn’t want to clean her room, because that shit is boring. He insisted upon her seeing a kid-shrink to help us deal with her problems. Of course, he is also a total moron (hence the “ex” in front of his former title as “husband”) but I get what you are saying. Once she was cleared of any psychological ailments, he seemed almost disappointed- it was like he wanted there to be something wrong with her (I’m not saying that kids on the spectrum are WRONG, I just can’t think of another way to put it without cobbling together the most awkward sentence ever written- hopefully y’all will know what i mean) so that he could blame HER for his failings as a parent. You know.. like a diagnosis would make it okay that he had no skills whatsoever in regard to relating to our child. Come to find out, she is neurotypical although she does seem to have inherited my total scorn for dumbasses. Go figure. Anyhoo, that shit annoyed me.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      July 4, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      Possibility of using Munchausen’s by proxy as an excuse?

  22. wmdkitty

    June 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Better to have the screening done, just in case.

    Other than that, meh. She sounds like she’s what I call “selectively social” — she has a group of people she’s comfortable with, and interacting with those outside her “pack” just isn’t a top priority for her. It’s not a big deal, it’s not a “disorder”, we’re just pickier about the people we choose to associate with.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 30, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      I love the phrase “selectively social”! I may have to use that in future to describe her – and myself, to be honest.

    • wmdkitty

      June 30, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Feel free to use it!

  23. farrah

    June 30, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    I completely agree with you here. I have went through the same things with my now 14 year old son. We were concerned when he was younger, but we just learned to accept that this is who he is. He talks to people that interest him and that he wants to talk to, and I am ok with that. He has came a long way since he was 4/5 but like you had many people, professionals included concerned about him being on the spectrum. Like your daughter, my son may have some ways that may fit, but we as his parents know that he is not autistic. As long as he is not disrespectful to anyone, then I just let him be.

  24. Spiderpigmom

    June 30, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    “Have you ever had her hearing tested? We asked her if she wanted to join the game with the other kids and she didn’t even look up.” : this one made me laugh out loud. It’s so much like my three year old (the very introverted kid of two very introvert ed parents). I sometimes call him “talk to the hand”. As the daycare teacher says, “he… needs to be repeated instructions quite a lot”. I did worry about autism at some point (until 12 mo he was showing very little two-way interactions) but by 13 mo he had caught up and had typical communication skills.

  25. Maddi Holmes

    July 1, 2014 at 2:19 am

    Although I don’t know Alicia and I’m definitely not qualified to diagnose anyone, some of what you described (the speech and the not looking up when people call to her) remind me of when I was a child and my mum had me tested for Auditory Processing Disorder (which I have). It’s a really complicated and bizarre disorder but essentially it means that the brain doesn’t quite process sounds correctly and often in loud or busy places struggles to decipher sounds from one another. It’s often incorrectly mistaken for autism or autism spectrum disorders simply because people with it straight up won’t hear their names being called amongst all the other sound. It doesn’t mean they’re hard of hearing though, which is why I think Alicia may have it because when you whispered to her she heard you which clearly means her ears are fine. It can also come with speech issues as the brain doesn’t hear the sounds correctly, and that leads people to misdiagnose APD people with dyslexia all the time.

    Most people with APD are also introverted (like me!) because we find it so hard to understand what people are saying in loud areas, and enjoy quiet places far more because we can hear and understand better.

    Obviously it’s quite possible (and even likely) that Alicia simply is just stubborn and introverted, but she has very similar traits to what I did when I was 4 and that’s when I was diagnosed.

    Maybe have her checked just in case? Because if she does have it when she gets to school her teachers are going to need to know as she may not be able to learn as easily in noisy class rooms 🙂

  26. gothicgaelicgirl

    July 4, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I was made to visit the school counsellor every week in primary school- because my teachers couldn’t understand why I was happy to sit in the sun and read a book.

    Not just that, but apparently my extremely advanced reading ability and “neglect of NORMAL play” was a sign of “emotional disturbances” (not bragging, I was flying through Steinbeck aged 8 and The Divine Comedy was my favourite book at the time)

    So basically I was PUNISHED for doing something I A) Enjoyed and B) Was REALLY good at! Forgive me if I’m wrong, but if a kid loves reading as much as I did, and is reading advanced literature, should that not be encouraged? My folks always encouraged it!

    I was actually banned from bringing a book outside by my teachers, who told me my parents had agreed to it (they hadn’t)

    It seems any kid who is a little different, automatically has something wrong with them, or needs to be “fixed”!

    • wmdkitty

      July 5, 2014 at 5:26 am

      I got yelled at a lot for reading ahead.

      A lot.

      Hey, give me a good book, and tell me to read it, you don’t get to complain when that’s exactly what I proceed do.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      July 5, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      I HATE when people do that!
      I used to get disappointed looks from friends when I’d say “Hey thanks for the book, it was awesome!” I’d get “Oh you finished it already, god that didn’t last long” or my personal favourite- “You finished it in two days? That was a waste of a gift then!”

      Wow, REALLY?
      Whether it’s a 50 page novella or a 2000 word collection of poetry, every damn book can be enjoyed IN THE WAY THAT SUITS THE READER!

      I love having two or three books on the go at the same time, so if I forget one at home, I know I have another in my handbag, etc.

      Basically I’m never without one! (Which is why I have a Mammy shoulder satchel instead of a handbag!)

    • wmdkitty

      July 5, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      Every summer it was, “You need to get outside more.”

      “Okay” *takes book outside*

      But I get it, man. I’m always reading something, book, magazine, newspaper, fanfic… always something

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      July 7, 2014 at 10:12 am

      I still do that, there is nothing wrong with reading outdoors- hey, I’m still getting fresh air!

    • wmdkitty

      July 7, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      Then they’d get on me for getting sunburned.

      Well you told me to go outside!

  27. Natasha

    September 3, 2014 at 12:48 am

    I was so happy to read this article. My beautiful 8 year old son is slightly introverted, likes time on his own, is cautious when meeting new people and takes a while to warm up to them and is quiet in class. Which is much the same as myself. However the special education teacher wants to put the mild autism label onto him because his not the ‘typical extroverted child’. This has made me so frustrated as when I try and explain his personality to her she always comes up with something like ‘a shy child will still ask questions in class’. I felt relieved to see someone else having the same issues. i love my little boys personality and is such a sweet sensitive little soul. Thanks for a great positive article on beautiful introverted people.

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