The telltale signs then, the key indicators of a need for evaluation

As promised in the article just previous, the Hughes Brothers have gathered these most frequent, strongest signs that a girl – your daughter perhaps — should see an expert clinician.

We’ll try to be succinct, as academically accurate as we can. Serious business here. You should be concerned if the following behaviors assert themselves repeatedly, unavoidably.

· Your daughter depends on other children for help through her day, friends who guide her social interaction, who sometimes even speak for her. These friends, almost always other girls, take her through the school day and on into those hours of free time when their influence may change, but remain strong and present nonetheless.

· A particularly poignant and altogether predictive behavior here, as she turns to very specific, very limited, very focused interests, interests for which she shows intense, passionate, ongoing and enduring enthusiasm. Look especially for a subset of interests, her gathering of information about the details of a book or a movie or a television show; that is, the overreaching scope of the plot, the development of main characters prove less absorbing to her than the minutiae behind them – the props in the production, perhaps, or its locale, maybe the actors themselves far apart from the roles they play. Listen here for her talk. Is it repetitive, seemingly endless? Does she seem uninterested in the larger story involved, focusing instead on these restricted, almost obsessive details so very important to her?

· Your daughter demonstrates unusual sensitivity to intrusive sensory inputs – a sudden burst of loud music maybe or the sudden turning on a light in a darkened room or the odor of fried foods coming from a nearby hamburger stand. This sensitivity goes far beyond surprise or momentary discomfort. We’re talking over-the-top reaction to sensory stimuli that should present no more than a momentary, a fleeting response. The Hughes Brothers advise that these sorts of challenges are by no means restricted to autism. They remain, however, an indicator of the possible presence of the disorder.

· Her conversation concerns herself only, her interests alone. On the topics of her fascination, she may talk at length, with verve and humor. On the other hand, she seems uninterested in, even dismissive, of other people’s topics of conversation. This standoffishness may very well be interfering with her friendships, her ability to function in groups of her peers.

· Frustration is not her friend. She has no “medium” setting. Her feelings, and their expression, fly out of control at the first sign of frustration. She may melt down, reverting to the raging tantrums of a three-year-old. Unfortunately, such episodes may likely occur at school or in another setting where such behavior will lead to quick disciplinary action, further compounding her heartache.

· Watch for indications of anxiety or depression. While such feelings are far from unusual in teenagers, her symptoms may run much deeper, much more painful than the expectable angst of being an adolescent.

· Her friendships come and go. The longevity of her relationships with her other girls just disappears. And then, so sadly, when she loses a friend, she remains clueless, utterly unable to recognize her role in the damaged relationship. Sometimes, these difficulties arise – in the competitive, peer-pressurized environment of middle school – because of her inability to fit into the cultural norm of the moment, whether in choice of clothing, styling of one’s hair, or the vocabulary of the clique. She has just such a very hard time keeping pace with the demands of fitting in, however nonsensical and fleeting those demands might be.

More to come on this subject from the Hughes Brothers. Excuse us while we regroup.