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'I thought it was a boy thing - it was autism'

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Sam (9) and Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin. Photo: Doug O'Connor

Sam (9) and Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin. Photo: Doug O'Connor

Sam (9) and Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin. Photo: Doug O'Connor

Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin knew her son Sam was difficult but said she thought it was to do with his gender.

The family from Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, encountered a series of problems in junior and senior infants when Sam went to school. Initially Vanessa dismissed it as boy behaviour.

"I had no clue. I'd never had a boy before. I thought is was just a boy thing," she said.

"It was a nightmare experience where his former teacher and principal did not understand the condition at all."

Thanks to a psychologist parent at her daughter's school, Vanessa took Sam to a clinic for an assessment and they diagnosed Aspergers.

She said that children on the autism spectrum "don't understand social signals, body language and rules that change every day among children in the playground".

Vanessa moved Sam to Rathmichael National School in Co Dublin three years ago and said they have a "good understanding of his needs" and support system.

She said autism "looks like bad behaviour all along the line" but if teachers in school had a guide like the one on AsIAm.ie it would make a huge difference.

Sam has calmed down a lot at his new school," said Vanessa, but added that the transition next month to a new year, will still upset him.

csheehy@herald.ie


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