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by Abigail Van Buren

Medical Diagnosis Can Ease Stress for Both Mom and Son

DEAR ABBY: Your answer to "Frustrated Mom in Virginia" (Jan. 5) was on the money. There could be a wide range of reasons for her son's "shortcomings."

I can say from personal experience that it is never too late to get her son diagnosed. I am an ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) adult, whose mother mistakenly believed that being "on my case" would lessen my frequent errors. However, no matter how hard you try to learn from your mistakes, when your mind is going 100 miles an hour and thinking of 10 different things at the same time, errors are repeated.

"Frustrated's" son may appear not to care because, in part, he feels that no matter what he does, he will still fail. When I began to develop physical symptoms from the stress, my mother was told she needed to back off. I know how hard it was for my mom -- an organized person with strong attention to details -- to have a child like me who was the exact opposite.

That young man needs strategies to help improve his life, as I did. There is so much more knowledge and research than there was when I was a child. "Frustrated" should not blame herself but, like her son, she needs help, too. -- E.P. IN GARRISONVILLE, VA.

DEAR E.P.: You are among many caring readers who wanted to share their experiences with "Frustrated Mom" as a way to provide an explanation for her son's behavior. However, a psychological or neurological disorder is something that can be determined only by a physician. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am an occupational therapist, and it sounds like this young man could have Sensory Processing Disorder. It is common for people with this disorder to have difficulty grading their movements, i.e., using too much force, slamming doors instead of closing them. They also have difficulty recognizing personal space.

I suggest that the mother have her son evaluated by an occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration. If he has SPD, their lives will change dramatically through intervention and education. -- THERAPIST IN WINTER GARDEN, FLA.

DEAR ABBY: My 17-year-old son displays similar behavior. Asperger's syndrome is often overlooked because its symptoms can be so mild that behavior otherwise appears normal.

A common symptom is lack of personal space awareness, or the person may appear to be rude or insensitive. The lack of remorse after clumsily bumping into someone is also indicative of the emotional/social disconnect (lack of empathy) that is associated with this disorder.

The behavior can be especially frustrating because it appears the otherwise "normal" person is inconsiderate, thoughtless or unfeeling. "Frustrated" should have her son evaluated for Asperger's. -- EMPATHETIC DAD IN SPRINGFIELD, MASS.

DEAR ABBY: Last year my 8-year-old son was exhibiting symptoms of ADD/ADHD -- constantly losing things, fidgeting, lack of concentration, along with a wide range of other annoying behaviors. He was hospitalized and referred to occupational therapy by a therapist who recognized his symptoms as being part of Sensory Integration Disorder.

I am happy to tell you that after almost a year of OT, we have discovered ways to make his life easier by understanding what sensory input he needs. Being able to fulfill my son's sensory needs has helped with his clumsiness, forgetfulness and lack of attention, and he no longer displays signs of ADHD. Such a simple remedy to a very troublesome problem. There is hope. -- A MOTHER IN BEND, ORE.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)