This post is not about whether or not Asperger’s Syndrome is a mental illness. I have already briefly touched on my gut response to that subject before. My question now is how to identify a mental illness in a teen who has Asperger’s syndrome?
I rarely hear parents of typical children talking about watching for signs of mental illness. It isn’t a subject a parent really wants to think about. Studies of mental illness in typical children have shown that in the midst of the emotional roller-coaster of puberty and the teen years, many parents fail to recognize behaviors that warn of an emerging mental illness. The Mayo Clinic has developed a new tool kit in order to help parents of typical children catch mental illness early, begin treatment plans quickly, and give the child the best chance of coping with their disorder.
Since every aspect of childhood and development has been atypical in my Aspie son. It logically follows that identifying a mental illness in my son would also follow an atypical pattern.
The ability to identify mental illness in all my children is a concern for me. We have a strong history of mental illness in my family. My paternal great-aunt suffered for years with an untreated mental illness before taking her own life in the mid 80’s. My father was diagnosed in college as a paranoid schizophrenic. He abandoned treatment a year or so later. My sister has successfully managed her bi-polar disorder for nearly a decade now but we all wish we could have see her struggle sooner.
So, what do I look for in my Aspie son as signs of mental illness?
Next: Part II My research.