Ok, I'll start with the child's father since it is a bit less complicated. I would need more detail than you have described to come to any real conclusions, however I think what you have described doesn't really lead me to think he has Asperger's disorder. Some people simply have less understanding of social dynamics than others, it doesn't necessarily indicate a disorder. I wouldn't be overly concerned. It may be that he is a little shy, or he is thinking about introducing a topic and he has thought so much that by the time he does it, it's no longer appropriate. People are vastly different from each other, I really wouldn't be too worried about him.
As for the child, I wouldn't be too worried about Asperger's, either. You haven't included his age, but I assume that since he attends a playgroup, he is younger than school age. He is still very young, and the behaviours you have described don't really indicate to me a lack of social competence, a big part of which is emotional competence. He sounds like a shy child who may yet lack the communication skills to effectively get his point across - that is not necessarily a problem. It really depends on his age. He may be unsure as to how to broach things with adults, particularly those that are not his parents and that he is therefore uncomfortable with - this is pretty normal for children, too. A lot of children like to stand back and watch at the start of play sessions, to collect information about the dynamic that is going on, and to gain familiarity and become more comfortable with the situation. It's quite normal for a child to also covet a toy that another child has, and I am sure that if he couldn't play with it that week, then he will want to try it next week. Perhaps he hasn't given any thought to what he will do with the toy once he obtains it, simply having focusing his attention on wanting it. It may be that he is uncomfortable with play, or perhaps he needs a bit of encouragement or guidance as to how he may be able to play with particular toys. As for lack of empathy, for a start, people with Asperger's DO NOT lack empathy. How can you know someone is lacking empathy, if you cannot see inside to what they are thinking or feeling? In my experience, both adults and children with Asperger's experience a fierce amount of empathy for others, however they may have difficulty expressing that empathy. For a start, perhaps they feel for a person but have no idea what they can do to help the situation, if anything - this is something that they may or may not learn as they get older. Secondly, it may be that the feelings of empathy are so strong that it is overwhelming to them. To me, it seems this child simply wanted to look at the flower because he was curious - there is nothing wrong with that, it is quite normal. It is also quite normal for him to not give it back when asked - many children do that, often parents intervene in that situation to rectify the situation, but there are many different approaches to that, too. Lastly, Asperger's can be difficult to diagnose in young children because there are so few physical signs. They do not tend to reach their developmental milestones later than other children, and in fact developmental milestones are simply a guideline, actual developmental pace differs vastly between children. They may or may not have a speech delay, and they may or may not be brighter or more intelligent than other children - this differs vastly between everyone, and it is exceptionally difficult to measure, if you are inclined to actually want to do so, which I'm not. Of course, it is incredibly difficult to really have any indication of how 'normal' this child's behaviour is, since you have not provided us with his age. I have one child who was diagnosed at age 8 with Asperger's syndrome, and another who is going to be starting the diagnostic process in the next couple of years - she is almost 5. There is a long wait for pediatricians! My eight year old developed fairly regularly in terms of speech, and reached her developmental milestones early. She did not appear to lack emotions or empathy - in fact, it was the opposite. Her feelings were too much for her to handle, and she has needed therapy in order to get some coping mechanisms that enable her to function fairly well in her school environment. My five year old does have a bit of a speech delay, but she reached her other developmental milestones early. However, she has sensory issues, such as a fierce need to touch hair, and she enjoys holding dirt and gravel, and sometimes leaves. She also finds it difficult to manage her emotions. Both of these children melt down when they feel strong emotion, and also when there is too much noise, people, light, and the list goes on.
kerrie, VIC, DD 12/8/03, DD 12/10/05, DD 14/9/07, DD 4/1/10