Because children with Asperger’s syndrome may be only mildly affected, they may begin school prior to being diagnosed. During the elementary years, behavioral issues and immaturity may be a problem, but academically these children frequently do quite well. The ability to memorize information, do calculations and focus intensively serves them well. But as they move through the school system, difficulties with social skills, language and obsessive behaviors become more problematic and may leave them vulnerable to teasing from classmates.
Getting special education services may be difficult because children with AS have normal or above normal intelligence and appear capable. However, every child with disabilities is guaranteed a free, appropriate public education through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Keep in mind that IDEA establishes that an appropriate educational program must be provided, not necessarily an “ideal” program or the one you feel is best for your child. The law specifies that educational placement should be determined individually for each child, based on that child’s specific needs, not solely on the diagnosis or category. No one program or amount of services is appropriate for all children with disabilities.
It is important that parents and caregivers work with the school to obtain the educational support and services that the child needs. The first step should be a comprehensive needs assessment that will become the blueprint for the child’s educational plan. Then, in collaboration with the child’s school and teachers, develop a well-defined and thorough Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
The IEP is a written document that outlines the child’s individual educational program, tailored to his or her needs. A program appropriate for one child with Asperger’s syndrome may not be appropriate for another. While many children with Asperger’s syndrome may participate in mainstream society, they still need support services. Teachers need to be informed that these children are not simply acting up or being difficult.
Counselors can provide emotional support and assist with social skills, helping children with AS to learn how to react to social cues and situations. Children with Asperger’s syndrome may use a “buddy” who serves as a role model for social situations and may facilitate interactions with others by explaining appropriate behavior. Speech and language therapists may help in the use of appropriate language and occupational therapists can deal with delays in motor development.
Dr. Stephen Bauer, a developmental pediatrician at the Pediatric Development Center of Unity Health in Rochester, New York, suggests that the most important step in helping children with Asperger’s syndrome is for schools to recognize that the child has “an inherent developmental disorder which causes him/her to behave and respond in a different way from other students.”
Because children with Asperger’s syndrome respond best to a regular, organized routine, Bauer recommends the use of charts and pictures to help the child visualize the day and to prepare him or her for any changes in advance. Bauer also emphasizes the need to avoid power struggles since children with Asperger’s syndrome will become more rigid and stubborn if confronted or forced.
Source: Autism Society of America