Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Advocate for Your Child With Asperger Syndrome

If your child was recently diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, you will need to educate yourself about AS in order to understand how it affects him/her so that you can provide relevant information about his/her needs to the school in writing. You want to give the teacher as much information about your child as possible, in terms of how AS affects him/her, but at the same time keep the document as short as possible. That way the teacher is more likely to read ALL of it.

Here are a few points to consider including in your document:

Highlight the safety needs, both for your child and others. This will be the best way to get support for your child in the classroom (if that's what you want). Think in terms of anxiety related behaviours and meltdowns that may lead to destructive behaviour or aggressive behaviour towards others, and the potential for your son or daughter to be the target of bullies.

Point out that although your son or daughter may look normal and advanced in many ways, he/she has poor communication skills because it is difficult for him/her to read facial expressions and make eye contact (if this is the case). Also he/she may take expressions literally and miss implied meanings. He/she may also have obsessive and limited interests and/or repetitive routines and physical clumsiness. Provide real examples that relate to your child. Remind the school that your child's ability to function well in group activities or social situations should not be over-estimated. As a result, he/she will need support and programming in all of these areas. Make suggestions as to what you would like to see in the IEP (Individual Education Plan).

The teacher's attitude will be the prime example to a class on how to treat a child with Asperger Syndrome. If a teacher is intolerant and impatient with an AS student's odd behaviours, it sends a signal to the other students that it's okay to tease the AS student, both in and out of class. Also, it is important to point out that punishment is not the appropriate method for addressing the inappropriate behaviours of an AS student since the behaviours are one of the diagnostic signs and a result of having Asperger Syndrome.

You may want to consider disclosing the fact that your child has AS to the class. In my experience, other children are more likely to be tolerant of a student who acts and speaks in an odd way, if they know the reason.

If you decide to do this, here's a good tip. Write "Asperger Syndrome" on the board and stress the correct pronunciation to the class. This makes it less likely that the 'class clown' (every class has one) will hear the name as "Ass Burger" and make fun of your child using that term.

Your school may have anti-bullying policies in place which are not helping on a practical level. If your child is left unsupervised, he/she may become a victim of bullying but he/she may not have the skills to tell an adult. If you know or suspect that bullying is an issue, and the school or school board is unable or unwilling to deal with it appropriately, home schooling may be an option worth considering, even if only temporarily, since bullying will undoubtedly affect your child's emotional well-being.

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