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Child with Asperger Syndrome

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I have a 9 year old son, who has been diagnosed with Aspergers. We/he is experiencing some challenges at school. Those challenges is what prompted us having him tested. We have always known he was Autistic, just didn't know where on the scale he was, until now. He was diagnosed two months ago. I had to take him back for more testing this week for a more educational diagnosis. We feel his current teacher is not adequate to help him achieve in the class room. One reason we had him tested is due to his current teacher disciplining him for rocking in class. He has told her over and over that he cannot help it. So she started sending him to the office stating that he is a distraction in class, and he has behavior problems. Because he didn't have anything in writing stating he had an actual disability, the school was un willing to make any accommodations for Dominic.

Now that we have everything in writing, and am trying to get the school on board to implement an education plan for him, I am hitting various objections and slow progress. Then last week I get a note from his current teacher, now that the school year is almost over, that my child is in danger of failing math.....really??? At no time has anyone at any parent teacher or principal meeting has said Dominic was in danger of failing math this year. Math is his best subject. So I am frustrated, and am not sure of what our next step should be in advocating for him at school. Can you help??

A: I am deeply sorry to hear how the school is treating this very special child. Unfortunately, it is a lack of training and understanding amongst the staff than blinds them in seeing gifts unless it is “within the norm”. Broadly speaking, individuals with Asperger syndrome have normal or above average intellectual capacity, and atypical or poorly developed social skills, often with emotional/social development or integration happening later than usual as a result. It is quite common to find children with Asperger syndrome to show a learning style that has been characterized as the "Nonverbal Learning Disorders Syndrome." These children do not appear to have a sense of perspective, or a sense of patterns and relationships. They find it rather hard to assemble, construct, organize, or reproduce patterns, and may not grasp the "big picture" or pick out the key points in conversations, social situations, visual puzzles, or verbal stories. This is why children with Asperger syndrome fair better in verbal tests and they should be considered verbal learners who need explicit, step by step descriptions and explanations.

First, see a psychologist to run some tests and an IQ test as well. If his has a high IQ score, he may well be twice exceptional (gifted with a learning problem). That warrants for specific educational intervention which includes a gifted programme and one to handle his learning problem. You sure need a letter as evidence on his ability. The problem is that the school is only focussing on his weaknesses and not his strengths, which is such a shame. Both his strength and weakness need to be attended to.

Only after having some results in hand, you may get the school to listen. In the meantime, speak to someone senior in the school or perhaps a school counsellor. Explain your concerns and ask them how they may be handling them. If nothing appears to be working after all the effort, you may want to consider looking at another school. But make sure you do your homework about the facilities the school can offer as your son may not fit in the regular classroom and the school needs to make arrangements for an individualised educational plan (IEP). Take action as soon as possible. Best wishes to you and your little one.


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