Possibly Gifted Child with Asperger's Syndrome
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My child who is 13 years old and is in the 7th grade has the following
issues at school:
1. Socialization since elementary school. He gets along well with
younger or older children and adults. The neighbourhood kids also like
him a lot, but my son cannot play sports.
2. Diagnosed with mild Asperger's and on the WISC-IV has an IQ of 130
with a slow processing speed, but receives no help from the school. He
attends his classes without assistance and does not get lost. He comes
out of school all anxious and shaking his hands and jumping up and down.
3. MAIN PROBLEM: He has difficulty putting his thoughts on paper,
essays, etc. He can write, but holds his pencil in an awkward way and
4. I have asked the school for help, he needs a 504, but they have done
nothing. His language arts teacher complains about his lack of writing
and he said that my son will be placed in a remedial 8th grade L.A.
class next year. My son has a 97% vocabulary score and attends a
literacy program where he is taught by a university professor who says
that my son should be on the top of his class. He also has a math tutor
who told me that he has no problem with math, but just gets confused
with what formula to use and the tutor said that all children in 7th
grade have the same problems.
What can we do to help him and what assistance does he need? My son gets
frustrated when he gets a low grade and is trying to do his best. A lot
of times it is lack of enthusiasm, but not all the time. Help!!!
I can understand your frustrations and it is hard to have a child who is
doing well on his strengths, yet not getting the attention he deserves
in the areas of weakness. As for socialisation, he appears to be fine as
there is some level of mingling regardless of the age group. This would
have happened since he was quite young. Due to inappropriate affect
which is typical amongst children with Asperger's Syndrome, they may not socialise well
within their peer group as they may be seen as different. It is
perfectly fine not be able to play sports, there are other physical
activities that may suit him and there are bound to be some children who
would play with him so I wouldn't worry much here.
It is rather strange that the school is least helpful in his case,
especially since he is doing well especially in Math. Did you try to
speak to someone of authority at his school? An IQ score of 130 should
give him admission to programmes for above average children. If this is
not happening, you may want to query the school. More than anything
else, I think the school is a problem. If there is a parent group, you
may want to sought help in getting the school to pay some attention to
your son. In the worst case, a better school may be a good option - one
that would place him in a programme catered to his needs. Though, a
child with his condition may have low tolerance for change.
It appears to me that the school is seeing him as a child with a
learning disability rather than focussing on his strengths which are so
obvious. Perhaps it would be helpful for you to get a letter from the
professor to show to the school board. In reality, at times, parents and
educators may attribute the difficulties gifted Asperger's Syndrome students have in
school because of a poor match between the curriculum or pedagogy and
the child's learning needs.
How has the diagnosis helped in the invention? Is there any
intervention? Even though his condition is mild, proper training can be
very helpful as these children manifest their frustrations. The social
skills training that benefits AS children is different from the social
skills training that benefits children with other kinds of learning
problems, hence the necessity of an accurate diagnosis. Accurate
diagnosis also increases the chance that students will receive
appropriate services and have maximum opportunity to realise their
There are three areas that Asperger's Syndrome children typically have problems in, that
is; learning, socialising, and behaviours. Research recommends the
Interventions that focus on information, general support, and the
management of specific problem behaviours. AS students can benefit by
learning compensatory strategies, just as gifted students with learning
Taking into account the unique characteristics of an AS brain. People
with AS are usually strong visual thinkers (thought are best in
concrete, literal pictures) This can have several advantages, but it is
a distinct disadvantage in a classroom where the expectation is that the
student think verbally. Therefore, it has been recommended that frequent
use of diagrammes, visualisation, and pictogrammes for teaching and
managing behaviour should not be compromised with.
The use of parts-to-whole verbal instruction is the most appropriate
approach because AS children tend to focus too much on details.
Teachers with strong intuitive abilities is more likely to have
success teaching a gifted AS child than is the teacher who bases
decisions on logical deductions because AS students are often extremely
sensitive to the tone with which something is said. This may be the case
in your son's school. At the same time, teachers must not become too
angry or overly loving.
For sensory integration, extreme sensitivity to some kinds of sensory
stimuli is common among children with AS. This hypersensitivity causes
problems for the children in their adjustment to school (look up on
sensory integration therapy).
As for social skills training, it can be improved with training.
Behaviour problems are also common and these kids may be either
compulsive or hyperactive. They may be prone to tantrums or aggressive
outbursts, and although sensitive to teasing, but they may consistently
demonstrate provocative behaviours that invite teasing. It has been
advised that when adults get into an argument with such a child, they
should not attempt to reason for more than a minute.
Medication may help in some cases although in your son's case, since
it is mild, it may not be required. Medications can significantly
improve the quality of life of AS children when they exhibit compulsive
or aggressive behaviours that interfere with school adjustment or family
life. Medication may also be needed to alleviate symptoms of depression,
thought disorder, or anxiety attacks.
I hope the above would shed some light but it would be best to see a
therapist to suggest what is best for him. The school can just do so
much and teachers may not be able to handle such kids. Most are only
aware that there are special kids of two extremes but ones who have both
extremes - giftedness and a developmental disorder; this is something
most teachers are not prepared for.
All the best to you.