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Archive for April, 2011

Life is interesting as an Asperger’s advocate.  I get to share my knowledge and experience and in the process, help  desperate children whose personal hell is often spelled s-c-h-o-o-l.

Some of these situations have been tough to remedy: I’ve  met with experienced teachers  who know little about Asperger’s Syndrome  except, perhaps,  for a single workshop taken long ago.  Still, they’re certain that AS students have an unfair advantage over typical students because of  all the supports in their Individual Education Plans.

No problemo.
Most often, after an hour of discussion about AS, the teacher is eager to learn more and is  willing to try new strategies to help the student succeed.  We exchange emails and phone numbers.  Everybody goes home happy.

On the other hand, I’ve had staring contests with authoritarian and inflexible principals whose refusal to grant an Asperger’s student  necessary  accommodations can sentence that child  to a school year of anxiety,  failure, and hopelessness.   Mr. Principal believes the AS student is ‘high functioning’  and needs no more consideration than any other student.

Really? Did he say that out loud?  Oh wait–perhaps he became an Asperger’s expert when he earned his graduate psychology degree.  Oh?  He doesn’t have one?  My mistake.

But I digress…

This type of scenario is a bit more work, because it is tough to get through to someone who already knows everything.

Still, no worries.  Over his head we go to a superintendent, a director of education, the media or more often,  all three at the same time—all in a determined quest to get a child with Asperger’s what he needs to succeed.  The principal couldn’t be more charming or accommodating (excuse the pun) when parents and I next meet with him to detail their concerns and must-have supports for their child.

…so handling schools is always a challenge, but almost always is resolved in the child’s favour.  Principals and teachers will defer to reason, direct orders from a superior, or pressure brought to bear by the media.

Which is not to say I haven’t, on occasion, met my match.  Oh I have—the immoveable, close-minded, determined type of match that we are all so familiar with.

Our AS kids.

Trying to convince them to accept and embrace their supports is like…well, it’s like trying to get a kid with Asperger’s to do anything he doesn’t want to do.

And it is frustrating.  Frustrating for parents and for the teachers who want to help them. Many  are so smart! However, though they may have above average to superior I.Q.s, they may find themselves struggling to achieve even passing grades in high school, and why?  It’s not because their IEP is lacking.  It’s not because teachers or admin are unwilling to support them.

Nope.

It’s because these kids want no part of an Asperger’s diagnosis.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Like all teens, they want to fit in.  They  don’t want to be seen as different from typical students, and don’t want to be seen as requiring special education supports. As a result, they won’t use their laptops, won’t accept help with organization, won’t ask for clarification of questions on tests or exams, and won’t write those tests and exams away from the other students and with extra time as required.

…and all of this can spell academic disaster for some of our kids.

So how can we help them?

By advocating for Asperger’s in an entirely  different kind of way.

(to be continued)

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