Asperger’s Syndrome and Going to School
Asperger’s Syndrome, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a relatively common diagnosis. Parents whose child receives such a diagnosis are often understandably alarmed about what this will mean for their child, and his or her future. However, the reality is that a diagnosis is good news, because it means that the child’s particular needs have been identified, and that they will now be able to get the extra support they need.
Children with ASD are often extremely bright and articulate but can struggle at school because they don’t always find it easy to read social situations. They may find it very difficult to interpret another child’s, or a teacher’s, mood, and fail to pick up on cues that should influence how they react.
Children with ASD often have a particular topic, or range of topics, that they feel passionate about—so much so that they will talk enthusiastically about it for hours, without letting anyone else get a word in. Conversely, they might also become withdrawn and fail to participate in classroom activities because they can’t quite figure out where they fit in.
While girls and boys can both have ASD, it is more frequently diagnosed in boys. This may be partly because boys have a higher incidence of the condition, but increasingly psychologists feel that many girls are going undiagnosed because the condition in girls is more likely to manifest in behaviours that will see the child becoming quiet and withdrawn—and because she is not disruptive in the classroom environment, those behaviours might not be quickly identified as problematic.
Some children with ASD may benefit from medication, but for most, the best support will come in the form of helping them to verbalise their emotions better. Individual or group therapy, in which they have the opportunity to practice and grow their social skills, can give them the confidence they need in the classroom. Special needs assistance may be available at school to give the child extra support where they need it. As with any child, positive reinforcement can be a fantastic tool; children with ASD need to be explicitly praised for positive behaviours, including behaviours that might come easily to most children. This way, they can learn how to identify when and how they have been behaving appropriately and learn how to repeat these behaviours.
It is crucial to keep channels of communication open between parents, teachers and any therapists or other caregivers the child has. The more the teacher knows about a child’s special needs, the better they will be able to meet them. Parents need to know how to advocate for their child, while respecting the fact that the teacher also has a whole classroom full of other children, each of which has their own individual needs.
Above all, it is important to see Asperger’s or ASD not as a limiting feature, but as one of a child’s many unique qualities. Children with this condition often grow up to be extremely successful adults, provided they get the support they need.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
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