FROM THE NYU CHILD STUDY CENTER: ASK THE EXPERT
What Does A Student With Asperger Syndrome Need In A School Program?
Anyone who knows children and adults with Asperger Syndrome is aware that every person’s manifestation of the disorder is very different. While they share social disability, some are very successful academically, some struggle with accomplishing work; some have intense intellectual interests that lead them to career paths, and others have intense interests that seem to have no practical use. Because Asperger Syndrome is an outcome of brain differences in combination with life experiences, no two individuals are exactly alike.
Least restrictive placement is an educational term that means that we want to provide students with the proper level of support for success without placing them in unnecessarily restrictive environments. For students with Asperger Syndrome, we want to provide the level of support that is necessary to help them optimize their skills and strengths without removing them from typical school experiences, if possible. Matching the individual need to the level of support is critical to helping a child gain self-esteem and independence.
What every family with a member who has Asperger Syndrome needs to consider is how the following potential difficulties are being addressed:
The development of basic social skills and development of social relationship skills. Many schools and clinicians address the former, but are unable to help authentic relationships emerge. Parents need help to understand how to facilitate this critical human need.
Organization and academic support within the context of good academic skills. Problems with disorganization are very common for students with Asperger Syndrome and frequently have a very negative impact on achievement.
Immature or inappropriate emotional expression. It is a fairly common outcome of having limited friendships that emotional maturity is slow to develop and sometimes develops oddly in the face of daily social pain.
Isolation and/or depression. Often children with Asperger Syndrome retreat home to the internet or a fantasy world to avoid social anguish.
Every family needs to make an honest appraisal of the specific problems their child has. A frank conversation with the student’s school as to whether addressing these needs is possible within that setting is critical. Avoiding these issues does not make them go away. Possible school solutions include: engaging a consultant to help a child’s school address specific problems; having a trained paraprofessional work with the student; placement in a setting that has ancillary support available when needed; finding a special education school capable of providing the level of academic support and challenge needed; changing to a specialized setting for students with Asperger Syndrome that addresses all the above and provides a peer group and self advocacy models. For more generalized information, consider contacting a professional specializing in Asperger Syndrome; he/she can help families make an accurate assessment of a child’s real needs and how they are currently being addressed.#
The NYU Child Study Center is opening a laboratory classroom in September for academically-gifted youth with Asperger Syndrome. Approximately eight ninth-graders will have the opportunity to participate in the first group of this individualized tuition-based educational program. Interested parents should contact Lynda Geller, Ph.D., Clinical Director of the Asperger Institute at the NYU Child Study Center, or Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D., Director of Education, at (212) 679-3565. Visit www.AboutOurKids.org for more information.