Recently I have been in a battle with the Public School System. The main issue was my 8year old was being bullied beyond belief! They now think my son has Aspergers… I carried him to a Therapist and he said my son had been emotionally and physically abused by the school and has a couple of Aspergers Symptoms... Where to go from here?
Before the landmark Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, school districts frequently did not allow handicapped kids to enroll. Today legislation such as the Education for All Handicapped Kids Act of 1975, amended in 1990 in 2004 to become the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, protects the right of handicapped kids to a free and appropriate education in the public schools.
The "spirit" of laws that apply to handicapped kids is that each youngster should be educated as an individual. This is a good thing for kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) in particular. They need individual treatment because they can range from highly gifted students who excel in academics to kids with a variety of learning disabilities and comorbidities like Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The majority are usually between the two extremes.
From birth to age three years, federal laws require that handicapped kids receive early intervention services. These may be speech and language therapy, nutritional counseling, vision and medical services, parental counseling and so forth. Usually a teacher comes to the youngster's home and works with her one-on-one, although some kids receive services in public school classrooms or clinical settings. However, kids with Aspergers often do not receive a diagnosis until after they enter school so they tend to miss Early Intervention programs.
Once a youngster enters school, moms and dads can require a free evaluation and assessment by a multidisciplinary team. If the team determines the youngster does not require special education, moms and dads have the right to appeal the decision and get another free evaluation. The most common problem is that Aspergers kids often appear too bright and verbal to need services. Their solitary lifestyle can mask their social deficiencies. For this reason, many moms and dads end up hiring lawyers to receive public school accommodations for their kids.
If the school determines that the youngster needs special education, moms and dads should find out what is available at that school and in that district. Services can be speech and language therapy, occupational and physical therapy, counseling, vocational education, and assistive technology like special computer software. Moms and dads have to consider if the youngster should be in a self-contained classroom or mainstreamed or in a combination of both. Moving the youngster to a different school or even school district with better facilities might be beneficial. Often it's a good idea to hire or have the school provide an expert in Aspergers to help staff and moms and dads decide what's best for the youngster.
A handicapped youngster can receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 is about getting access and removing barriers to education. For example, a youngster in a wheelchair may need a special door opener, but once she receives access to the classroom, she is treated like other students. Schools tend to encourage moms and dads to go for 504 accommodations rather than services under IDEA because it is less work for them. One of the few advantages in using 504 accommodations is that the youngster receives no "label." However, many more services become available under IDEA.
Under IDEA, moms and dads and school staff meet together at the beginning of the school year and come up with an "Individualized Education Plan (IEP)." The plan must be written, and include an assessment of the youngster's current strengths and weaknesses. The IEP must contain measurable goals for the year and list specific special education aids and services. Moms and dads and staff meet periodically to make sure the goals are attained. There should be an IEP case manager who checks the youngster's work every day and develops new strategies. Most IEPs for Aspergers kids have contingencies such as allowing extra time for work, giving out shorter or alternate work assignments, providing the youngster with copies of other students' notes, allowing the youngster to take tests over or have extra time for them, or allowing the youngster to take oral instead of written tests.
Some Aspergers kids need those special contingencies. However, for the majority, the most important need is getting help with social interactions and reciprocity. Aspergers kids can excel academically and fail in life because they do not have social skills. One author wrote of a "cycle" in which Aspergers kids earn advanced degrees but cannot land jobs because they do not interview well. Then they take a lower level job that requires hand-eye coordination, fail at that, go back and get another advanced degree and so the cycle goes on.
For this reason, many moms and dads opt out of the public system and find a private school that is designed for kids with Aspergers. Sometimes administrators at their public schools even recommend such a placement. In that case, the school district may pay for tuition at the private school. If a doctor recommends such a school, the tuition costs can be tax-deductible or covered by medical insurance. Many Aspergers kids benefit from even a year or so at a residential school that provides intense, twenty-four hour training in social skills.
Many kids with Aspergers are very bright, and may even excel academically in one or more subjects. However, they often need protection from other students who bully or take advantage of them. Aspergers kids do not know which students to avoid. For example, if an Aspergers child makes a friend, that "friend" may make him do assignments for him, break rules, take the blame and otherwise put the Aspergers child in jeopardy.
Aspergers kids usually do not understand the "hidden rules" of school but take all rules at face value. They may memorize the rule "Don't swear in middle school." Yet they don't know that all middle students swear, but you don't swear in front of adults, and you don't swear in front of a certain prissy teacher in particular. Aspergers kids also do not understand "hidden social agendas." If an Aspergers child participates on a high school debate team that meets in a coffee house, she comes prepared like a little professor to talk about the subject at hand. She does not understand that the other students are there to socialize as well as practice for the team.
For this reason, Aspergers kids require individualized training in social and emotional competency. There are many promising new teaching techniques for kids with Aspergers. On the elementary school level, some educators are using "social stories" with special cartoons illustrated with "emo faces" to help Aspergers kids recognize facial expressions. Acting classes also might help an Aspergers child better understand emotional reactions.
Self-contained or mainstream classroom? Self-contained classrooms usually have a small number of kids with a variety of special needs. The teacher may have extra training in special education and receive help from one or more aides. Therefore, the big advantage of a self-contained classroom is extra individual attention.
However, there are several disadvantages to self-contained classrooms. Kids with Aspergers often gain more knowledge about social interactions and how the "normal" world operates in a mainstream classroom. Academics may be "watered down" in a self-contained classroom. Kids with Aspergers do not do well with emotionally disturbed kids who are often streetwise and aggressive. If these two groups are together in a self-contained classroom, you often produce a combination of the perfect victim and perfect victimizer.
Sometimes a youngster may start out in a self-contained classroom and gradually transition to a mainstream one. This usually has to be done slowly, and takes an average of two months to two years. It may begin with just a half-hour at a time in the regular classroom for elementary school students, and perhaps an hour at a time in the student's strongest subject on the high school level. Some experts recommend seating the Aspergers child next to a successful student who can help him with organization and provide class notes, if necessary.
In general, Aspergers kids do better in classrooms that are predictable and structured with as few transitions as possible. Teaching with an emphasis on visual presentation plays to the Aspergers child's strength of visual acuity. Educators should structure lessons in clear patterns that are easy to follow.
During "unstructured" periods such as lunch, physical education, recess and passing to classes, an Aspergers child may need special accommodations.
The teacher should have some understanding of Aspergers. A good teacher should not be "fake" because that will just confuse the Aspergers child even more. He may develop a special "cue" such as tapping the youngster's shoulder to help the youngster pay attention when his mind is wandering. He should be strong in language skills, and use drama to help the youngster understand other people's emotions. The teacher should be a calm person in control of his classroom: this will decrease the Aspergers child's anxiety. Changes and surprises will upset an Aspergers child. Therefore, the teacher should help with transitions and let the youngster know in advance when he will have to recite in front of the class.
Some authors describe the importance of having a teacher who can deal with "meltdowns" and "rages." It is best to intervene in the "rumbling" stage. During the actual rage, an Aspergers child may scream, bite, hit, kick and destroy property. For this reason, authors recommend that a teacher wear comfortable clothes and keep expensive or sentimental items out of reach. During "recovery," the youngster may be exhausted, or deny the tantrum happened. It is important that the teacher is a sensitive person so that if an Aspergers child rages at school, he does not experience complete humiliation in front of his peers.
My Asperges Child: Preventing Meltdowns
• Anonymous said… Get him to doc & ask for him to be referred to been tested to see if he has Asperger's syndrome then I would fight to get him in a specialist school! My son has Asperger's syndrome & got bullied beyond belief I only wish I had insisted for him to be put to a specialist school for the extra support & around children like him! I had to home school him for 3 years as the bullying got so bad & then I sent him back for high school he has been out school for about 6 months now but he's coming 16 now so I'm awaiting a p/t support college coarse for him to start this year. I hope this helps & feel free to get in touch with me for anything. My heart breaks for u as I know what your going through as I went through this with my son but be strong & dont be fobbed of by anyone esp education & just follow your heart that's what I done & fought for his diagnosis xxx
• Anonymous said… I had the same issue with both of my sons. My youngest son was bullied by students and teachers for years. He was diagnosed with Aspergers and ADHD. My oldest has been bullied for 2 years. He was diagnosed with PDD/NOS, ADD. He now suffers from anxiety and panic attacks because of the bullying. I fought the public school system for two years to get my boys in special schools. They are both doing much better. Get your son tested as soon as possible and into a special school if necessary!! Do not wait like I did!! Fight the public school with all you've got and never give up!!!
• Anonymous said… I told my sons school if you don't want to listen to me I will make a case against all of you and that same day parents was called in
• Anonymous said… I went through this with my sons previous school until I got out of there and in the with right school system had to go to dr to get the right diagnoses and now my child is doing great, i had to fight to get him help he needed but he has an I E P now and great support system. I take my child to church also and teach him about the lord and how to lean to him to fight battles with bullies. Before I didnt have Jesus now we do and its so much better my son is happy now and doing great. He is not on meds anymore either does better off them than on them but I give him plexus products that was also put in my life to help him by the lord been a blessing.
• Anonymous said… My son had a breakdown in grade 9 because of bullying -mainstream schooling him was.
Post your comment below…