When they look at disabilities, some schools expect the student to be in a wheelchair or intellectually disabled. They seem not to understand a student who is a wiz at math, computers, etc., but is socially somewhat “weird.” The first reaction is that it has something to do with the parents, and that they obviously haven't raised the youngster properly.
After an Aspergers (high functioning autism) child has been diagnosed at the clinic, I will go to the school and meet with school officials. I explain to the teachers (a) what Aspergers is, (b) how the student expresses the Aspergers symptoms, (c) their abilities, and (d) some of the do's and don'ts. For example:
- He is very honest, and many of the children with Aspergers will tell you your mistakes. So when he stands up in front of the class and says, "You've missed a comma there," he's not being rude or disruptive.
- Just because he's not looking, is not to say he's not listening.
- Sarcasm isn't going to work.
- When they do their homework, make sure they are on the right track.
- You've got to make sure that the student understands the concepts talked about.
Not only do we have meetings with teachers for such children, we also have training programs for the teachers’ aides so that they can understand such children. We also now have a "good school guide," and some moms/dads will actually move so that their kids can attend certain schools that have a history of doing well with Aspergers students. And, we do training programs for moms and dads on how to relate to teachers. The schools now are less ignorant, less fearful of such students, and have better structure for helping them.
First, you have got to get the Education Department to understand Aspergers in its policy and it's training, but you've also got to work with many individual teachers to educate them on what to do exactly. Children with Aspergers either get on wonderfully - or terribly - with their educators. It's a disaster for both parties if you're not careful. You need to support the teacher, and help him/her understand the Aspergers condition. There are certain schools that have more than their fare share of Aspergers students, because moms/dads have voted with their feet and moved to those schools.
You are an expert on your youngster and on his personality and developmental history. Use your gut reaction to know whether that's an appropriate school. If your senses are uncomfortable, don't go! If you feel relaxed and comfortable, your Aspergers youngster will probably be relaxed and comfortable in that environment. Work with the teachers by educating them for future success – not by correcting them for past mistakes.
Here's a helpful guide for both parents and teachers: Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA