Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders


Aspergers Students and Virtual School

An online school (also called virtual school or cyberschool) describes an institution that teaches courses entirely or primarily through online methods. Though there are thousands of commercial and non-accredited courses available online, the term "online school" is generally reserved for accredited schools that teach a full-time (or nearly full-time) course of instruction designed to lead to a degree. Virtual public and private schools serving every grade level including graduate programs may elect to pursue accreditation through various regional and national organizations. Accredited schools must meet rigorous standards as defined by the issuing organization and are designed to insure that children are receiving the highest quality instruction and education.

All or a majority of the student services are conducted via Internet technology. The online school differs from the traditional school through the physical media that links administrators, educators, and children. Online schools are an alliance of public distance learning schools. Many states in the United States have their own online school often with a student population numbering in the thousands.

There are many different online school instructional and enrollment models. Instructional models range from (a) fully independent self-paced courses to (b) semester-based, virtual-teacher facilitated courses. Class sizes range widely with anywhere from 25 children to as many as 200 children in each class section. Children keep in contact with educators and collaborate with other children through web communication tools provided in the course delivery platforms like Blackboard or Desire2Learn or Moodle. In some cases children communicate by phone with instructors. To help with communication many online schools have implemented their own system programs to help build courses and maintain student profiles. There are also many books and training manuals to aid in the development of such schools and courses.

Online schools may be free if the state pays for the courses, otherwise, there will be a course fee to be paid for by the student or parent(s). If an online school is chartered through a public supporting school district, there would be no cost associated for a student to attend the school or receive the materials/supplies needed to complete the schooling.

If the school requires a financial fee from the student or mother/father, materials do add up. Most courses will provide electronic materials free of cost, but others require some shopping on the children part. Textbooks are not required but can be used as an aid for coursework.

Many materials are provided free of cost. Some schools provide programs, usually for web design classes. Some popular materials include Adobe Systems products, Jasc products, and products from Macromedia. Other schools may use Corel products as a cheaper alternative. These products are usually free. Student usually receives the full version of the selected program, with a limited license, usually 1 year or so. These programs are important to the success of online schools, and help them to improve each year. Many schools will also provide a brand new computer for all children in need of one. Generally, these computers run using the Microsoft operating system, Windows XP, but depending on lesson needs and coursework the school may also use Linux based computers or Apple Macintoshes. Some online schools provide a free lap top for use throughout the school year.

Online schools may also provide children with a wide variety of materials that include, but are not limited to just a laptop computer. Some Online schools in the United States may also provide children with the following materials free of charge: Textbooks, Study Guides, Course Guides, Art Supplies (markers, crayons, construction paper, etc.), Science Kits, a Calculator, an All-in-One Printer, a Laptop Case, a Laptop Charger, a Head Set that is equipped with a microphone, a Bamboo Tablet and a wireless router.

Advantages of Online Education—

1. Advocates of virtual learning believe that online schools hold advantages (e.g., not being required to attend and travel to face-to-face classes and the integration digital media into the curricula).

2. Despite federal and state laws that traditional schools are supposed to abide by, many school districts fail to perform timely IEPs. Often times, school officials want to blame moms and dads or suggest that the Aspergers child is manipulating, rather than recognizing the challenges the child faces and adapting their curriculum or environment to help him/her. The student and his/her family would not have to face such a dilemma with an online school scenario.

3. In traditional schools, many school districts refuse to require mandatory training for special education/special needs students. Anecdotal evidence suggests that school districts and teachers are not well-equipped or trained to deal with Aspergers students or other special needs students. Many districts don’t have mandatory training, and there seems to be little - or no - motivation to obtain that training independently. Despite federal and state laws, many school districts still use restrictive and punitive measures to deal with Aspergers students. In an online school scenario, the program could be completely oriented to the needs of the Aspergers student.

4. Online schooling is much more economically feasible. The costs to conduct an online school is substantially less because there is no need for school buildings, full time staff, etc. The money could be more efficiently used in programming the online education experience and could reach more Aspergers children. Lower income students could be provided computers, supplies, and Internet access, which would still be less expensive than building ownership, taxes and maintenance and staffing.

5. Online schools are a great equalizer. No matter what their social, economic, religious, ethnic or physical or mental differences, virtual education gives all children the same opportunity to reach their full potential.

6. Online schools give a student the opportunity to stay in school when traditional brick and mortar schools will no longer accept them. Some reasons for this could be extensive absences due to medical reasons, teen pregnancy, or for other reasons that the school system may deem distracting to the school body.

7. Many online schools include online study groups in which children interact with each other online. Children are able to meet in these groups using Elluminate, Wimba or other means. This type of “socialization method” is a much better “fit” for the Aspergers student.

8. The bullying of Aspergers students has become endemic in schools. But, despite so-called “zero tolerance” policies, school districts seem to look the other way or not fully enforce the policies. Fortunately, there are few bullies in an online school setting (although “cyber-bullying” does occur, it is much easier to get stopped due to email addresses and IP addresses that moderators can track to locate and confront the “online bully”).

9. Traditional (offline) schools have difficulty keeping pace with the student’s education needs due to financial strain. Schools are paid for with tax money. The taxes are supposed to cover the physical buildings, maintenance, teacher salaries, supplies, and everything else that goes into education. Each year, there tends to be a request for more tax money to increase these expenditures. In addition, for Aspergers students, there are additional expenditures for special services (e.g., occupational therapy, teaching aides, sensory rooms, etc.). As the diagnosis of ASDs has gotten better, the incidence these disorders has skyrocketed to 1 in 100 (a recent study suggests that the incidence may be as high as 1 in 38). Again, this will only increase the demand for funding. With online schools, costs are greatly reduced, and as a result, the resources can be used to “fine-tune” the program with the Aspergers student’s special needs in mind.

10. In an online school setting, the student can:

• advance to higher levels of courses
• earn 8 credits a year (32) credits over 4 years
• enjoy and focus on elective courses during the day and focus on academic courses in the evening and/or on the weekends
• graduate early
• learn innovative technology, time management, and personal learning style
• plan learning around his/her favorite activities, work schedule, or other responsibilities
• receive one-on-one tutoring and personal attention from teachers
• recover lost credits or earn extra credits
• take the course at home, school, during a trip, or anywhere he/she choose to do so

Disadvantages to Online Education—

1. Unlike traditional education delivery methods, children at online schools do not directly interact with teachers. Hence, virtual education is considered by many to be equivalent to a directed-learning program. Because children do not interact with their teachers or peers face-to-face, "lack of socialization" is often quoted as a disadvantage by detractors. Recent anecdotal evidence indicates that, while socialization may be different, it is not necessarily lacking. It is also recommended that children enrolled in online schools be involved in social activities outside school, much like homeschooled children.

2. Another perceived disadvantage to distance learning is the added challenge of staying focused while in the home environment – and many children report that staying on task is the most difficult aspect of learning online.

3. Critics argue that for online education to be taken seriously, online programs must adhere to generally accepted educational standards. One way that online schools are proving their effectiveness is the implementation of the same standardized testing that brick and mortar schools require of their children. To reduce this criticism, The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has developed a set of standards. Some believe that this is an important first step in monitoring online programs, but while every provider of education must be accredited, the quality of accreditation varies significantly.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook


Anonymous said...

Virtual School was wonderful beyond belief!! I would still be doing it with him had he not wanted to try and go back.

It was amazing........I often with I had the guts to pull out all the kids. Acually, depending on how the start of 6th grade goes for my 11 year old, I may yank him out....he's ADHD/Slow processing......and academics have never NOT been a struggle. Sigh.

It still had the pub school "requirements" of how many days he had to "log in". I had the "teachers books".....there were all the subjects, even art and music - which we "faked" here and there and just did what he was interested in.

But,,,,,it allowed us to continue with Math or whatever when we/he was on a roll. Or, if we were having a bad day, we just did something else or nothing at all.

To accomplish all the "requirements" of the school/grade, the entire list of the assignments were right there on the computer. When I had to go somewhere or whatever, he'd go ahead in English and look over different chapters and then he'd go over when he definitely knew or what wasn't a struggle. If it seemed hard, he'd leave it for when I was home.

Again, it was a blessing. I don't think school is needed for anyone. Social reasons? Well, when they are negative, then they aren't necessary. he he.

My son never had a problem going to stores, talking to people if he felt like it (or had to)....
he just didn't fit with other mean kids or non-accepting teachers/school employees.

I looked at it as,,,,,,,,we, as adults, have to interact with others, yes. But, we also choose to on our level of comfort. And we all survive.

Keeping him in school was not an option when I started to worry about his emotional health.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mark,

My daughter, Angelique, is 13. She turns 14 in September. She last went to normal school last year. It was a very bumpy year as her condition only then started to come to light. It was a very scary and confusing year for me. To come to terms and accept that my child is not normal but special. Here is Namibia there is not help for such children and I'm stuck. She's been at home since January 2011. There are some programs where I can get software to help her at home but for me it is simply impossible to take that step as I'm the breadwinner and my salary is so small. I've informed my employer of my problem with Angelique and they said that they would review my salary. I should hear from them by the end of July. Angelique's father does not understand her condition nor does my family. If you have any help of know of any way I could better equip my child please let me know. The online school thing has really caught my attention.

Best regards.


Anonymous said...

Lisa Zahn Can anyone recommend a virtual school that's particularly good for our kids with Aspergers? I am thinking about this for my son who is entering 9th grade in the fall. I am frustrated with the lack of resources and support for his IEP, even though we only school part-time and homeschool part-time. They just can not afford the staffing necessary, and our high school has 1600 kids in it.
4 hours ago · Like
Debbie Sammons Hill The only virtual school I am aware of is K12. It is tuition-free as well. I haven't tried it out, but depending on how 6th grade goes in the fall, we may be trying it.
4 hours ago · Like
Lisa Butterworth For anyone in the UK the NISAI academy is fantastic. It's brought my son back from the brink of self destruct and beyond! I can't praise them high enough. Good luck all x
3 hours ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Cindy Cowgur Thank you! My son will be in 9th grade this fall and we've had nothing but problems with public school. It's been a REAL struggle. 6th-8th grade have been the WORST!! I will certainly be looking into this. We probably would have done this before now if I had known it was an option. Thank you again for the information! :)
13 hours ago · Like

Bill said...

On the services standpoint, I think this area is rapidly improving. There are multiple companies trying to tap into this area now- OT/PT/SLP services. Also, there was an evidence based study proving the efficacy of telehealth treatments in OT last year. Finally, there are private virtual schools out there who are getting ahead of the game by doing businesses with telehealth companies. So, this article needs to be updated for special needs parents who might read this.

Barbara MacKinnon said...

Is K12 still the best option? My daughter is having a very hard time and I am at a loss. I could use some guidance. Help?

Charlotte, NC

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content