HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Self-Test: Does Your Child on the Autism Spectrum Have a Learning Disability?

“I think my son with Asperger syndrome may have a learning disability. How can I know for sure? And what should I do about it?”

Many kids with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism have difficulty with writing, reading comprehension, or other learning-related tasks, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a learning disability. A youngster with a learning disability often has several related signs, which persist over time. The signs of a disability vary from child to child.

Each learning disability has its own signs. Also, not every child with a particular disability will have ALL of the signs. Common indicators include:
  • Difficulty finding the right way to say something
  • Difficulty listening well
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty staying on task (i.e., easily distracted)
  • Difficulty with concepts related to time
  • Difficulty with reading and/or writing
  • Immature way of speaking
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Inappropriate responses in school or social situations
  • Inconsistent school performance
  • Poor coordination
  • Problems paying attention
  • Problems staying organized
  • Problems understanding words or concepts
  • Problems with math skills
  • Trouble following directions

Here are some common learning disabilities and the signs associated with them:


Dyspraxia—



A child with dyspraxia has problems with motor tasks (e.g., hand-eye coordination) that can interfere with learning. Other symptoms of dyspraxia include:
  • Trouble with tasks that require hand-eye coordination (e.g., coloring within the lines, assembling puzzles, cutting precisely, etc.)
  • Sensitivity to touch (e.g., irritation over certain clothing textures)
  • Sensitivity to loud and/or repetitive noises (e.g., ticking of a clock)
  • Problems organizing oneself and one's things
  • Poor balance
  • Breaking things

Dysgraphia—

Dysgraphia is characterized by problems with writing, which cause a youngster to be tense and awkward when holding a pen or pencil to the extent of contorting his body. The youngster with very poor handwriting that he does not outgrow may have dysgraphia. Other signs of Dysgraphia include:
  • Trouble writing down thoughts in a logical sequence
  • Trouble writing down ideas
  • Saying words out loud while writing
  • Problems with grammar
  • Leaving words unfinished or omitting them when writing sentences
  • A strong dislike of writing 
  • A quick loss of interest while writing

Dyscalculia—

Signs of this disorder include problems understanding basic math concepts (e.g., fractions, number lines, positive and negative numbers, etc.). Other symptoms include:
  • Trouble with understanding the time sequence of events
  • Trouble recognizing logical information sequences (e.g., steps in math problems)
  • Trouble making change in cash transactions
  • Messiness in putting math problems on paper
  • Difficulty with verbally describing math processes
  • Difficulty with math-related word problems

Dyslexia—

Children with dyslexia usually have trouble making the connections between letters and sounds. They also have difficulty with spelling and recognizing words. Other signs include:
  • Trouble learning foreign languages
  • Trouble distinguishing left from right
  • Slowness in learning songs and rhymes
  • Slow reading
  • Poor spelling
  • Poor self-expression (e.g., saying "thing" or "stuff" for words not recalled)
  • Giving up on longer reading tasks
  • Failure to fully understand what others are saying
  • Difficulty understanding questions and following directions
  • Difficulty recalling numbers in sequence (e.g., telephone numbers and addresses)
  • Difficulty organizing written and spoken language
  • Difficulty learning new vocabulary (either through hearing or reading)
  • Delayed ability to speak

30 - 50 % of children with ADHD have a learning disability. The reverse is true, too. 30 – 50 % with a learning disability have ADHD. If a youngster has been diagnosed with ADHD and continues to have problems academically, he or she may a learning disability.

Below is a self-test that will give parents clues about whether or not their youngster has a learning disability.

Preschool:
  • My youngster has problems with remembering routines, information, and multiple instructions.
  • My youngster has poor physical coordination and uneven motor development (e.g., delays in learning to run, color, use scissors, etc.).
  • My youngster has delays in socialization (e.g., playing with - and responding to - his peer group).
  • My youngster has communication problems (e.g., slow language development, difficulty with speech).
  • He finds it hard to understand what is being said or communicating his thoughts to others.

Kindergarten to 4th Grade:
  • My youngster loses work she has done or forgets to turn it into the educator.
  • My youngster is challenged when it comes to doing math.
  • My youngster has trouble with reading comprehension.
  • She has problems forming letters and numbers.
  • She has problems with basic spelling and grammar.
  • My youngster has trouble understanding oral instructions.
  • He has difficulty expressing himself verbally.
  • My youngster has trouble organizing information, materials (e.g., notebook, binder, papers), and concepts.
  • My youngster has trouble blending sounds and letters to sound out words.
  • She has trouble remembering familiar words by sight.
  • My youngster has problems with rapid letter recognition and with learning phonemes (i.e., individual units of sound).
  • He has difficulty remembering facts.

5th and 6th Grades:
  • My youngster finds it hard to stay organized in school.
  • He loses personal belongings, papers, assignments, or forgets to turn them in.
  • My youngster has difficulty learning new math concepts and successfully applying them.
  • She has difficulty organizing her thoughts for written work.
  • My youngster is challenged when it comes to reading material independently.
  • He has trouble retaining what he read.

Middle School: 
  • My youngster has difficulty with time management, organization, and developing learning strategies.
  • My youngster has trouble retaining what was read (i.e., reading fluency).
  • He has difficulty organizing and writing answers on papers and tests (i.e., writing fluency).
  • He has problems mastering more advanced math concepts.

High School:
  • My youngster has increased difficulty with time planning and organization as more independent work is expected.
  • My youngster has increased difficulty with writing papers, reading assignments, and understanding math concepts.

If parents agree with a majority of the statements above, they should discuss their concerns with their child’s educator(s). Most public schools use a 3-tier model for evaluation:
  1. The educator observes the youngster. If she or he agrees with the parent’s concerns, a special-education teacher will observe the youngster in class.
  2. Modified teaching strategies will be tried.
  3. If the special-education teacher agrees, a formal evaluation will be done to determine if the child has a learning disability.

If the youngster’s educator does not respond to parents’ concerns, they should speak with the principal. If the youngster is in a private school, parents are entitled to speak to the principal of the public school their youngster would have gone to and request help.

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

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