Aspergers Students: Navigating Through the Educational System

"Please give me some ideas on how I can work with my son's school (he is high functioning with Aspergers). We are starting to have some academic and behavior problems with him, have tried to educate his teacher about things that set him off and calm him down, but no one seems willing to try anything different, treating our son as though he had no special issues."

If you are wondering how to navigate through the system in order to get your Aspergers (high functioning autism) youngster educated you are not alone. Our kids don't fit so neatly into the main stream educational system. They are often too high functioning for some programs and still need more assistance than other programs offer. While they are in desperate need of socialization, too much is often detrimental. One on one for academics is perfect but does not provide enough stimulation and a classroom environment is just the opposite. The first step is to look at all of our options without leaving any out, even the ones we absolutely reject right off the bat. Taking a good look at every option, the good and bad ones will give us the education we need to come up with creative solutions.

Gather as much facts about every option. Public Schools, private schools, home school support schools, home schooling at home, public online virtual schools, private online virtual schools and of course the laws in your state. Ask every question you can think of. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Ask around, look online and don't let fear rule your decisions. With all my heart I wanted my son to go to the school that was attached to my home church and fear kept me from looking at other viable options for much longer than was necessary.

Leave yourself open to new ideas. My son went to private school till 5th grade. It was absolute torture trying to keep up. Finally when it became obvious that it was no longer working I decided to home-school. It has been a fabulous experience for us both and I wish I had been brave enough to try it sooner. I purchased curriculum, set up schedules and after about a month I put it all in a box and started to concentrate on the things that my son needed most and we worked on those. I went from traditional to eclectic lickety split. I found online games, videos, typing programs, online spelling programs, vocabulary software, online reading programs and we worked on things till he learned them, however long it took. We took piano lessons, art lessons and swimming lessons. We spent 6 months on Math facts. On days that one thing wasn't working we switched to something else. Life is too short. As a result my son reads wonderfully and loves to learn. That was middle school. During that time we also found a wonderful home school support school.

Now that he is starting High School he is taking some classes online and going part time to a nearby Christian High School. Technically he is still homeschooled so he will also be attending a Home School support school. At some point we will use an umbrella school to consolidate his High School Credits in order to get a High School Diploma or he may graduate from the High School he is attending. Every year is different and I have learned to always have a plan A, plan B & even a plan C. These days though I am certain that it will all come together. Fear no longer rules my decisions.

Tips—

1. After getting the facts, think over your options carefully and talk them over with carefully selected people who are sensitive to your situation. I often use counseling services when I get stuck on the tough decisions. Remember: If you have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C it’s easier to move on if something doesn't work out like it seemed it might. Allowing ourselves to think out of the box has been a freeing experience.

2. I am always careful to explain any changes with my son well in advance and prepare him for each transition as best as possible. I also try to anticipate anything that may cause him anxiety or that needs to be addressed a head of time. One example is I always show him around any new setting to make sure he knows his way around very well and knows who to ask if he needs help. I check in often to make sure he is settled in and make sure I am available if I am needed. My son is a special gift to me and I never take that gift for granted.

3. Obviously every option is not right for everyone. That is why it is so important to get the facts not only about your options but the facts about your families strengths, weaknesses, resources and support options.


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… Awesome! We are on much the same journey... 5 years in therapeutic schools and finally having the courage to listen... and on year two of homeschooling. It's been a blessing for us all as we grow and change and learn... anything is possible! Not perfect - but better! Thank you - this was exciting and encouraging to read. :) Peace!
•    Anonymous said… great article... we are on much the same journey t midde school part.thank you! :)
•    Anonymous said… Homeschooling successfully...
•    Anonymous said… I got the school to provide my son with the work and a tutor to do homeschooling to take some of the pressure off of me but they only tutor him an hour a day and he is going into 6th grade so I still need to work with him a few hours a day.He has begged me not to send him back ..he hates it.The pyschologists disagree with me and think he needs to be in school for social ization but I think the type of socialization in school is usually neagative anyway so he's not missing anything. I am going to put him into a social group with kids he can relate to.But back to the topic ,I was in the same boat with schools saying he needed to be in the mainstream classroom since he was so intelligent…but its not just about intelligence,what about his anxiety and sensory issues...they just don't get it and don't want to either:(
•    Anonymous said… I had to yell beg scream and cry for 4 years to get my son an IEP... even failing all his classes for the same exec function disability reason for years didnt get the point across .... *sigh* "but he is so smart"..... yes and he forgets everything including his coat even in -20 degree weather .... he needs help... *sigh* a very long bitter battle to finally get him the services he was entitled to for years. hopefully not too late to do some good .
•    Anonymous said… thinking we will do home schooling,
•    Anonymous said… We're homeschooling too

*   Anonymus said... Hopefully you have an IEP for your son. If not obtain this and ask the person doing the screening to include things that help your son behaviorally. If you have it down on paper, from a professional, sometimes it helps. I'm a counselor (my husband is a teacher) and we have a child on the spectrum but even with all our skills it took FOREVER to get the school to understand that children on the spectrum need different things. When we finally got their by in things started to change slowly, but it takes extreme patience (baby steps too), and good understanding from administrators (tolerance for children with special needs). Get everything down in writing when you suggest something to the school. This helps for follow up and just keep plugging away. When our child went to that school district my good friend and I we would utilize each other to bounce ideas, letters, and strategies off of each other before sharing them with the school district. If it weren't for her there were days that would have been tougher! So try to find others in the district that are in the same position as you are and work together. There is power in numbers. Good luck! We ended up moving when things were getting better and are in a district that is COMPLETELY different. It is so validating!

Please post your comment below...

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...