Schooling Children with Asperger's
An appropriate school placement for a child with Asperger's should at least achieve the following three very important goals:
1- The child must be protected from being teased or bullied by other students: Children with Asperger's usually think, talk and behave unlike their classmates, becoming a target of bullies at school. Educating the administrators, teachers and students about Asperger's, along with employing a proactive, zero tolerance campaign against bullying may work at some school settings. If this cannot be accomplished, children with Asperger's should be educated in a separate building or school, surrounded by other students with Asperger's and educators with appropriate training and experience.
2- The child must receive social skills training throughout the school day from specifically trained professionals, in the classroom, during recess, at the cafeteria, etc.: Social skills training is an extremely important aspect of the education of a child with Asperger's. Most schools would make it available in a group setting, once a week, and only for an hour, which clearly is not enough. Schools that specialize in educating children with autistic spectrum have the opportunity to provide social skills training throughout the school day, at various settings. In my opinion, academics come second to social skills training in the education of a child with Asperger's.
3- Academic content must be presented in accordance to the unique cognitive strengths and weaknesses of that particular child, as determined by a thorough neuropsychological testing. School systems are supposed to perform this evaluation, but their results tend to underestimate the child’s difficulties when a conflict of interest comes into play. Under those circumstances, parents should request an independent evaluation (sort of an educational “second opinion”) and demand that the school system pays for it.
R. Kaan Ozbayrak, MD