In recent years, more and more children have been diagnosed with autism or autistic spectrum disorders, including high-functioning autism or Asperger's Syndrome. Students who are non-verbal generally need special-education settings, but it is often harder to place students who are higher functioning but still on the autistic spectrum. This article explores how these children learn and where to place them in public and private schools.
How Asperger's Students Learn
Students with Asperger's or high-functioning autism may seem gifted in certain areas, and many of these children are quite bright. By definition, they have above-average intelligence, and they may also show talents such as a well-developed vocabulary or the ability to do math. Asperger's kids often also have an area of great interest, which may be in a restricted area, such as subway cars or certain kinds of animals. However, they may need a great deal of structure and routine, and they may react negatively to changes in schedules. They tend to have trouble making transitions, and they may need advanced warning when their schedules are going to change. They may also have sensory issues that make them sensitive to loud noises or to smells or textures. Finally, many students with Asperger's have difficulty communicating about their wants and needs. Even though their vocabularies may be sophisticated, they may struggle with the practical aspects of language.
Which Accommodations Asperger's Students Need
While Asperger's students are often bright, they may need accommodations or changes in their curriculum or classroom, including changes that are reflected in their Individual Education Plan, or IEP. While public schools are required to grant students with learning issues or other disabilities accommodations, private and parochial schools that do not receive public funding are not required to grant students these accommodations. However, with the proper documentation, including a professional evaluation, private schools may often grant students certain accommodations that can help these students handle the curriculum.
Asperger's students may require accommodations such as speech and language therapy to improve their ability to communicate and to help them understand when to use pragmatic expressions such as "how are you?" They may also need occupational therapy for autism, which helps them make sense of the information coming in through their senses and integrate it. Occupational and speech and language therapists can also help students with Asperger's play better with other kids and understand how to navigate the classroom. In addition, students with Asperger's may benefit from counseling to help them process their emotions.
What is the Best Placement for Students with Asperger's?
Asperger's students can thrive in a range of schools, and to determine the best school you may need the assistance of an educational consultant who has experience working with students with special needs, including Asperger's. Some students may do well in a mainstream private or public school setting, with additional services such as counseling or occupational or speech and language therapy provided in school or outside of school. Other students may benefit from placement in a special education school. There are schools designed to meet the needs of students with autistic spectrum disorder; some special-education schools are for lower-functioning kids, while others are for higher-functioning kids. Placing a higher-functioning child with Asperger's requires parents to visit the school to make sure that the school can offer the right academic program. Often, special-education schools are so small that they can offer individualized instruction to meet the needs of a child with Asperger's. In other words, these types of schools can offer a student a higher-level class in an area in which he or she excels, such as math, while still providing other services the child requires, such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and social skills training to help students improve their ability to interact with other children and teachers. With these types of services, students with Asperger's and other forms of autistic spectrum disorders can often be very successful in school.