When the DSM-V was published in May 2013, Asperger's syndrome was reclassified as high functioning autism. Nonetheless, many people continue to use the older name. Unlike other autism spectrum disorders, one of the key criteria for an Asperger’s or high functioning autism diagnosis is an average to above-average IQ. Many Asperger’s kids are extremely intelligent, even falling into the genius range. Yet those with Asperger’s have clear deficits in such areas as communication and social skills that must be addressed. Choosing or designing an educational program for a child with Asperger’s is a balancing act between intellectual stimulation and deficiency remediation.
Inclusion and Integration
The Individuals With Disabilities Act, or IDEA, guarantees children with disabilities the right to an education in the least restrictive environment. Each child with a disability gets a written IEP, or individualized education program, that defines the accommodations the child will receive and sets concrete goals for the next year. With a strong IEP, committed teachers and the appropriate accommodations, some children with Asperger’s do well in a traditional, or inclusion, classroom. According to the Asperger’s Association of New England, or AANE, an integration classroom is created when several special-needs children are placed in the same traditional class.
The AANE suggests that a viable option for some Asperger’s students is a specialized classroom. The class should be made up of bright students with social or non-verbal communication deficits. Asperger’s children should not be placed in a special education classroom that includes students with low intelligence or behavior problems, as these classes do not provide the intellectual stimulation, predictable routine or calming environment that kids with Asperger’s need.
Private Day or Boarding School
Private schools are another option for kids with Asperger’s syndrome. Some schools, such as the Vanguard School in Lake Wales, Florida, are specifically designed for high-functioning students with specific disorders such as ADHD or Asperger’s. Others are designed for neurotypical students, but provide the small class size, sense of decorum, structured environment and individualized educational pathways that help children with Asperger’s succeed. Some Asperger’s kids adapt well to boarding schools, particularly those that are highly structured, while others are not ready to leave the stability of home.
Homeschooling works well for many Asperger’s children, notes YourLittleProfessor.com. Because they are intelligent, teachers often expect Asperger’s kids to fend for themselves, not realizing the extent of their special needs. Kids with Asperger’s are often socially ostracized or even bullied in school, and many develop anxiety or depression. Homeschooling allows you to take control of your child’s education, creating an individualized plan that works for him. The downside is that children with Asperger’s need to learn to overcome their social deficits. A sheltered environment, away from other kids, is not conducive to social skills training. If you choose to home-school, enroll your child in activities that require him to socialize with both kids and adults.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Asperger Syndrome
- HoagiesGifted.com: Giftedness and Asperger’s Syndrome
- U.S. Department of Education: IDEA 2004 -- Least Restrictive Environment
- U.S. Department of Education: IDEA 2004 -- IEP
- AANE: Some Useful Educational Interventions for Students With Asperger Syndrome
- Vanguard School: The School
- YourLittleProfessor.com: Is Home School Right for Your Child With Asperger’s?
- DSM-V: Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet
- Photodisc/Digital Vision/Getty Images