Accelerating Change Through Shared Leadership
n What Are Your Major Change Initiatives?
educators-2000

Asperger's Syndrome
n What is Asperger's Syndrome?
n How Parents Can Work With Educators
n A Success Story
Links to External Resources

Click on the following link for Wikipedia's definition of Asperger's Syndrome:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger's_syndrome
Click on the following link for Asperger's Disorder homepage:
http://www.aspergers.com
Click on the following link for Parent Support Groups homepage:
http://www.childrensdisabilities.info/autism/groups-autism-asperger.html
Click on the following link for the Autism Society of America homepage:
http://www.autism-society.org
Click on the following link for the homepage of the Children's Environmental Health Network, featuring the Asperger Syndrome Coalition of the United States:
http://www.cehn.org/cehn/resourceguide/ascus.htm
Click on the following link for Reuven Feuerstein's website, the website of the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential:
http://www.icelp.org/asp/main.asp

What is Asperger's Syndrome?

This disability is sometimes difficult for specialists to diagnose. Asperger's is part of the "autism spectrum," and is one of the less-severe forms of autism. Children with autistic disorders may have a variety of behaviors that are at odds with what is usually considered "normal," but a major part of any autistic disorder is a problem with spoken language. Delayed language is an early tip-off that Asperger's, or another form of autism, may be present.

When I was looking for help when my son was a toddler, someone gave me a list of about a dozen behaviors that were often found in people with autism, such as twirling objects, and echolalia - which means the person simply repeats anything that is said to him. Actually, it was a pictorial list, illustrated with little stick people. My toddler didn't do all of the things listed on that page, but he did enough of them to make me suspect that he might have an autistic disorder. I took him to a private autism center, where I was relieved to learn after the evaluation that he did not have autism. But at that time, when Asperger's was almost unknown, his diagnosis remained a puzzle.

Diagnostic reference
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the reference book used by psychologists and other specialists to diagnose various disabilities. Before Asperger's was included in the DSM (it was listed in 1994), people with behaviors that are now listed under Asperger's were sometimes called, "high-functioning autistic" or HFA. HFA is not listed in the DSM, but it is sometimes used interchangeably with Asperger's.

Usually, people with Asperger's can adjust with less difficulty to school, jobs, and daily living than those with more severe forms of autism. Some people with "classic autism" may never speak at all, or have a very small set of words, phrases, or sentences that they simply repeat. For the most part, people with Asperger's experience their disability in ways that are much less severe than people with classic autism. Although Asperger's, like other disabilities, is not outgrown, disabling behaviors can be overcome with the help of family members, teachers, and other specialists. My son today is a very cheerful, expressive, social young man, with circles of friends at work and in his neighborhood.

Help for preschool-aged children
Parents can go the local public school for help with having their toddler evaluated if they think he might have a disability, such as an autistic disorder. The child does not have to be school-aged to get this help. A federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, requires public schools to "search out and serve" disabled preschool children. Having your child diagnosed at a young age is an advantage, because he can get help through the public school system before he starts kindergarten or first grade. This early start, with specialized help, will increase his chances of being successful over his years of schooling.

A list of the most common signs of autistic disorders can be found on the website of the Autism Society of America, a nonprofit organization supporting individuals with autistic disorders, and their families. See links above for the ASA's homepage.
 

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  b Fostering Shared Leadership  
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All articles posted by permission of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)

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