Many children struggle daily with challenges from living with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The families of these unique children also struggle, not only in their personal lives but also in trying to find some sort of quality of life for the child in an educational setting. This raises the question of whether some children in this spectrum, specifically those with Asperger's Syndrome (AS), be allowed to remain in the general education population of schools? The alternative may be to place them in what is known as self-contained classrooms or classrooms for children with behavioral disorders. When evaluating this question, one must have an understanding of the disorder known as Asperger’s Syndrome as well as some of the misconceptions. There are benefits to having a child like this in the class, both for the child and for others involved including students and faculty. Strategies exist that can help facilitate learning and growth which will assist in preparing all of the children for their futures.
An understanding of Asperger's Syndrome is necessary when evaluating a diagnosed child's educational plan. Asperger’s is not a behavioral disorder it is a form of autism. Symptoms of children with AS include impairment in social interaction and communication, along with restricted and/or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The children can be very capable of learning and typically have normal to above average intellect as well as a normal physical appearance. "Frequently underlying the social difficulties in AS is a misinterpretation of social intent, leading to social misunderstandings and subsequent withdrawl particularly in novel and unexpected social interactions" (as cited in Semrud-Clikeman, 2010). AS children can be perceived as awkward or overly-sensitive and can become easily upset by changes in routine, unclear understanding of what is expected, or sensatory stimulation such as bright lights and loud noise. These types of situations can cause anxiety, fear, and frustration which can lead to inappropriate behavior, such as tantrums and outbursts. They also can have difficulty expressing themselves and struggle to find proper words to describe how they are feeling and why. When not properly oriented on the subject, diffusing this type of situation can be a hard task to achieve. It really takes patience, empathy, open-mindedness and detective-like skills to root out the cause. The cause may be simply that the child became anxious because of the way someone was staring at him or her. These situations can make them feel very uncomfortable. Again, their reactions are based on their perceptions and interpretation of the other person. The anxiety may then rise to physical expression of frustration, causing a snowball effect until someone takes the time and effort to first calm the child and then walk the child through the experience and help them explain what is causing their discomfort. Once acquainted with the child, this process can be very quick with resolution in a few short minutes. AS children are very honest and are sometimes described as not being able to tell lies. The root of their issue is usually very legitimate even though the reaction seems to be out of proportion to situation at hand. Some parents reported they felt certain misconceptions by school staff that their children were "poorly behaved, obnoxious" and that the behavior was attributed to "bad parenting" (Brewin, 2008).
There are benefits for both the Asperger child and for a typically functioning child when the children are engaged in interaction with one another. These interactions afford opportunities for learning social skills to both groups of children. "Most kids are uncomfortable... find it difficult to interact with a child with disabilities" (Brewin, 2008). Facilitated...