Welcome to this week’s blog. I look forward to your comments and feedback to help shape the future of this blog site. I am a small part of a greater effort that is creating a forum and resource for educators and families working and living with individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. The three branches of this effort include medical, family and education. I have been honored to be the spokesperson for the education component.
I would like focus on two main ideas that will permeate many, if not all, future blogs. The first is that persons with Asperger’s Syndrome are often dealing with many hidden stressors. Sensory differences, anxiety associated with academic expectations, difficulty with organizational skills and more build upon each other in such a way that each day becomes overwhelming. When one is overwhelmed, it is difficult to engage in typical social exchanges. For those with a typical brain, this is so very difficult to process and understand fully. Chatting over a meal or while passing a colleague in the hall all seem to be simple tasks, perhaps even enjoyable. For those with a brain that is wired differently, as in the case of persons with Asperger’s, the cumulative toll that the daily stressors can take prevent them from having anything left for social exchanges.
Think of one of your worst days. You lost your keys for an hour, you were late for work, your car broke down on the way home. Do you feel like going to meet friends for dinner or would you rather take a walk, then a long hot bath and go to sleep to recover for another day? Most neurotypical persons are lucky to have these worst days every now and then. Persons with Asperger’s live with the stressors that come from a neurological origin every day.
As an educational consultant, I have often been called upon to provide support for both classrooms and individual students. When working with a student with Asperger’s Syndrome, I always interview the staff as part of my assessment and recommendations. I am often told that the student seems to be doing fine. This might be true on the surface, but I almost always find a very different picture once I gather more information from all stakeholders, especially the student. Since the student is often very bright and articulate, these attributes can almost serve as a mask for the underlying struggles. However, that same bright and articulate individual that seems to be O.K. at school punches a hole in the wall when asked to finish his homework at home. He kept it together all day, but at what expense?
So my second thought is that if we want to promote social skill development in persons with Asperger’s Syndrome, parents and educators need to identify strategies that will help to prevent and decrease neurological stress. Strategies to accomplish this may be different for each person based on their own strengths, needs and interests. I have learned much from persons with Asperger’s about the many creative coping strategies that might be effective. I hope that you share your stories so that we can all broaden our array of possibilities.
After an extensive career broadcast marketing, Jennifer and her husband searched for answers when their oldest son hit the kinder years with great difficultly. After finally learning that their oldest son had Aspergers Syndrome, she left her career in television and became a full time mother to both of her sons. Jennifer elicited the participation of her sons and together they produced several independent programs including a children’s animated series titled Ameriquest Kids (now distributed by Landmark Media) as well as her documentary and book titled, Coping to Excelling: Solutions for school-age children diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome.
The need for more information encouraged Jennifer to elicit a team of autism experts to provide weekly, original content to a website free to anyone seeking to live their best under the diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism/Aspergers Syndrome… appropriately titled: Aspergers101.com.