Aspergers Syndrome And Education Policy

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Beginning the 1960s, the United States have various laws intended to secure the rights of disadvantaged children due to their disabilities. One crucial legislation, which is the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act), stated that children should be placed in a least restraining environment to support education (May 2005). As stated by Anderson, Chitwood and Hayden (1997 cited in -May 2005) that before the implementation of IDEA, school in the U.S. always separate students with disabilities from mainstream students.

On the other hand, our nation has laws that require schools to give students equal access to education. Consequently, increasing number of disadvantaged students is being assimilated into regular education classrooms. IDEA provided least restrictive environment to the students with disabilities. One disability that is becoming more recognized is the Asperger's Syndrome (May 2005). This paper will discuss an issue that involves multiple stakeholders including teachers, school administrators, voters, parents, policymakers, politicians and the government. It will also describe the issue in different viewpoints and then create stand on the issue discussing reasons for the position.

Legislatures' Outlook towards Students with Asperger's Syndrom

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In 1975, Congress have enacted the Education of All Handicapped Children and reauthorized it in 1990 in the form of IDEA. This law ensures that all students with disabilities will receive a free and suitable public education. It also states that students with disabilities must be place in the LRE (least restrictive environment) where they can develop their academic, social and emotional skills (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 20). In other words, students with disabilities must be educated together with mainstream students. Finally, it states that students with disabilities must have an IEP, which describes the student's present level of functioning, their goals for the following years and how these objectives will be assisted using special programs (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 20). Since Asperger Syndrome presents significant challenges, the impact of this condition on learning and education is significant. In this sense, Asperger syndrome is considered as a disability under IDEA. Under the same law, children who suffer in this are legally entitled to IEP plan and necessary accommodations from the educational institutions to help them attain their academic and social goals (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 20).

Individualized Education Program

The government, together with education professionals and parents of children with disabilities created the IEP to satisfy the individual needs of students with disabilities. The IEP will serve as the basis for everything that will occur to students within their school for the following year. The IEP teams should consist of special education and general education instructors, occupational therapists, speech language therapists, school psychologists and families. They should meet regularly to tackle student's progress on IEP objectives (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 20).

In this sense, the government requires general education instructors to report to the IEP team regarding the students' progress towards satisfying specific academic, social and behavioral objectives and goals as indicated in the IEP. The IEP also requires teachers to create new objectives for the students for review in IEP meetings (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 20).

Teachers and Schools' Perspective

This section will discuss teachers and schools' outlook regarding students with AS specifically what they feel regarding educating students with AS. It will mainly consists of their main responsibilities how they should handle students with AS. Prior to that, it would be important to first define Asperger's syndrome.

The latter is a kind of developmental disorder, also known as the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The latter is a specific group of neurological conditions including lesser or greater degree of language impairment and communication skills. This may also include limited or recurring behavioral patterns. ASDs may consist of classic autism, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. Unlike children with autism, children with AS are able to sustain their early language skills (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2009).

The most usual indication of Asperger's syndrome is a child's obsessive interest towards a topic or single object. Consequently, their conversations towards other people will be concerning little else. Their knowledge, high vocabulary level and formal speech styles makes them look like juvenile teachers (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2009). Other features of Asperger's syndrome consist of recurring routines or rituals, oddness in language and speech, inappropriate emotional and social behaviors and their incapability to socialize with their peers. They also have awkward and uncoordinated motor movements and issues with non-verbal communications (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2009).

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From the teachers and students' perspective, young students with Asperger's syndrome are often isolated within the classroom due to their poor skills and limited interests. Students with AS may interact with other people but make conversation difficult by inappropriate or unconventional behavior or they simply want to communicate about their sole interest. Children with this kind of syndrome often have developmental problems in motor skills such as climbing outdoor equipment, grabbing a ball or pedaling a bike. Motor skills are usually awkward and weakly coordinated with a walk that stilted (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2009).

The IDEA indeed secures children's right to the best public education possible and it presents a challenge for educators. Since classroom enrollment limits keep increasing, instructors are spread thin. Inclusion of students with disabilities obliges instructors to teach children at various places developmentally. Furthermore, the incorporation of children with AS obliges teachers to employ various teaching strategies to educate each student effectively (May 2005).

As Cumine, Leach and Stevenson (1997 cited in May 2005) stated, majority of teachers believe that they have not acquired training to educate children with Asperger's syndrome. Educators who often teach mainstream students also senses more pressure engage in these educational plans. Cumine, Leach and Stevenson also addressed the concerns regarding insufficient time to collaborate as well as the scarcity of special education instructors. These problems also signify the mainstream teachers will ultimately handle the responsibility of implementing teaching strategies within the classroom (May 2005).

The following six-step plan will discuss teaching strategies needed by regular instructors who do not have sufficient knowledge regarding students with Asperger's Syndrome as well as their special needs (May 2005).

Step 1: Teachers should educate themselves

Being a person accountable for the education and behavior management of all their students, including children with disabilities, they should possess working understanding regarding Asperger's Syndrome and other related behaviors. Various behaviors are components of Asperger Syndrome (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 13).

For instance, when children with AS did not response to the teachers' question, this does not mean that they are ignoring the teachers or try to fool around. Such behaviors are often related to Asperger Syndrome and they could be having difficulty expressing their needs in a socially acceptable manner. It would be prudent for the teachers to find ways how to create a comfortable environment for the students with AS so that they can engage meaningfully within the classroom (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 13).

Learning about Asperger Syndrome and learning specific characteristics of their students will support teacher to manage effectively this behavior and teach their class. The following are useful tips that can help teachers in their school life for young people with Asperger Syndrome.

Teachers should operate on "asperger time." The latter signifies that they should spend time teaching twice as much they do normally on mainstream students. Children with AS usually requires additional time to finish their homework, collect materials and to support themselves during the transition (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 13). Teachers should provide this time or change requirements for them so that they can fit in the allocated time and be able to compete with other students. Teachers should prevent rushing a child with Asperger Syndrome; otherwise, they may shut down. If teachers add time restrictions to an already stressful day, students with AS can become immobilize and overwhelm. (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 13)

Manage the environment. Any unexpected changes can enhance anxiety for students with AS. Even if these changes are minor, they can result to considerable stress. Teachers should be consistent on their schedule and prevent immediate changes as much as possible. Educators should first discuss any changes in advance through showing an image of change. They can manage the environment through incorporating student preferences that may help minimize the children's stress. For instance, if they will go to a field trip, students with AS can be assigned to sit with a group of favored peers (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 13, Students with Aspergers: Tips for Teachers 2009)

Creating a balanced agenda. Instructors should create a visual schedule that consists of everyday activities for students with AS. Moreover, instructors must monitor or restructure the daily schedule of specific classes (Students with Aspergers: Tips for Teachers 2009, Myles et.al. 2005, p. 14). For instance, free time, which is recognized as fun for normal students, can be a challenging time for students with AS due to noise levels, the difficulty of socializing and dealing with changeable events. Teachers should restructure free time for children with Asperger's Syndrome. It should consist of prescribed activities to minimize stress and anxiety. (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 14)

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An effective scheduling strategy is to change preferred and non-preferred activities during downtime schedule. Downtime is different from free time. Free time can be defined as period during school that have restricted teacher supervision and when students often involved in unstructured activities, including lunch time and vacant period between classes (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 14). Unstructured activities often are stressful for students with Asperger Syndrome. Unlike free time, down time offers an opportunity for a student with AS to de-stress or relax. Students' downtime may consist of listening to the music or drawing to lessen stress. During downtime, students with AS do not experience demands associated with socialization and unstructured events (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 14).

Share the agenda. Children with Asperger Syndrome often face difficulties in differentiating an essential and nonessential. Furthermore, children with AS do not remember any information that most people have learned from their previous experiences or from common sense. In other words, it would be important for teachers to state the obvious (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 14)

Simplify the language. In teaching students with AS, teachers should use simple language and must speak at a slow pace. Teachers should not expect students to read between the lines (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 14)

Supervise change of plans. Teachers should ensure that students are aware with planned activities (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 15)

Provide reassurance. Teachers should always give information and reassurance so that the students are aware what they are to do. Reassurance should be provided frequently so that children are aware that they are moving to the right direction (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 15).

Teachers should be generous with praise. Teachers should search for opportunity throughout the day to inform children with Asperger Syndrome for their right actions. Even attempts must be complimented (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 15)

Step 2: Reach out to Parents

Working partnerships between parents of students with AS and teachers. Parents serve as the best source of information concerning their children and asperger's syndrome. These partnerships should start with meeting prior to the school year. Afterwards, it would be important for teachers and parent to implement mutually agreed patterns of communication with the parents for the entire school year. (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 16)

Teachers' conversations with family must emphasize on the individual characteristics of the student, identifications of strengths and weaknesses of the student. Parents/guardians may offer suggestions for practical accommodations that can be implemented in the classroom to support the students with AS to perform on their highest potential. Teachers should remember that it is important to create a sense of mutual respect whilst sustaining realistic expectations for the course of the year. Creating trust with the parents is very significant (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 16).

Communication with families regarding the progress of the student must be ongoing. Educators should also initiate monthly meeting to discuss students' progress as well as any difficulties that they encounter. If it would be impossible for the teacher to schedule meeting and make, they can exchange emails, audiotapes or journals (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 16). Though the information that will be presented to parents should contain strategies used, challenges and alternative solutions, teachers should not forget to provide favorable feedbacks on achievements and milestones that the students attained. Parents might respond regarding their point of views on the problems and their suggestions for solutions. Teachers can also provide specific advice on how parents should help their children in attaining social and behavioral goals (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 16).

Transparent and constant communication with parents of students with AS develops a solid alliance. However, teachers should also take note that parents might have unfavorable experiences with other schools or instructors in the past. Educators and schools should have to help them work through that. If instructors attempt to communicate with the parents regarding the progress of their child and pay attention to their suggestions and recommendations, they will accept the teachers as their child's supporter. Therefore, there could be higher chances that teachers will receive complete support from the parents (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 16).

Step 3: Prepare the Classroom

Once the teacher realized the characteristics and sensitivities of their students with AS, teachers have no the information they need to organize the classroom completely. They could also determine ways that they can place students with AS inside the classroom to make the more at ease without compromising classroom plans in general (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 17).

Step 4: Educate Peers and Encourage Social Goals

It appears that the most usual myth regarding students with Asperger Syndrome is that they are not capable of creating meaningful interactions and friendships with other people. However, for the most part such assumption is not true. Indeed, having Asperger's Syndrome signifies social issues that makes difficult for them to create relationships with other children. On the other hand, if they provided with assistance, children with Asperger Syndrome can involve peers and implement lasting relationships with others. It is important that teachers of students with AS believe that this fact is true (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 17).

Unambiguously expressed social skills and goals must be part of the IEP and evaluated regularly progress. Since teasing might be a usual occurrence in young students' daily school experience, children with AS usually cannot distinguish between playful and mean teasing. Instructors and parents can support students with AS to determine the difference between these teasing and react accordingly (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 18). However, there is a more serious kind of teasing, which is bullying. In this sense, it would be important for educators and school personnel whether their students with AS are vulnerable targets of bullying. They should also become vigilant for any indications of activities in protecting student's safety and self-esteem (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 18).

One approach that school staff or teachers could do is to designate a safe student in the classroom that would serve as a friend to listen with them and report any possible issues with other students. Furthermore, educators must regularly check students with AS and/or parents to assure comfort of student within the classroom. Apart from the safe student strategy discussed above, it would be important to teach other students regarding the usual traits and behaviors of children with Asperger Syndrome (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 18).

Asperger Syndrome characteristics can cause normal students to view students with AS as weird or peculiar, which can result to circumstances such as bullying or teasing. Studies show that students with sufficient knowledge regarding AS have more favorable attitudes, have higher understanding and have higher acceptance towards students with AS (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 18). Furthermore, if these students were informed regarding how to interact effectively with students with Asperger Syndrome, there would be higher chances of regular and more positive social interactions. Majority of social interactions happened outside the classroom, in the playground. Without previous planning and extra support, students with AS could end being alone during free time. In order to assure that this would not happen; teachers may consider rotating assignments of playground friends for the students with AS (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 18).

Students will then have an opportunity to examine and create suitable social behavior of various classmates throughout the year. Furthermore, these cliques can be promoted even outside the school. The academic and social effectiveness of young students with Asperger Syndrome can be significantly improved when the classroom environment helps them to overcome their unique challenges (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 18).

Step 5: Adhere on the Educational Program Development

The next critical step in educators' preparation will be to collaborate on the development and implementation of educational structure for the students with AS. It would be crucial to create this plan based on the evaluation of the students' present academic skills and their goals, as defined in the IEP (please refer to legislature's outlook for further details regarding IEP) (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 18).

Step 6: Supervise Behavioral Challenge

Majority of Students with Asperger syndrome perceive school as a demanding environment. Usual academic and social circumstances that can be managed by mainstream students can pose as stressors to students with AS. Examples include (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 19):

Changing schedules due to unpredictability of events

Understanding teachers' instructions

Interaction with classmates

Expecting changes such as sounds, noises, odors and classroom lighting (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 18)

Students with AS occasionally express to other that are facing difficulties in coping with the stressors. In fact, they may often neither realize that they are under stress nor presently experiencing crisis. On the other hand, meltdown happens without any indication. Asperger syndrome often pose a specific behavioral pattern, which is can be subtle, that may serve as an indication of behavioral outburst for a juvenile with AS. An effective way to overcome these behavioral outbursts is to avoid those using tailored fit environmental, social, academic and sensory supports and modification to environment and expectations (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 20)

While the aforementioned steps clearly provide effective guidelines in teaching students with AS (Myles et.al. 2005, p. 20), it is clear that employing these steps is overwhelming. For instance, communicating with parents or even assessing each student with Asperger might require considerable time. In other words, this will signify additional tasks for an already demanding schedule for teachers (University of Kent 2009). The question remains how teachers could manage their schedule and plans in accommodating students with Aspergers. Are there any actions that the school should do in order to assist teachers who are accommodating students with Aspergers?

Parents' Perspectives regarding Aspergers Syndrome

It is common for parents to face difficulties in teaching life skills to their children with AS. One specific difficulty is that those skills that do not require repetitive training for normal children, is hard to establish in their child with AS. If parents had no knowledge regarding Asperger Syndrome or they do not yet realized that their child has AS, they will often unfairly criticize their children. Consequently, parents would feel powerless to help (Richfield n.d.). Being a parent of a child with Aspergers Syndrome, Dr. Richfield (n.d.) believes that parents are in the excellent position to coach their children using effective ideas and realistic anticipations.

Parents should realize that when their children are suffering from Asperger's Syndrome or other similar issues, their children would perceive a world as a huge puzzle that serve as a huge stressor to their senses and causes confusion. Inconsistencies, immediate disappointment and roughness of life can drive sudden emotional outbursts, which can be troubling for those people surrounding them (Richfield n.d.). Efforts to initiate conversation from them can be unlikely. Furthermore, their perspectives can be one-sided since it would be difficult for them to evaluate empathy and taking perspectives of other people. Because of their narrow-mindedness, children with AS' ability to realize what people expect them is minimal (Richfield n.d.).

Because of these problems, parents can help these children in building this huge puzzle through using the following tips:

Parents should teach their children with AS regarding conversations with other people. Parents could use conversational techniques such as giving information without asking, giving questions relevant to the topic being discussed, discussing subjects that were previously explained, pausing to enable other to express themselves (Richfield n.d.)

Explain to their children how these techniques can be combined together in order to come up with an effective conversation. Parent should write these techniques in index cards and show them to their children to allow them to demonstrate such technique. Once these children have developed some proficiency, it would be important to record discussions so that children would be able to listen to their achievement and recognize areas for improvement. (Richfield n.d.)

Parents should prepare their children for immediate and unexpected alterations through highlight those incidents. Children should realize that life usually comprises of twists and turns that even normal children find difficult to understand. Parents must explain how these events could occur frequently such as giving examples why they occur and how they occur. They could enlighten their children through providing 'thinking side tests'-challenging them to think which is not based on their emotions. Present a notion called 'say-it-to-yourself' solutions that supports self-control and unambiguous understanding. For example, if parents misplaced their possession, they could employ it as opportunity to show the solution using 'say-it-to-yourself' solutions. (Richfield n.d.)

Improve their inference skills through using visual media such as televisions and real life observations. Discuss ways how they could acquire such ability through realizing clues and determining what happens in a situation. Help them identify specific facial expressions, body language, voice tone, eye contact and other clues when watching televisions or observing someone from a distance. They could watch a television show, turn off the volume and enable them to realize what is happening to the casts involved. Parents could also search for other inference tests such as movie previews, snapshots and advertisements to improve their children's inference skills (Richfield n.d.)

Other recommendations in supporting their children with Asperger Syndrome include:

Aside from the aforementioned strategies, parents could also search for educational and training programs that emphasizes educating and supporting their children with AS

Train their children with self-help skills. Acquiring these skills would help their children to acquire maximum independence (Helping Your Child 2010)

Since it may not be obvious to others that a child has AS, parents should inform others regarding their child's condition. Parents should also deal effectively with teachers, medical staff and caregivers

Search for programs that could address to their child's specific needs or deficiencies.

If treatments are available, parents should choose these programs as long as it focus on long-term outcomes and emphasizes developmental level of their child (Helping Your Child 2010)

Parents should still remember that their children are only a part of their family and their needs must be balanced with other family members. In other words, they should not ignore that needs of their other children

Parents should try to acquire support from other family members. They could not help their child if they are not meeting their own emotional and physical needs (Helping Your Child 2010).

Personal Perspective regarding Student's with Asperger Syndrome

It is clear that addressing issues related to Asperger Syndrome requires cooperation among stakeholders since each of them play an important role to improve the well-being of students with AS. The government is responsible for implementing policies that could assist students with Asperger Syndrome. They are also capable of implementing programs such as IEP and trainings to help educators and parents of children with AS to deal with these issues. However, implementing such laws and programs will be unsuccessful without the help of education professionals and parents of children with AS. One good example is when the government has developed the IEP programs. Unless the government consists of parent with disabled children and educational professionals (which is more unlikely); it would be important to develop those programs using teachers' and parents' perspectives.

Parents also play an important role in supporting their children with AS. As Richfield stated, parents are in their best position to perform such responsibility. While teachers are responsible in improving children's academic and social skills, parents are responsible for improving social and emotional skills of their children. Furthermore, it is also important that teachers and parents communicate each other. Parents serve as the best source of information concerning their children and asperger's syndrome while teachers play a significant role towards academic and social development of their students. One issue that most literatures in this research might have ignored is the demanding schedule of teachers. How could teachers accommodate children with AS considering that their hands are already full?

One recommendation is that schools should provide lighter schedule for those teachers who will accommodate students with Asperger's syndrome. For instance, if they used to give teachers two hours vacant periods for teachers to perform paperwork (e.g. preparing lesson plans etc.), then they should give three-hour vacant period for those teachers who teach children with Asperger's syndrome. Teachers could use an additional hour to assess the progress of some students with Asperger's syndrome and to communicate with their parents whenever necessary. The government could also provide training or seminars for teachers who will teach children with AS before the class year starts. Since teaching a student with Asperger syndrome is far more challenging, it would be prudent for the teachers to receive monetary rewards. Further, school administration should also perform evaluation to the teachers to check the progress of teachings.

Conclusion

Asperger's syndrome is a kind of developmental disorder, also known as the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The latter is a specific group of neurological conditions including lesser or greater degree of language impairment and communication skills. This may also include limited or recurring behavioral patterns. ASDs may consist of classic autism, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. Unlike children with autism, children with AS are able to sustain their early language skills (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2009).

The most usual indication of Asperger's syndrome is a child's obsessive interest towards a topic or single object. Consequently, their conversations towards other people will be concerning little else. Their knowledge, high vocabulary level and formal speech styles makes them look like juvenile teachers (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2009). Other features of Asperger's syndrome consist of recurring routines or rituals, oddness in language and speech, inappropriate emotional and social behaviors and their incapability to socialize with their peers. They also have awkward and uncoordinated motor movements and issues with non-verbal communications (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 2009).

It is clear that addressing issues related to Asperger Syndrome requires cooperation among stakeholders since each of them play an important role to improve the well-being of students with AS. The government is responsible for implementing policies that could assist students with Asperger Syndrome. They are also capable of implementing programs such as IEP and trainings to help educators and parents of children with AS to deal with these issues. However, implementing such laws and programs will be unsuccessful without the help of education professionals and parents of children with AS. One good example is when the government has developed the IEP programs. Unless the government consists of parent with disabled children and educational professionals (which is more unlikely); it would be important to develop those programs using teachers' and parents' perspectives.

Parents also play an important role in supporting their children with AS. As Richfield stated, parents are in their best position to perform such responsibility. While teachers are responsible in improving children's academic and social skills, parents are responsible for improving social and emotional skills of their children. Furthermore, it is also important that teachers and parents communicate each other. Parents serve as the best source of information concerning their children and asperger's syndrome while teachers play a significant role towards academic and social development of their students.