The seemingly endless reports of unethical and opportunistic individuals related to autism seem to be occurring on a regular basis and where there’s money to be made, there will always be those who are willing to take advantage of the misfortunes of others.
I myself received a rude entry into the world of autism and because of a
scamming therapist, my twin sons lost the opportunity for early intervention. Their diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome and high functioning autism didn’t come until they were in
the fourth grade. Through my tears of grief, I also felt relieved that they would finally be in an appropriate program with a teacher who knew what she was doing.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.
After transferring to a school with an inclusion program for autism, the first thing my sons’ new teacher told me was that she didn’t know anything about Asperger’s, but she would Google it when she got home. Their social skills consisted of one period of playing a board game they could never finish by the bell. To make matters worse, the primary function of their classroom aide was to make my kids produce as much work as their neurotypical peers, raining down punishment if they didn’t.
I found out that special education teachers in my state are not educated in autism, nor are the teachers who host children with autism in their mainstream classes. And, of course, neurotypical classmates have no preparation for having a person on the autism spectrum in their midst.
Today, my boys are in their first year of high school. One is doing okay, but the other is struggling. His school week is punctuated by spectacular meltdowns, leaving him humiliated before his teachers and peers.
It’s the same story year after year — glazed looks at the mention of best practices for Asperger’s, power struggles with teachers who don’t know what they’re doing and constant efforts on my part to assure that his condition is helped instead of exacerbated.
A breakthrough may come in the form of a DVD entitled, "Intricate Minds: Understanding Classmates with Asperger’s Syndrome." It is available at elementary, middle and high school levels and designed to help neurotypical kids understand and appreciate their classmates with Asperger’s Syndrome. Peppered with facts about the disorder, most of the video consists of children speaking openly and poignantly about what it is like to have this high functioning form of autism. While their stories are different, the common yearning for acceptance and respect is very clear.
Although geared for students, this DVD is also an important training tool for all adults who encounter children with Asperger’s and high functioning autism. It can be adapted for families, schools, counselors and health care professionals to help raise greater awareness about their peers who struggle with these disorders.
My suggestion is that "Intricate Minds" become part of the curriculum at my son’s high school – both for his teachers and his classmates. The DVD is now in the principal’s inbox. As a very tenacious advocate, I’m determined to sweep the sensory and emotional land mines from my son’s school environment so he can reclaim his self image as a capable and sociable young man.