While our Pressley and McCormick text, Child and Adolescent Development for Educators (2007) considers Asperger’s Syndrome as not only separate from Autism, but also to be more akin to a nonverbal learning disorder, Autism Speaks considers it to “be on the ‘high functioning’ end of the [autism] spectrum.” Pressley and McCormick find that autism and Asperger’s have similar symptoms, including the social deficits, fixation on certain activities – though, for children with Asperger’s, the activity is more likely to be socially acceptable. Unlike children with autism, those who have Asperger’s are more likely to realize that they are being outcast socially, though they have difficulty changing what makes them “awkward.” While the textbook definitions can be useful, the explanation I found most helpful came from children’s television, with this clip from Arthur: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9eATBV-_lg
Helping other students understand what a child with Asperger’s is going through may help alleviate some of the rejection that comes with feeling so different. While many young students will have difficulty understanding, as not even scientists know exactly what is going on, building a place where students respect differences and honor what makes them unique is a key factor in creating a safe place for learning. Helping students understand, and helping myself remember, that some students may not understand implied meaning or gestures will help everyone learn to communicate more effectively with each other.
I chose this mental health issue because it fascinates me. I encountered many children with Asperger’s Syndrome working in a museum, especially those with fixations on space or dinosaurs. While the conversations seemed slightly robotic or blunt, they amazed me with their wealth of knowledge on the topic they loved, and you could see their parents light up when their child engaged in social interactions.
Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guilford Press
Autism Speaks, Asperger Syndrome <http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/asperger-syndrome>