The Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information and Support website (OASIS) states that “Asperger Syndrome … is a neurobiological disorder named for a Viennese physician, Hans Asperger, who in 1944 published a paper which described a pattern of behaviors in several young boys who had normal intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. In spite of the publication of his paper in the 1940′s, it wasn’t until 1994 that Asperger Syndrome was added to the DSM IV and only in the past few years has AS been recognized by professionals and parents.”
“Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It’s important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behavior, and most certainly not the result of “improper parenting”. ”
Many Asperger’s students have at least normal IQs, and many have exceptional talents and abilities. This year I had the pleasure of working with a young man with Asperger’s whom I found delightful; his sense of humor is acute, and his mathematical and scientific knowledge and aptitude is off the charts. Many Asperger’s students go on to college, but care must be taken, not only in the college environments from an academic standpoint, but also in housing and living skills.
Many Asperger individuals exhibit some Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and may require single housing. It is also advisable to look at colleges with counseling and/or strong LD/Academic support. Asperger Foundation International does have a list of colleges, but again, check to see what resources are available at each individual college. Highly “social” institutions, known for Greek Life and “partying”, may not be suitable for students who have issues with social interaction and/or reading social cues.
Taking a look at life skills is also essential. College Living Experience is a “bridge” program, and teaches students necessary life skills. What is essential is that you look at the residential life support available and discuss the student’s needs with that part of the college. Contact the Res Life people and discuss the student’s needs. The residential living environment will make or break an AS student’s college experience, and the parents’s lives as well. These students must be taught life skills in order to attain independence, and particularly self-advocacy skills.
The academic support is important, but the flexibility to take a lighter load is just as important. You need to see the school’s policy on this issue. Some students will simply not be able to take a full course load, particularly during the first year of college. Be sure that all testing details what accommodations this student needs both for test taking and for college. Choosing the right college for the individual student is important for everyone, but most particularly it is important for students who have disabilities of any kind.