Sunday, July 3, 2011

Asperger Children: Invisible Needs

While in college, I was struck by a comment made by a young professor. She told our graduate group that she could find a learning disability in every one of us. This comment stayed with me when I began teaching and participated in autism testing, helping to assess autism symptoms in children. Working with children who were both identified and unidentified, I was able to recognize the complexities of invisible needs.

As a Resource Specialist, I had the luxury of being able to keep my door open to any person who required help. Almost daily I sat with parents whose children were unidentified yet were struggling at school. I worked with a wide range of disability categories including mild autism in children, severe autism, and Pervasive Developmental Delay, Not Otherwise Specified (PDD NOS symptoms), and helped to facilitate autism learning. Autism Syndrome is varied and complex. Educational placements and schedules are as varied as the needs of our students. When developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) many factors need to be taken into consideration. As IEP teams we bring to the table a broad range of experience as well as an understanding of our students. Not only do we consider the results of assessment, we gather and share information that is characteristic and uniquely individual. No two children are alike. Autistic symptoms vary from individual to individual; however, we live in a society that loves to label.

We must remember that our most significant classification is that we are all human beings! Our basic needs are very specific. While categories help us by providing access to important information, resources, and a better understanding of what support services are available to us as individuals, educators, and parents, we need to continue to look beyond these labels. When we look at our children we need to see their desire to learn, to achieve, to be accepted for their unique qualities, and to more fully appreciate their desire to be successful at living. Students with invisible needs are visible people. Let's make the commitment to really look at one another and to recognize and support each other in an enriching and meaningful way.

Every one of us is unique. Whether we are looking at Asperger Children, Autism in adults, or any number of invisible needs, we were all born with areas of strength and areas of difficulty. And we all deserve the opportunity to thrive!

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