Euan (13, Aspergers Syndrome) is part of a group of young people with Aspergers who are making a DVD with support workers. They have asked if they can interview me in my professional capacity (as a professor of social policy who specialises in disability issues). I though I would tell them two contrasting storites of students I have taught with Aspergers Syndrome, to illustrate the importance of early intervention and support. (names changed)
Tom was a mature student who was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when he was 40 - he was 45 when he started stuyding with us. He had no support prior to this. He had several convictions for assault - arguments and misunderstandings that got out of hand. As part of his degree he had to do group work - he found this very stressful. He had a big fight with the leader of his group, and we had to give him an individual task instead. He fixated on the leader of his group, and stalked her via email demanding an apology and threatening her. He was disciplined for this. He then sent threatening emails to the secretary who sent him the dsciplinary letter. He ended up with another criminal conviction for threatening behaviour and being expelled.
Alan was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when he was 10, just as he started secondary school. He had lots of support in school and passed hi A-levels with flying colours. He came to us with an ARUA (the university equivalent of an IEP). He is currently in his penultimate year and has to start group work. He asked for an accommodation and received an individual assessment instead. He asked for specific tutoring explaining parts of his assessment that he was unclear about - eg when the format of an exam changed. He consequently graduated top of his class. (in social science!!!!)
I knew both of these students well - they were both incredibly intelligent, hard working, talented students. However, Alan had the skills to ask for the help he needed before he went into meltdown, because he had years of support and had learned how to deal with stressful situations well. Tom never had the chance or support to develop these skills.
This is why we have to fight - ferociously - for our kids to get the support and help they need. Everyone should have to chance for their lives to turn out like Alan's, and to avoid the risks faced by Tom.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - will make sense to the DVD's audience (teachers, and workers with ASD kids)?
Kirsty, mum to Euan (13, Aspergers Syndrome) Rohan (8, NT) and Maeve (6, NT)