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SAHM of 3 wonderful kids, one brilliant one Asperger Syndrome. This is not a living shrine to his disorder, but rather a place to share & discuss the different challenges that came with it and other things about parenting & life in general.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Getting the most of out School for my Asperger Son

Having a high functioning Asperger Teen in public school is a challenge to say the least.  The biggest problem is that no one notices anything about him until they start to talk to him for more than a few sentences.  And since he isn't in Special Ed, there are no services that is provided for him.  Kids with this disorder needs a different approach when it comes to learning, so I had to take the initiative.

I informed the counselor and gave her permission to inform his teachers about his disorder and some of the characteristics that could be misconstrued as a disrespectful behavior.  Some of this traits are the lack of eye contact, zoning out, and shutting down. In order for him to get the most of his classes, I requested for him to be seated in the front where there were little room for distractions. I also requested that all of his teachers to initial the daily school planner so that I can be aware of his academic performance and behavior in class.

There are over 1400 students in his high school with average of 30 kids per class.  It became my responsibility to get him the attention and the help that he required.  I managed to speak to at least 3 VPs, 2 counselors, and all of his teachers. I learned you have be vigilant in asking for what you want for your child and they know you are willing to do whatever and talk to whomever to get it.  Be passionate, be involved, but never lose your cool. You'll have better results by being nice than pushy:)

Structure: a key to success in School for Asperger child

Most people are aware of the vast spectrum in Autism and some of the challenges are different from individual to individual. When my son came to me the other day and mentioned "Tiger Mom." He commented that though I wasn't nearly as strict, I came very close. So it caused me to do a self-evaluation of the way I was parenting him and my two other children.

Here are some of the things I do on a daily basis (Well, I try):

- Basic Hygiene (teeth brushed? shaved? wearing clean clothes?)
- School Days ( even/odd classes? homework? cell phone? ITouch? Wallet?)
- After School (how was your day at school, who did you have lunch with...)
- School Work (check his planner for homework, makes him explain what each classes covered, and  what is due, make him show me his homework and his bag ready for the next day)
- Nightly Duty besides hygiene (check his iTouch, Facebook, cell phone to spot anything inappropriate)
- His Room: Absolutely no electronics! (Internet usage is allowed where I can see it. I check history to see the sights he visited.)

This doesn't include the constant reminders regarding his posture, eye contact, tone of voice, and awkward gestures, which comes from being an Asperger Child. 

I made this my daily routine. There are days when I don't have to remind him of these remedial things that comes naturally to my 8 year-old or even my 4 year-old. Strict? Maybe be. But all in all, it is working for me and my son. I would probably do similar things for my other kids when they are teenagers.

I have read places on how to transition your Aperger child into adulthood. It said to let him make mistakes so that he can learn from it. Also, someone once comment that I was forcing him to be normal, playing a part in a play like a robot, and I wasn't accepting him and his disorder for what it is.  Does that mean that I let him alone to his own vices and let him fall back academically and socially?  If he knew how to self-correct and be self-aware, he wouldn't have this disorder.

So call me rigid, ignorant mother sucking the individuality from my son, but he is now a sophomore in high school with lots of friends, he is an honor student in honor classes, participate in JROTC, weekly Korean classes, and is currently in 2nd year Spanish. And most importantly, he's happy.  It is far different from when he began to talk at age 4, and the numerous schools that didn't know what to do with him.  

So I continue, like many parents with Asperger or any other special needs; one day at a time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

News Release from American Psychiatric Association Feb 10, 2011

This is an interesting news release.  The APA is requesting changes to include new category of autistic spectrum disorder and new assessment of symptoms to improve accurate diagnoses of the disorder. 


Friday, February 4, 2011

I feel because he can't (Bullying Incident #2)

It’s difficult to be the new kid in high school, especially for a kid with Asperger. For my son, every day life in his school is a challenge. When he started his new school, I had a nagging suspicion that something will happen at school as he is socially awkward. But nothing prepared me for the phone call I received from him that day. My 15 year-old son, Will, who usually took the bus home asked me to pick him up from school. My instinct told me something was wrong and I drove to his school as fast as I could.

When he got in my car, I noticed that he was covered in chocolate milk right away. My heart sank and wanted to start questioning him, but I wanted to give him the chance to explain. Usually, he had a problem explaining himself, so I had to put all the information together like solving a puzzle.

During the lunch period, Will stood outside the cafeteria with his friends. A girl, who wasn't too friendly to him, opened a carton of chocolate milk and dumped it on his head as well as his shirt. He stood there stunned but unable to say anything. The girl, after saying a few nasty words, taunted him and walked off casually. She left him not covered in milk, but covered in shame. After her departure, Will cleaned himself up with the help of his friends and reported to the teacher. The worse thing was that he had to spend the next class with the very girl who'd done this to him. 

Anyone, in fact, any kid would have reacted otherwise. They would have fought back or at least come home to change. But my son didn't see any of those options. One of his problem or a blessing is that he can’t take hints or react fast enough. His brain is wired in such a way that he's not always able to empathize or even sympathize even with himself. To imagine him walking around school with that shirt on mortifies me 'till this day. And what made it more infuriating was that this girl knew of his disorder and knew that he wouldn't fight back.

Once I failed to get any attention from his counselor, his vice principal, and his principal. I came home, I called the police. They advised me to call them at school the next day, so the school faculty will be forced to take swift action. The next day, I called the counselor, V.P, and was directed to another V.P. that who said would forward my message. No one called.

While this matter was being investigated, two days after the incident to be precise, I got another call from Will during school hours. He said there were a group of kids led by that girl and they were creating a scene, taunting and calling him names like tattletale. I went straight to meet with his counselor and the vice principal. At the same time, I called and talked to the secretary of the District Superintendent. I told her why the principal hadn't call me yet. Was she too busy and too important to talk to me? Was my son's safety out of her job description? My mind was racing and my anger turned to rage.

A few hours later, I told the school faculty that I fear for my son's safety and demanded their action right away. I also went to court and filed a Temporary Restraining Order against this girl. Yes, I filed one against a 15-year-old, but not out of revenge but out of seeking justice for my son.  And finally after almost a week of these incidents, the principal called me at home and apologized. It seemed that she heard a long report from the Superintendent.
In the end, the girl and her father came and apologized. I withdrew the TRO from court. Now some may think that I went overboard and over reacted, but I do not think so. I felt terrible for having to take this to court, but it had to be done.  A clear message needed to be sent to the kids that bullying was not going to be tolerated.  And the school needed to know that their inaction was not going to go unnoticed.  No child should feel unsafe and no school should take bullying lightly. Yes, kids will be kids. High school is hard. But, for my son, it'll never be easy. Will is lucky that he's high-functioning and has a high I.Q. But it will be in his mid to late twenties before he is socially caught up. Until then, I will not sleep easy.

And for all the parents who has children with this disorder, I have something to say. Fight for your child's rights. Fight for your child's treatment. Fight for your child's education. Fight for him because he can't. Feel for him because he can't. And most importantly, never give up.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Disciplining a child with Asperger Syndrome

There are tendencies to use the disorder to excuse unruly behavior and tantrums.  I am guilty myself for letting some things go. But how much of those behaviors were due to his disorder and how much of being just plain spoiled?

Consistency, Discipline, Structure is what all kids require for their growth.  Kids with this disorder, needs more stringent structure and consistency than other children.  So with the help of my family, I have been able to remain quite strict on what is allowed and what is not allowed.

I have not received anything negative regarding his behavior at school and anywhere else.  His therapist also told me that he could see how strict I was because he was thriving in school as others with his disorder tended to under-perform. 

Disorder or not, child is a child and they need you to be a parent.  Don't sympathize, just empathize. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

To tell or Not tell him he had Asperger

Will was diagnosed in the 3rd grade after minor teasing incidents.  When he began his sessions, I don't recall ever telling him what he had.

We explained to him in a simple manner as he began his sessions with the therapist.  One reason was because I didn't know anything about the disorder to begin with so it was first for both of us.  I didn't know how to tell him.  I just said he needed to see the doctor to learn some things that was difficult for him.  I asked the doctor when to tell him, but she just said it was really up to me as a parent.

I made it simple and I didn't go into details.  I knew he was very intelligent, but it was something that I was only beginning to comprehend.  He knew that these sessions with the therapist helped him understand things about social interactions and other things that were difficult for him.  That is where we left it.  He would have more questions for me when he got older, and I waited.

My concern was that he would use the disorder as an excuse for things. I am thankful he hasn't done that. 

Since the bullying incident, we had to sit and have a frank discussion regarding his disorder.  I did it very casually and got a few books that we are reading through together.  I didn't make a big deal out of talking to him about it, I spoke to him like I would speak about anything else.  It helped to remain calm, positive and honest.  Most of all, talking with him without condescension.  And he is very happy I did that. 
Now we are on the same page and learning together.