Friday, June 20, 2008

Asperger's Syndrome

They say that one in a hundred a fifty kids now are on the autism spectrum.
Despite what official twits, such as Michael Savage say, Autism is real, and no matter how much my son "straightens up" and "acts like a man" he still a person with Autism.

Asperger's Syndrome is as much of a puzzle to me as other forms of autism. I watch my boy, who can't catch a ball, can't run, can't walk without tripping, has many odd mannerisms and a strange tone of voice, struggles with friendships, and needs to be taught many many things that neurotypical children just naturally pick up, such as how close to stand to a person, and how many times to repeat something for emphasis. (He likes to repeat things five to seven times on average)

Here is a formal definition I lifted from somehwhere:

"Asperger’s Syndrome is part of the Autism Spectrum. It is characterized by poor social interactions, obsessions, odd speech patterns, and other peculiar mannerisms. Although children with Asperger’s have an average to above average intelligence, they sometimes have specific learning issues and difficulty reading the body language of others. They also tend toward obsessive routines, unusual special interests or preoccupations, and sometimes display a sensitivity to sensory stimuli (for example, they may be bothered by a light that no one else notices; they may cover their ears to block out sounds in the environment; or they might prefer to wear clothing made only of a certain material)."

People with Asperger's Syndrome need help with pragmatic language and abstract thinking.
There should be more awareness among educators on how to best help children with Asperger's Syndrome in school. As it stands, there isn't enough, and children with AS are bullied, misunderstood, and treated as if they are strange and inferior, not as if they have a significant disability. This can cause lifelong pain, which just isn't necessary, and their many strengths are not often recognized.

Let's get some teacher workshops in schools, shall we?

Technology Vacation

You know there is a problem when kids have to check their schedules to find out if they can play, especially during summer vacation.
The other day, my daughter, who was happily and healthily bored, was outside coloring the bark of a tree red with Kool-Aid powder and water. She spied a friend of hers getting out of her mom's car.

"Hey...ya wanna come color this tree bark with me?"asked daughter.
"Uh, I dunno. I have to check my schedule," said friend.
"You have a schedule?" said my daughter.
"Sure. Don't you?"

It is true. My daughter's friend, even smack dab in the middle of summer, has a schedule of activities she has to follow, which includes strength training, speed and agility training, soccer practices, and soccer games, not to mention soccer meetings. She's twelve.

I know there are so many children like this nowadays that it makes my kids look like neglected slackers, since I purposefully do not book many scheduled activities for them.

Some of the best learning, thinking and creativity comes from bored kids. Parents, let your kids get so bored that they run out of things to do. Turn off the television, video games, and internet.
If you are brave, set out a pile of magazines, some glue and glitter and scissors and paper in the middle of the table and start washing the windows. See what they do. Save the vacuuming for later!

Put an empty bowl, a spoon, and a box of brownie mix on the counter and just leave it there, and go about your business.

And I know it sounds like child abuse, but send your children outside with a watch, and tell them not to come in for at least 45 minutes. If you give them some jars or tupperware, they can collect bugs, strange leaves, or other interesting tidbits. Have a show-and-tell when they get back in.

Get some old telephones, appliances, or speakers from bulk trash or yard sales. Give your kids some tools. Let them take stuff apart, and put it back together again. What better way to learn about technology than to understand the mechanics of some of it?

Are these activities really less valuable than a soccer training session or visit to the mall?

Some people call this benign neglect, but when done well, it can add a boost of independence and creativity for your kids. They can learn to be responsible for keeping themselves occupied.