Earlier this week I had the opportunity to have lunch with two wonderful ladies who are focused on creating success for a young boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.
One was the little boy’s mum and the other his Special Needs teacher.
Blake is 10 and he is just gorgeous. Huge big eyes, curly dark hair and the cutest smile. He is funny, with a quick and quirky sense of humour. But he struggles with language, literacy and sometimes understanding social cues….not unlike David.
After spending a few hours with Blake’s teacher and his mum, it became very obvious that Blake is going to be just fine.
His mum worries about him a lot, has a few sleepless nights and sheds a few tears (a couple at our lunch), BUT she is totally focused on helping Blake navigate his world.
She and her husband have a great relationship and they talk a lot about what is best for Blake, sharing roles where they can. Blake’s little brother helps him out too, however as all little brothers can be, he gets a bit annoyed sometimes with Blake, because he can be a bit overwhelming. But for the most part he loves his big brother and his parents work to try to help him understand Blake.
Blake’s mum and his Special Needs teacher have an overwhelmingly positive partnership. His teacher is kind and warm and very intuitive. She and Blake’s mum talk often about what works (and what doesn’t work for Blake) and they are both open to each others views and opinions. Their number one focus is on what is best for Blake, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit into the school curriculum.
You see, Blake struggles with reading and language, which makes life in mainstream school challenging for him right now. But after our discussion we came up with a few different ideas that may help make reading a little easier for Blake.
I told Blake’s mum about the video David and I recently made and in particular David’s explanation about how he uses visual reference points. The written word is often very difficult for children with Asperger’s Syndrome to understand. I suggested that rather than getting Blake to read books other children read, instead find books that relate to a show he enjoys, or a video he likes watching.
Reading has always been a strong part of David’s life, right from a very early age! But, when he reached school it took us a while to realise that just because David was able to ‘remember’ the words from books, he did not really understand them. School based reading became very stressful for him, and us.
However, he loved reading books where he could connect with videos or TV shows. When David was Blake’s age he loved The Power Rangers …watching the videos so often that the sound and picture often separated on the tape! So I bought him every single Power Ranger book that was printed and he read them all. Before that it was Spot books. Spot took over our house at one stage, between the books and the videos, but he and his sister loved the beautifully illustrated books and the simple videos with easy to follow and understand words. When David was 13, his sisters bought him a book about The Simpsons for Christmas, and he just loved it! It was another one of David’s favorite TV shows. Whenever the show was on, he would find the book and follow along with the story line.
So when David moved to High School if he had to read a book for school, we would find the video first (if there was one). I would watch the video with him, talk about some of the story lines, and then get him to read the book. He needed the visual reference points first to help him make sense of the words. Once he had the visual picture in his head, reading was a little easier.
Teachers and parents are often concerned that a child with Asperger’s won’t read a wide variety of books, and hence won’t develop a well rounded view of the world. Well, Asperger’s children don’t develop a well rounded view of the world, they usually develop a well rounded view of a topic that is of interest to them.
Whilst David would only read certain books and his interests at the time appeared narrow, today he has wide ranging views on many topics of politics, history and world events, because now they interest him. He researches many topics and will seek out copious amounts of information, forming his own opinion and discussing it at length. But, he still finds reading difficult, because he needs those visual reference points. Today however, with Google, You Tube, Blogging, Twitter, Face book and various other forms of on-line information he doesn’t have to rely on words alone to feed him information and he is astute enough to find the information he needs in visual or picture form, and then read the words that describe it.
Blake is a very lucky boy. He has parents who love him, a brother who is patient with him and a teacher who believes that putting the child first and the school curriculum second. It is the wonderful strong partnerships that the adults in the Asperger’s child’s world form that guarantee the long term success for these incredible young people.
I invite you, if you have not done so already, to join the Asperger’s Conversations on Facebook at AspergersParent Connect