Monday, April 27, 2009

Gifted with Asperger's

Often people have asked us why we don't have MJ in a special school or a separate class. (Of course then there are still a lot of people that don't see anything different with him.) I've gotten some comments even on this blog about how he should be put in a special class where he can have more individualized help.

So----why isn't he?

First off, if you've read our past posts and beginnings, you can know that MJ was originally placed in a full time gifted program. This was something he was placed in because he scored 99% on the tests and ranked within the top 14 kids in the school district.

As we were directed to doctors and counselors to seek out what was wrong, they did a massive amount of testing. At first what came back was how incredibly smart MJ was. The school's special ed teacher explained how he could not even show us the results of some of the tests because MJ scored so high above them that there wasn't even a place on the graph to list him. When we had him tested at the children's hospital for special heath care needs, they told us his IQ was in the "genius" range.

We always knew MJ was pretty smart, but from what these people were telling us, he was super smart. So we know already that he did not fit into a regular classroom. We allowed him to be in this gifted program to fit to his academic needs.

Now, when the school came to us and explained that something was wrong and we needed to get help or figure it out, we were in the gifted program already. He wasn't having problems academically, but the problems were because of shakiness, awkwardness, communication, handwriting, etc.

We are still in the program and MJ has little if any problems with academics. He scores above 99% of the nation through different tests. He reads 200 words per minute. He is very very smart, and so when people comment that he should be removed from the gifted program because he is not up to par, well, it upsets me a little.

I know Asperger's is a little different. It is still a disability. (Now I don't mean this in any way negative because I feel it isn't so much a disability but a different perception on life and thinking and Aspie's are in sort of a culture of themselves.) They allow kids in wheelchairs or deaf or blind to be in a gifted classroom with some sort of accommodations, so I say, what is the big deal to allow a child with Asperger's some sort of accommodations?

He deserves to be in the gifted program just as much as any of his other classmates. So, he has some issues with organization, with speech, with awkwardness, with interpreting non literal things, and then he has a bit of a processing delay, but why should any of these things force him to be put in a special ed classroom?

MJ doesn't seem to fit anywhere. He doesn't qualify for special ed because he is so far advanced that they won't put him there. I don't think it would be a right place for him anyway. We don't want to put him in a regular class because he would be bored. But then in a gifted class he is still having problems not because he isn't smart enough, but because of the speed in which they demand.

The timed tests, the pressure for neat handwriting and fast writing, and the importance of organization are killing MJ. It is not that he can't do any of these things. He just has a bit of a delay in processing, and then he has some fine motor coordination problems that make his handwriting to be extremely unreadable and slow. He can be organized, but he can't remember things very well without being constantly cued.

So---what do we do about it? It is the constant struggle even to know what to do that is frustrating. We turned to the school district right after his diagnosis to see what to do. They told us they didn't care what kind of diagnosis we had, but they would not accommodate any child unless they were failing academically.

So here we were. We had a super smart kid who could do OK in the classroom because even though he was slow, or weird, or had communication issues, or couldn't write very well, he would still be able to score high on tests. But what about letting him live up to his true potential? The specialists told us he scored so super high on all the cognitive and thinking and academic testing, but that his processing level was way below even average. So then what do we do?

The older he gets, the more pressure is put upon him to be faster, quicker, neater, remember things for yourself, understand, etc....

This is why we have been trying to figure things out pertaining to his Asperger's. We do not know what is right or wrong or quite where he fits in. We do not judge any of the teachers or think they are wrong. We just look for an answer and hope there can be a way made for MJ to get the best education he can without so much anguish. So please don't judge us for bad choices or comments we make with this blog. Maybe years from now we'll look back and say it was bad, or it was good, but this is just a journal and a learning experience to us all. Maybe somewhere we could have helped someone else who was struggling with the same issues.

We also maintain a blog relating to being a parent of a gifted child that you can read at if you are interested in any of those adventures.


The Emery's said...

I think MJ DOES fit somewhere. I think he fits in the gifted class with an IEP to accomadate just as the law must allow. =)

Go, MJ!

cinivon said...

My daughter is also gifted with AS. She tested above the test- the school was not prepared for the results! They do not have a gifted program and do not give her any services at all since she performs above grade level academically. She finishes her simple second grade work and then plays on the computer by herself to keep her occupied while the other kids finish. Meanwhile, she learns nothing at all at school and is more socially isolated. She has no where to belong, in a different way than MJ. What do you do with a gifted special needs child?? I wish they would do just as the last poster said, offer a gifted class and allow accomodations. For Jess, they have done neither...My best to you and MJ!!

Lauren said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences. It's encouraging to read what another mom is going through. My son is 10, finishing 4th grade, is in the gifted program (testing like your son) and has just been diagnosed with Asperger's. There is so little info out there about how to accommodate gifted kids w/ AS who need special ed services. We've gone through so many similar things. I wish our kids could meet! Thanks again for sharing your blog.

Anonymous said...

I need your help. This sounds know, but i am at a loss.

I have an 8 year gifted child. I recently brought him to counseling because his social interactions both at home and in school have concerned me and because I started to feel like I have no control anymore in my home.

After 3 sessions I was told that my son was going to be moved to a new counselor whom I met today. She says there is something else going on and wants him evaluated for Aspergers. She says she sees many of the signs and that I am not a bad parent, there really is something other than giftedness going on. Since he was 5 I have thought there was a problem and I have always been told no. I have had him evaluated for ADHD 5 times and hearing problems 7.

I don't know how I feel about this and I need more information.

B. Joan said...

Hi there. My son (age 7) is both gifted, aspergers with sever learning disability with written output, and noise sensitivities. His school has done a great job. He is in a 1,2,3 combined class with other bright kids. With a cluster, the teach can offer a group of kids advanced reading, math, & other activities. He has a Hall pass to leave class and go to a quiet, pre-arranged place for 5-10 min of quiet time to decompress from the noise if it gets too loud, modified gym schedule (it's too loud in the auditorium)where he participates in the last 15 minutes (it is his choice how much he participates0they respect his right to choose based on how he is feeling 'cos they have learned that he is the best judge and he does not abuse this privledge). They take the class outside when ever they can so he can participate. In assembly he participates in the first 10 min and last 10 minutes (as he builds tolerace (since Kindergarten) to the noise levels his participation has been going up for both gym and assembly). In regards to the written output issues, my son is learning to type. At school he has been issued a laptop for writing, and his spelling tests right now are done orally until his typing improves. Lots of assisted technology to assist your son in increasing his output..check out Alphasmart, Neo, and Kirzwell technologies. The school district may fund, or an autism association, or a local service organization such as Rotary Club or Lions Club, or donations from family in lieu of birthday and other holiday gifts. A simple laptop/netbook can help him get started on the typing for under 300.00 (in Canada anyway). Your son sounds amazing and the areas that he struggles can be overcome with technology & love. Blessings to you and yours, Joan

Rev. Criss Ittermann, Life Facilitator said...

I'm at the point where my school district has failed my son too many times. We're going for one last big push for them to place my son -- not fit my son in somewhere -- and if that fails, I'm homeschooling him before we lose him completely. He's 13, 8th grade, about to be put into "inclusion" classes in High School if we don't do something quickly. Between grades 3-6 he was allowed to progress beyond grade level and in the last 2 years in the special ed classes in his district middle school he's lost all his former academic progress. He still reads so fast no one believes he can actually comprehend what he's reading (he can, he just doesn't remember it for long unless it's purely academic).

I've been writing about my thoughts on homeschooling and curriculum on my own blog. Thanks for writing this, though -- it's good to know that we're not alone in struggling for what's right for our children (rather than trying to cram our children into what they happen to have on hand).

Laura Hard af Segerstad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura Hard af Segerstad said...

I am years late in finding your blog; but I am grateful that it is still open and available. This post in particular was very helpful for me. Tomorrow I will be meeting with my son's second grade teacher and the gifted education teacher to discuss where he will fit. Our school system only had pull out programs for elementary school children, for 2.5 hours per week. Last year, when G was tested as highly gifted, they put him in an independent gifted pull out class because of his developmental "quirks." This summer the developmental pediatrician finally gave us a formal diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Our meeting tomorrow will focus on whether or not G can participate in the second grade gifted program with his peers, or whether he should still have an independent gifted class (one-on-one with gifted teacher). Some say that I should be grateful for this one-on-one attention; however, there are drawbacks.

When first grade ended, G started sharing with me the things that really bothered him about school. Why did he have to sit at the far end of the lunch room table alone? Why did he have to go to gifted class alone? Why would anyone play with him on the playground (yet again "alone")? Not to mention, the poor kid is an only child. This got me really worrying about the end of year conversation we had with his gifted teacher during our IEP meeting. She was very hesitant to include G with the other gifted children because she didn’t think the gifted classroom was the place to spend time helping him with his social skills, she only wanted to help G with his giftedness.
While this is understandable, unfortunately, I cannot separate the social part of my child from the gifted part of my child. G is so anxious about being a part of his peer group; I worry that pulling him away from them will only cause further anxiety. I am hoping that by sharing a few of the well-worded arguments you posted here, we can come up with a way to keep G with his peers in the second grade gifted class.