ASK THE EXPERTS

My Third-Grader Has Asperger's

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist

Question:

My son is diagnosed with Asperger's. The school doesn't recognize Asperger's as debilitating enough to warrant services or accommodations. He has trouble writing legibly; he either needs a weighted glove or a keyboard. He also needs more time on timed tests. How can I get the school to help him?

Answer:

Asperger's Disorder is generally not considered an educational disability. However, if the disturbances in social relationships, communication and behavior that are characteristic of Asperger's affect your son's educational performance, he may qualify for special education services or accommodations.

The independent testing your son has had indicates he is doing quite well academically. Thus, it may be difficult to make a case for special education services based on his above-average to average academic performance. The difficulties you mentioned (i.e., writing legibly and needing more time on tests) are not necessarily related to Asperger's. I would recommend speaking to his teacher and the school principal specifically about these issues to discuss how they can help your son. If you find the school is resistant to helping your son, the services of an educational advocate might be helpful. I would also recommend working closely with a child psychologist with expertise in Asperger's disorder to make sure your son is getting the help he needs regarding social relationships and communication. For information on an Asperger's support group go here.

Dr. Lisa Hunter is an assistant professor in the department of child psychiatry at Columbia University and the director of school-based mental health programs at Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of school-based mental health and prevention programs. In addition she is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for children and adolescents.

 

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.