Authorities who decide on entitlement to services are usually unaware of the extent of the challenges faced by children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism (HFA). Many of these young people are placed in educational settings for kids with conduct disorders, thus allowing for the worst mismatch possible (i.e., boys and girls with a very naive understanding of social situations in a mix with those who can – and do – manipulate social situations to their advantage).
Although young people with Asperger’s and HFA often present with disruptive behaviors in social settings, these behaviors are often a result of their narrow, concrete understanding of social situations, and the confusion they experience when trying to meet the demands of interpersonal life. Thus, the social problems exhibited by these children should be addressed in the context of a comprehensive intervention needed to address their social deficits – as a curriculum need, rather than willful behaviors deserving reprimands that in fact mean very little to them, and only further damage their already poor self-esteem.
Problematic situations for children with Asperger’s and HFA include unstructured social situations (especially with same-age peers) and unique situations requiring social problem-solving skills. Thus, any evaluation intended to determine the need for special services should include detailed interviews with parents and therapists knowledgeable of the youngster in naturalistic settings (e.g., home and school), and direct observations of the youngster in unstructured settings (e.g., recess, lunch).
Parents of children on the autism spectrum should become well acquainted with the following factors involved in securing appropriate placement and programming for their “special needs” child:
1. Knowledge of “model” programs: Moms and dads should make an effort to locate programs (public or private) that are thought to provide high quality services according to local experts, parent support organizations, or other parents. Regardless of whether or not they would like for their youngster to be placed in that program, a visit to it will provide parents with a model and criteria with which to judge the appropriateness of the local program offered to them.