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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp
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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling With Special Needs

Homeschooling with Asperger's Syndrome (AS)
by Julie Knapp, copyright 2005

What is Asperger's Syndrome, anyway?  
Asperger's is a fairly new diagnosis within the Autism Spectrum of
disorders, based on the presence and severity of a list of signs and
symptoms (see articles below).  What is noted by most people, is that
"Aspie" children have a hard time learning everyday social skills and
seem lacking in "social grace".  They also seem oblivious to nonverbal
communication, often failing to pick up clues from body language and
tone of voice.  

Though they require assistance and specific training to help them
function in these social areas, children with Aspergers are not mentally
challenged -- in fact, many are gifted in one or more academic areas.  
As a result, Aspie students in public schools may require a mix of special
education services and gifted education services that, unfortunately,
may not be possible in some states or school districts.  

Even when appropriate services are provided, the traditional school
setting may just be too socially stressful for the child with Asperger's.  
Most teachers don't have special ed training and many find it hard to
understand and deal with aspie behaviors.  Aspie children need a lot of
one-to-one assistance (from a caring and understanding adult) to learn
to navigate everyday social situations.  An assigned school aide may not
be trained to help the child accomplish this goal.  

Aspie children often find it hard to make and keep friends, and need
kind, objective, and consistent adult feed-back and instruction to learn
these important skills.  With on-going assistance and training, children
with Asperger's
can learn what it takes to be a good friend, but they may
still be "different" enough to have trouble fitting in with the crowd.  This
makes aspie kids highly prone to bullying, and schools have (historically)
found it difficult to consistently monitor the behavior of children at the
playground, lunchroom, in hallways, and on the bus or the walk home.    

For these, and many other reasons, more and more parents are
deciding that public school is a poor fit for their student with Asperger's.  
Some turn to small private schools.  Others have turned to
homeschooling as a way to address and accommodate both the
strengths and weaknesses of their children.  Parents who have been
struggling to have their child's needs met in a public school setting are
often relieved that they can, finally, provide their child with a safe,
supportive environment that promotes both academic growth and
positive socialization.

What About Asperger's and Socialization?
Parents often wonder if their aspie child will have enough chances for
social interaction in a homeschool environment.  Happily, many parents
find that they are able to provide healthier, more controlled, and more
positive forms of social interaction than the child was typically
experiencing in a classroom environment. The chance to experience  
positive social experiences can be very beneficial to social growth.

Parents of aspie children appreciate that they can actually observe their
child in social settings, providing on-the-spot guidance, as well as the
chance for discussion of social issues afterwards.  Even in group events,
such as homeschool field trips and co-op classes, parents are usually
welcome to stay and help out.  In addition to briefing their child on
expected behavior before the event, they can provide additional input, or
even intervention, during the event.  Teaching and learning social skills
becomes as natural as learning any other school subject.

It is also an advantage that homeschool gatherings usually have plenty
of adults present -- which means more adult guidance to immediately
curb any negative behaviors, like teasing or bullying.  Of course, each
homeschool group has its own dynamics, and it may take a visit to more
than one group to find the right "fit".  Often parents find that a group with
many families who homeschool "for academic reasons" will already have
several other members with aspie children.

What resources are available here?
The resources below describe Asperger's Syndrome, detail just how
"quirky" a child must be to be diagnosed with Asperger's, offer some
practical approaches and strategies for education and behavior
modification.  They also discuss the similarities and differences between
Aspie behaviors and what might, instead, be common behaviors in gifted
children.  In addition, there is a list of online groups where families can
seek advice and support for homeschooling children with Asperger's
(and other spectrum disorders).  General homeschooling resources are
found throughout this website -- a great place to begin is with the  
Homeschooler's Guide to the Galaxy, which will help you get started.

What is and isn’t Asperger’s

"The Australian Scale"-- a checklist of AS symptoms from OASIS
What Asperger's Syndrome Looks Like from the Little Professors
A summary of various "Diagnostic Scales --  from the OASIS
website  (click on "What is AS?" on the sidebar menu)

Autism Disorders: Sorting it Out by Martin L Kutscher, MD-- a nice
summary of differences between Autism, Aspergers, NVLD, Semantic-
Pragmatic Disorder, Hyperlexia, PDD-NOS, Rett's Disorder, Childhood
Disinegrative Disorder, and relation to ADHD

The Discovery of "Aspie" Criteria by Carol Gray and Tony Attwood --
a wonderful look at the positive traits, strengths and talents, of aspies
and how to provide encouragement and praise for these traits

Sounds of Asperger's -- two voice recordings of kids with asperger's

A Way of Describing Autism a clever analogy comparing autistic
people to different kinds of unusual rocks.

Exhaustion by Lise Pyles -- a great analogy for the social difficulties
faced by those with Aspergers

Social Skills to Work on With Aspie Kids by Lisa Pyles

Other Aspergers Resources

How parents and educators can help -- this Diner section has
links to lots of strategies and approaches

Good websites to browse for Asperger's resources

Online Support Groups for Those Homeschooling Children
with Aspergers, PDD, HFA, NVLD, and Autism

Hitchhiking Through Asperger Syndrome a book by Lisa Pyles

Homeschooling the Child With Asperger Syndrome: Real Help for
Parents Anywhere and on Any Budget a book by Lise Pyles --
practical advice and wonderful insights
ZAC Browser -- a free web browser designed to present online info in a
manner friendly to kids with autism spectrum disorders

School & College Selection Criteria Checklist for Students with
Aspergers Syndrome (AS)-- good things to consider when choosing a
school, from

Related Diner Resources

Help with Social Skills -- a list of resources

Learning to Communicate -- a list of resources

Homeschooling Reluctant Writers and  
Children Who Hate to Write

Helping Aspie Children Deal With Handwriting Problems

Giftedness and Asperger’s:
Is Your Child Gifted?
Asperger's in Gifted Children -- a list or articles and resources
Misdiagnosis of Asperger’s in Gifted Youth -- article from SENG
discusses how gifted children can be misdiagnosed as having asperger's

For more information on gifted children with learning differences
check out the Homeschool Diner's "
Twice Exceptional -- Online
Resource Guide to 2E"