We all remember high school, don’t we? The friends, the enemies, the social rules that changed every day. It was crazy for us. But just imagine how much more difficult it is for teenagers with Asperger’s Syndrome.
The strangest IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting I ever conducted was with a 13-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. For the sake of this post, we will call him Fred.
Fred was in a meeting with me, his parents and five of his teachers. Fred was comfortable with the meeting as he had been involved in IEP meetings since he was 8. When I asked him what he thought his goals needed to be for the next semester he clearly articulated the following:
- I want to be able to talk to 5 girls
- I want someone to laugh at a joke I say
- I want to be asked to go to someone’s house after school.
Pretty clear goals don’t you think!
When I asked Fred why those goals were so important to him he replied:
- My friends talk to an average of 8 girls a day
- The boys always laugh at his jokes
- I am the only one who hasn’t visited someone at their house.
Fred has learned that social relationships are important, and he was asking for help to make them happen for him.
But what a way to make a group of teachers uncomfortable. These teachers wanted to talk about Fred’s inattentiveness in class, the fact that he would forget his books and his lack of interest in History.
I believed that we should follow Fred and his goals. They were important to him. So as a group we attempted to come up with a list of strategies that Fred could use to become more social with his peers. Fred left happy as the meeting was meaningful to him and his current needs. Sure! We also spent some time talking about his attitude and attentiveness in class.
That IEP meeting was also a great learning experience for the teachers. They came into the meeting thinking about Fred (and how he acts in their class). But left thinking about him as a teenager who was struggling to belong. Just like all teenagers.
My son (let’s call him Jay) joined a new school in Grade 1. It was not only a new school but also a new neighborhood. Needless to say, there were a lot of changes in his life. It was hard for him to make friends and the first 6 months were tough. The rest of the year was uneventful. In fact, his entire Elementary School was uneventful barring one incident at the after-school program.
He was playing Dodgeball with his friends and his team was winning. A kid (Tom) on the other team got so mad that he hit Jay with his shoe. Jay didn’t hit back. One of the other kids reported it. Tom told the teacher that Jay hit him first. The teacher asked all the other kids and they told her that he didn’t. Tom was taken to the principal’s office and suspended. Jay told us what happened and I was so mad. It is tough being a parent. I know he did the right thing and I am proud of him.
He moved on to Middle School and by now I had heard so many stories about Middle School and how bad it can be for kids, that I was p.e.t.r.i.f.i.e.d. My son is a sweet child and sensitive. 6th grade came and left and my son made it to 7th Grade. I think I was the most anxious person while he was in 6th Grade. I digress…I am very grateful that it was uneventful and that no one picked on him. I have 3 boys. I think I am lucky as girls have a harder time in school–or so I am told.
Girls also act differently. I read On Girl Bullies and Redeemed Friendships today and it reminded me of a book by Rachel Simmons called Odd Girl Out.