High school can be especially challenging for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome. Like other students, an Aspie has to change classes regularly during the day and throughout the school year. She or he can find navigating just the simple fact of going from one activity to another difficult. Efforts should be made to minimize adjustments and to give your child a chance to take a breather.
As I have mentioned in earlier posts, you should make sure that your Aspie has an educational plan in place. That means keeping in close contact with counselor and advisors, so as to smooth the way. It means also finding out where your child can do well.
By this time you should have some idea of your offspring’s school interests. You should sit down with her or him and make sure appropriate classes are picked out. Most classes in high school are required. Nevertheless, some classes require more subjective writing or presentation. Some may ask your child to express feelings. These may prove especially difficult. If they are unavoidable, your child may need some extra help and time to do the work. If alternative activities can be substituted, your Aspie can participate in them.
As for elective classes that fit your child’s interests, this is a place where s/he can shine. If s/he is college bound, this is a great place to start that journey. Depending on where you live, if your child has special abilities and the grades to go along with it, s/he can take classes at a nearby junior college, regular college or university, or online. Check with your school’s advising office, the appropriate colleges and universities, and various gifted and talented associations.
Your child will have to negotiate even more complex social interactions than in junior high school or middle school. Your child should be alerted to these demands and be helped to find her or his own way. One idea is to find those school activities and after school activities that fit her/ his interests and have a safe, protected social environment. You are looking for an activity where the teacher or head facilitates appropriate social interaction. Your Aspie may be interested in math, for example. A math club would be an ideal place for her or him to learn—and interact with others.
In earlier posts I mentioned that you must be alert to addressing other needs of your Aspie. She or he may have ADHD or ADD or OCD. You should help him understand how these conditions may help and/or complicate certain school activities—and how other kids might view them. Again, I would make sure your child sees a counselor familiar with Asperger’s, and other, conditions to help your child. Your counselor, your child, and you can explore the help medications might offer as well.
Lastly, if your Aspie is college bound, you should start addressing that early. You should visit colleges nearby to give her or him a sense of college life. That visit should include a visit to the school’s Disability Resource Center. Remember—a student needs to declare a disability in order to receive accommodations. You should ask what the Center and the campus do for students with Asperger’s. That means both in the classes and in social life. And social life includes the dorm situation. Many schools also have weekends where your offspring can go by her or himself to get a feel for the place. Again, it’s important to alert the school to special needs. It may also be useful to see if you can obtain a list of recent Aspie graduates who are willing to be contacted to see how they experienced the campus. You should also find out whether the campus counseling center has therapists experienced with students with Asperger’s.
There is one other important issue that is important for parents of any student attending college. When your child registers, make sure that s/he signs releases for you to talk to the academic side of campus, the dorms, student health, mental health, and financial offices. Students are protected by confidentiality—even if you are paying the bills. I would make sure you work this out before your child leaves home!