Friday, October 19, 2012

Teachers & Aspergers

Not one of my teachers ever indicated, understood or tried to figure out why I was so different from other kids. I loved my teachers (with some, literally, I LOVED them, LIVED for them and some days I went to school ONLY because they were there.) But none of them had a freaking clue. I'm sure that they all felt I was different. I'm sure they all thought I was weird, unique, special, smart, talented, peculiar, strange, or even flat out insane. 

It really isn't their fault. Though Hans Asperger first noticed qualities of the disorder (or, I prefer to say REorder) in 1944, even in the 1990's it wasn't common knowledge. In 1992, it was known by psychologists, but I'm going to guess that most of the knowledge about it at that point was almost limited to those experts, and one may have only found out about their diagnosis by seeing a psychologist. For many children, like myself, they just viewed themselves as odd, different and their own person, and not necessarily someone needing to be evaluated. Again, it wasn't common knowledge that these disorders existed, so there was no real provocation to seek professional help or diagnosis. 

"Aspergers and Girls" says
"Any time there is the combination of social immaturity, perservative interests, lack of eye contact, poor handwriting, poor gross motor coordination, repetitive behaviors, isolation or teasing by peers, falling grades, and being viewed as "odd" by teachers and peers, Asperger's Syndrome should be investigated."

Unfortunately, this book was published in 2006, far too late for me, or anyone like me, in the 80s or 90s, and quite possibly the early 2000s. 

I appreciate all of the teachers who took time out of their lives to make me feel comfortable and special. I appreciate the time that they took to protect me under certain circumstances, and to give me literal hiding places when I was overwhelmed, abused or bullied. This happened A LOT. So, I am grateful.

Though this disorder was not well understood back then, there is almost no excuse today. If you are involved in the lives of children in any aspect, you should at least have a general idea of the signs or symptoms of Aspergers and other disorders (sensory or otherwise). It might not help you get the child diagnosed or into special therapies however. Some parents do not want to hear these things about their kids, or already had feelings their child was different and just aren't able to face it. However, it can give an educator a very important awareness of children's differences, and ways to manage, deal with and guide children who are different. 

If you are an educator, it doesn't take a semester in higher education to learn about the disorder. Pick up a couple books on the topic. Read materials online. It is really not rocket science. Just knowing can save a life. I know sometimes I felt as if my friendship with and for my teachers saved mine. It is CRITICAL that teachers, who are the ones interacting with their students for 6-8+ hours a day, become aware of the differences in personalities, thinking processes, and behaviors associated with a true Asperger or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This isn't something that should start in the big city schools and eventually in 20 years be in the rural schools. We need it in ALL schools, NOW. We need all teachers and faculty to be able to notice these differences, and do something about it. I know teachers are capable of this, because they wouldn't be teaching if they didn't care about kids. (They sure aren't in it for the money!)

So, educators; get educated.

Two books I have read, and can be a simple, quick and easy introduction to Aspergers specifically:
The Complete Guide to Aspergers Syndrome - Tony Attwood
Aspergers & Girls - Various Authors

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