Christopher Cole is a ten-year-old boy currently in the 5th grade. His general academic aptitude is at about the 1st grade level. This year Cristopher has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of autism. He has also been diagnosed with ADHD. Christopher was born with a cleft palate, which may lead to speech difficulties as well as impacting his self-esteem (“Cleft Lip and Palate,” 2011). Moreover, Christopher has poor eyesight and requires corrective lenses.
Christopher has exhibited behavioral problems concurrent with his condition. Schools have been woefully unable to accommodate for Christopher’s needs. He has been placed in as many as three different private schools in the Waxahachie area, but none have been able to help Christopher overcome is attention deficits and social disorders. However, homeschooling has also not been a constructive learning environment for Christopher.
Christopher is prone to throwing tantrums and exhibiting signs of violence toward others. He even slapped me in the face out of frustration, on multiple occasions. Patience has been the key to working with Christopher, who has made great strides over the past year.
II. Christopher uses rituals to make his world more manageable, familiar, and controllable. For example, he asks the same questions over and over even though he knows what the answer will be. Christopher has no concept of time. I am trying to teach him not only how to read the clock, but also about the social function of time. If I tell Christopher to return in five minutes, he does not know when five minutes has passed or what it means to be late or stand up a person. Christopher is left-handed. When he writes, his penmanship is about at the level of a kindergartner and he does not know how to spell. Reading is also a problem for Christopher, who does not grasp the concept of punctuation. He reads straight through passages as if there are no ends or beginnings of sentences.
Interviews with his parents reveal a disturbing trend. His parents do not seem to want to challenge Christopher in any meaningful way and instead enable his lack of progress. Perhaps out of fear for his tantrums, Christopher’s mother makes excuses for her son’s behavior. The experiment of homeschooling Christopher has therefore been unproductive because he is not challenged, and therefore is not learning as much as he could be. His social skills have also been hampered by his homeschooling environment, and by the attitudes of his parents. Christopher does not understand certain social conventions. For instance, he will pass gas while talking to people or make a wolf whistle at a female.
Christopher has no real friends his own age. He seems to prefer being around adults due to the extra compassion and attention they show him. Christopher throws temper tantrums when he feels anxious or put on the spot, such as when asked to do math problems. If there is one thing I could tell Christopher’s regular teacher, it would be to involve the parents more rigorously in developing the IEP. The parents need to be made to feel more responsible for their son’s progress and take a more active role in challenging him.
III. Working with Christopher shows that persons with Asperger’s Syndrome can indeed be highly functional when given a chance. Not everyone needs to fit the mold of what an ideal child is, and not all children will be good at the same things. Christopher demonstrates a genuine sense of human love and affection at times, and it is up to his parents and teachers to cultivate and bring out those capabilities in Christopher. When Christopher gets frustrated, it is possible that the approaches to his learning are to blame rather than the child.
“Asperger’s Syndrome.” WebMD. Retrieved online: http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/tc/aspergers-syndrome-symptoms
“Cleft Lip and Palate,” (2011). Retrieved online: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002046/
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