Last year I published a poll on this site asking whether people thought children diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (quick, use the term before it's abolished!) should automatically receive a statutory assessment by the local educational authority.
I posed three potential answers:
- Yes, because teachers aren't trained to spot underlying difficulties
- No, we should just see how they get on
- No, we should trust the school to decide what level of help they need
Now, I assume that most of my readers are parents with SEN children but there are also readers who have a professional interest in SEN, so I admit that the results may be skewed somewhat. Having said that, a whopping 96 per cent of respondents thought that AS is so complex in its presention that children with that diagnosis should receive a professional, school-based assessment to determine their special needs.
This isn't to say that they should all be statemented (or get an EHC Plan as it will be), but most respondents believed that it is important to understand what their needs are and how they can be met to level the playing field, giving them an equal chance of success at school and beyond.
3% though we should see how they get on and just 2% thought that teachers were best placed to decide the level of help required. There were more than 150 responses.
I am a firm believer that school success and success as an adult does not depend on academic achievement alone. We all hope that our children, whether they are 'normal' or whether they face additional challenges, will grow up to be rounded, socially adept individuals. Even in this age of web interconnectedness, knowing the correct social response in a face to face meeting is still vitally important. We are, after all, social beings.
I know this only too well from my own sons. Even though our eldest is incredibly bright, we could see that he had many social difficulties and these, in turn, affected his school experience and academic achievements. We did not want him to turn out to be an angry alienated genius and, thanks to interventions, support and the right school, he won't be. Without an assessment that I fought for and drove forward, we might still be asking ourselves.. but he's so bright.. why does he do this or that, it makes no sense.. (I've talked about his issues previously, with his agreement, now he's a teenager I have to be careful what I say).
I say whatever you call Asperger Syndrome in the future, and whatever you replace statements with, when parents suspect their child has social difficulties they should always raise the issue with teachers and do their own research as well.
Some difficulties experienced by children with high functioning ASD can seem obscure and hard to verbalise. Yet if they go unaddressed, they can end up having a long-term negative impact on a child well into adulthood. I believe that every child on the spectrum should have an Ed Psych or Outreach assessment so that teachers who are not experts in autism (nor would most claim to be) can be given help to ensure that every pupil they teach has a fair chance of a decent learning experience.