This is a personal account of the difficulties faced by someone with Asperger syndrome by his mother.
Please note that it is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the views of Research Autism.
William was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome just before transferring up to junior school. The junior school were told about the diagnosis and assured us that consideration and support would be available. However, as William presented as articulate, well behaved and bright and was reaching all his targets for his age the school disagreed to our request to have him assessed for a statement of special educational needs. By the time William left junior school to go to secondary school he had become very anxious and there were signs of depression.
We met with the secondary school before William's transfer and were reassured that his needs would be well catered for. By the middle of the first term of year and it was apparent that William's needs were grossly being underestimated. We again requested an assessment for a statement but we were again refused on the grounds that William was fine and reaching all his targets. By the end of year 7 William's anxiety and depression were becoming a very big issue. He was being bullied by other students, some teachers refused to take his difficulties on board and he was finding it very difficult to cope with the everyday life of school.
William started year 8 with great trepidation. It was agreed with his head of year that William be excused from homework as he had an issue about home being for relaxation and school work should be done in school. However, some teachers would not agree to this and pursued him at school. One teacher punished him when he didn't take cooking equipment into a lesson as he had been off sick as a result of anxiety. Another teacher shouted at him and constantly called him Josh, which distressed him. None of the teachers concerned would meet with us to discuss William's needs. William had a breakdown around Easter and was unable to attend school from then on.
William attended a special centre as a temporary measure later in the year until a statement of Special Educational Needs was issued and an alternative school placement found.
Unfortunately the only specialist school available is run by a commercial organisation and we were told that the LEA would not agree to fund a place for William there. The following year was spent discussing various educational options with the LEA, which resulted in the setting up of a special centre for high functioning children on the autistic spectrum. Unfortunately, the provision has been sadly lacking in availability of buildings and despite being told that this centre would have complete use of a temporary building set up in the grounds of a school, only one room has been available to date in which not only 12-13 children on the autistic spectrum have to be taught but where all the office work has to be done and visitors received. Also, 6 weeks after starting at this centre the LEA wanted to start the children on their GCSE work and pressure was felt by William which, in our opinion, was far too soon and as a result William's anxiety and depression worsened and he has been unable to attend school since February of this year.
William has been under the care of CAMHS for three years and despite all efforts no improvement has been seen in William's mental health. William has been accepted for admittance as an inpatient at an adolescent psychiatric unit and is awaiting a reassessment before a date is decided.
William has an IQ of 112-123, is extremely bight and articulate with a talent for mechanical engineering. Like the majority of people on the spectrum, William's ability is very narrow and he cannot apply his ability to subjects other than his main interests, which are WW2 tanks and steam engines. William belongs to the Steam Apprentice Club and works on steam engines whenever it can be arranged through the club. He is also a friend of a museum and is on the waiting list to become a voluntary worker.
William has been using the Pro E computer aided design package at home and is currently doing some reverse engineering by measuring a model tank and creating a 3-D image of it.
We feel very frustrated that William will now be leaving school with no qualifications despite having a talent for engineering but our experience has been that the LEA have been too focused on subjects that William can't do i.e. History, English, Maths etc. We have been told that the LEA need evidence of success from his school but the needs and difficulties of the children have not been taken into consideration or fully understood. William, like his peers at school, have been damaged by the education system and their fragility has been grossly underestimated.
We would like to see a completely different approach to children on the Autistic Spectrum and for a better and more thorough understanding of the specific needs of children with Asperger's Syndrome in order that more appropriate provision can be made.
In the time I've been involved with Asperger's Syndrome I have witnessed the enormous scale of the issue. These very bright children have potentially a lot to offer and this should not be allowed to go to waste.