“Whereas autism is often reflected in poor academics and developmental issues, children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome usually possess an average or even above average IQ, which means they are not easily diagnosed since they are not inhibited from succeeding academically.
“However they may be mislabeled as ‘difficult’, ‘antisocial’, ‘awkward’ and even ‘weird’ in some cases.”
The following Letter to the Editor on children with Asperger’s Syndrome was sent to Wired868 by a group of UWI BSc Pharmacy students:
Like many of you reading this article, our group had no idea what Asperger’s was, or that it was even related to Autism, until recently. But completing a project on the topic quickly went from just another bit of course work, as we became fully engrossed in the dynamics of this disability.
So we thought we could use this opportunity to bring awareness of the syndrome to not only the people in our lives but the entire population of Trinidad and Tobago.
For those who may not know, Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder, which falls within the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is referred to as “High Functioning Autism” because when compared to people affected by other forms of ASD, those with Asperger Syndrome do not have significant delays in language or cognitive development.
Research also showed that, whereas autism is often reflected in poor academics and developmental issues, children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome usually possess an average or even above average IQ, which means they are not easily diagnosed since they are not inhibited from succeeding academically.
However they may be mislabeled as “difficult”, “antisocial”, “awkward” and even “weird” in some cases. Most of these labels stem from the behaviours associated with Asperger’s which includes limited or inappropriate social interactions, “robotic” or repetitive speech, challenges with non-verbal communication or the tendency to discuss self, rather than others.
Also common is the inability to understand social/emotional issues, obsession with specific and often unusual topics, one-sided conversations, awkward movements and/or mannerisms.
While conducting research for this project, all the children with Asperger’s that we encountered experienced repeated bullying and victimisation at schools.
One parent’s experience was that their child came home one day and was vehemently against returning to school. In this particular case, the school officials were made aware of the child’s condition but could not provide the necessary support to ensure that they were not victimised.
This leaves us with concerns over whether our school system is apt for children who are different. Are there enough professionals who can help children navigate through the complex social issues derived from this condition?
What are the options available for parents who have children with Asperger’s or any type of disability? What happens to parents who simply can’t afford to transfer their children to specialist schools or institutions where their children can get the level of help they require?
Lastly, what can we do as concerned citizens to ensure that persons with Asperger’s or any other type of disability are still treated equally?
There is no cure or treatment for Asperger’s. However social skills treatment can be helpful to both children and adults who may interact with people diagnosed with the problem. Like many cases, early diagnosis is important because children who can be identified with Asperger’s at an early stage, have an increased chance of being successful in school and eventually living independent life as adults.
Diagnosis can also allow family members and others who may be in contact with the child, to understand the behaviours and feelings of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome.
In the spirit of Autism Month (April) this article is not only a call to raise awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome, but to get the conversation started about developmental and even mental disabilities.
The history of how the Autism society in Trinidad was founded and how it continues to operate today speaks to the lack of government and public support. It is sad that public involvement mostly comes when parents have children diagnosed and they seek support/help.
While our society shows concern over many social issues, we believe that not enough attention is given to the problems regarding these type of disabilities and mental health. This mindset leads to very little being done to create awareness, especially in our public schools and by our elected officials. We firmly believe this must change.
There’s a quote by Nicholas Sparks which says “A person with autism lives in his own world while a person with Asperger lives in our world, in a way of his choosing.”
It is our job to ensure that our world is a safe haven for people with both Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, so that they’ll have the freedom to be themselves.
For more information about our project on Asperger Syndrome, please check our Facebook Page: All About Asperger’s. A self test is available if anyone suspects a family member has the syndrome.
For more information visit the Autistic Society of Trinidad and Tobago website and for events and contact them to find out how you can contribute. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 646-5506/225-6808
Editor’s Note: “All About Asperger’s” is a project being done by a group of year one BSc Pharmacy students at UWI to raise awareness of Asperger’s Syndrome.