THE BENEFITS OF ASPERGER AWARENESS
By Dan Coulter
I’ve written quite a bit about the benefits of disclosing Asperger Syndrome. My wife and I got an email last week that really drove the point home.
The email came from a mother who, years ago, worked with her son’s psychologist to schedule a middle school assembly about Asperger Syndrome. The psychologist used one of the DVDs we produced to help the school’s students understand something about AS behaviors and what caused them. After the assembly, this mom wrote us to tell us how students who’d formerly ignored or teased her son had become his supporters.
In her recent email, she said her son is now in high school and has several friends. He’s starting the college search process and she asked about college programs for students with Asperger Syndrome. She said her son sometimes runs into boys he knew in seventh grade and that they continue to be interested in him and how he’s doing. She mentioned that these former classmates still have memories of the video and the experience.
Of course, this email made us feel great. But our video was only one part of this success story, which was created by a student and parents willing to disclose, an enlightened school staff willing to hold an assembly, and an effective communicator willing to interact with the students.
We’ve also heard success stories about the children who’ve been in our videos. A number of parents have asked about opportunities to have their children participate in new videos to show how much progress they’ve made. We know some of these parents well enough to see what a huge role they’ve played in that progress. These parents are solid advocates for their children and are raising them to be as strong, confident and independent as possible. Being open about Asperger Syndrome sends a strong message to these children about their self worth, just as they are.
Disclosing that a child has Asperger Syndrome should always be a personal and family decision based on your circumstances. But it’s one I urge every parent of a child of with AS to seriously consider.
We’re now working on a DVD to help people with Asperger Syndrome find and keep a job. We’re interviewing successful job holders with AS, as well as their employers and job coaches. In an environment where unemployment is dramatically high for people with AS, all of these employees have been working steadily for years. Every successful job holder we’ve interviewed has talked about the importance of disclosing AS to supervisors and co-workers. This helps people see past their AS behaviors to appreciate their strengths and productivity.
It’s something to think about. Children with Asperger Syndrome grow up and need to find work just like everyone else. Continuing disclosure may be an important factor in your child’s lifelong success.
Lifelong success. That has a nice ring to it.
If disclosure is a building block to lifelong success, shouldn’t we start laying the foundation as soon as possible?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Dan Coulter produces DVDs for people with Asperger Syndrome and autism and those who support them. The employment DVD he mentions is scheduled for release in Spring, 2009. You can find more articles on his website: www.coultervideo.com.
Copyright 2009 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.