What is Asperger Syndrome?
Asperger Syndrome is classified as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), one of a range of related developmental disorders that begin in childhood and persist throughout adulthood.
Aspire, The Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland, defines it as:
"a pervasive developmental disorder at the high functioning end of the Autistic Spectrum. Individuals with the syndrome can experience significant difficulties with social interaction, communication and flexible thinking".
People with Asperger Syndrome (AS) can be characterised by their impairments in social situations as well as having stereotyped patterns of behaviour and obsessional interests. The disorder can range from mild to severe.
AS is a life-long condition and remains undiagnosed for many adults. In Ireland it is estimated that several thousand people have the syndrome (some 4%-7% of the population), with about nine times as many men as women diagnosed.
IMPACT ON LEARNING SKILLS & DEVELOPMENT
Many people with AS have average intelligence or above but lack social and communication skills, as well as the ability to empathise and relate to others. It has been suggested that the root of these issues lies with an inability to read emotions in others and to understand their own feelings.
A person with AS may have in-depth knowledge of a specific topic and will be able to tell you numerous facts and figures about the subject. However, they will have difficulty if you ask them how they feel about the topic. This affects their literacy levels - while they may be able to read with fluency, they may have a low level of comprehension of what they are reading.
People with AS may exhibit one or more of the following:
- Difficulty maintaining a conversation
- Only talk about things that are relevant to them
- Egocentric and unable to empathise with others
- Take things literally
- Use long-winded repetitive speech
- Problems with money-management
- Have poor motor co-ordination
- Sensitivity to light, strong smells and certain textures
- Poor short-term working memory, but better long-term memory system
While social skills are a greater difficulty for AS sufferers, impact on learning ability can include poor handwriting and low levels of comprehension when reading.
With the proper supports and early intervention, people with AS can lead full and productive lives.
- Give clear, explicit directions or instructions for tasks
- Allow more time for completion
- Provide a quiet, planned work environment to lower stress or sensory overload
- Educational progression systems that assess using portfolio based assessment systems, such as FETAC, can be an invaluable way of gaining recognition for skills and furthering career options
- Students with AS should be encouraged to attend evening classes or part-time courses in their area of interest as this can be an effective strategy to raise and maintain motivation. It is also useful for meeting new friends with a common interest.
Children on the autistic spectrum, which includes Asperger Syndrome, may avail of special needs education in the same way as other children with special needs. There are also specific provisions for them.
At Primary Education Level:
Special pre-School Cass Units - A small number of special pre-school class units are attached to some mainstream primary schools for children with autistic spectrum disorders.
Home Tuition Scheme - If your child is unable to go to school on a regular basis because of serious medical difficulties, they may be able to access home tuition, which may also be provided if your child has special educational needs and is waiting for a suitable school place.
Home tuition is also used to provide early intervention for pre-school children with autism. The grant aid is for 10 hours home tuition a week for children aged two and a half to three and 20 hours a week for children aged three and over. The funding is not provided if there is a place in school or early education available to your child.
Application is made directly to the Home Tuition Unit of the Department of Education and Skills.
At Secondary Education Level:
A student who has been receiving special education support or resources while in Primary School is eligible for continuation of support at secondary level, once they continue to have a special educational need.
The same general provisions he/she received in primary school apply at Secondary Level. This typically includes specialist teaching from a Learning Support or Special Education Resource teacher (both now referred to as Special Education teachers).
This support is provided based on need, with the number of hours of support determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) drawn up in the last year of primary school.
Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE)
The Race scheme aims to assist students who are at a disadvantage due to a disability, by facilitating access to the state certificate examinations. The scheme has been the subject of much discussion and controversy in recent months and is currently undergoing changes.
Details of the revised 2017 scheme of reasonable accommodations will be available here on the State Examinations Commission website soon.
At Third Level Education:
AS is one of the specific learning difficulties covered under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) system.
DARE - Disability Access Route to Education - School leavers with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger's Syndrome) who are under 23 years old (at 1st January of the application year) can apply for a college place through DARE:
Applicants complete the CAO application by 17.15pm on 1st February. CAO opens for applications on 5th November at 12.00 noon. See www.cao.ie
By 1st March, applicants must answer YES to Question 1 ('Do you wish to be considered for DARE?') on Section A of the Supplementary Information Form (the SIF is a part of your CAO application).
Applicants with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger's Syndrome) are required to provide:
Evidence of their disability (Evidence of Disability Form 2016 OR Existing report from a Consultant Psychiatrist OR Psychologist OR Neurologist OR Paediatrician, (No time limit applies to the report) AND
Educational Impact Statement - must be completed by the applicant and your School Principal, Teacher or Guidance Counsellor and returned to the CAO by 17.15pm on 1st April.
|Full details of the DARE screening criteria for applicants with ASD are available here.
Students should always refer to the detailed DARE application criteria and procedures which are outlined here.
|Research findings from AHEAD released in 2015 show that, of the total disabled student population (9,694) at Third Level 2013/14 represented in the research, 360 (3.7%) have Aspergers / Autism. The full report is available here.
Common Educational Supports - a range of common educational supports are in place at Third Level for students with specific learning difficulties. These include:
- Priority registration
- Reader service
- Use of audio-tape to record lectures and tutorials
- Assistive technology
- Materials in alternative formats
- Word-processing facilities
- Photocopying Facilities
- Copies of lecturer's notes and/or overheads
- Time extension on out-of-lecture assignments
- Special Library Arrangements
- Counselling and Medical Services
- Study skills courses
- Examination provisions
These and other supports available are outlined in detail in our 'Third Level Supports' area.
In the Workplace:
Many organisations now make public claims to be an "equal opportunities employer". This suggests the existence of an equal opportunities policy (EOP), which is a policy statement adopted by the organisation declaring an intent not to discriminate and, further, to promote equality by taking steps to aid disadvantaged groups. Such employers are in effect promising to avoid discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status, and may also make such a commitment in relation to people with a disability and racial and ethnic minorities.
Impact on Career Choice
Skills for workplace success fall into two main categories: hard skills and and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific and they vary, depending upon the industry or field in which you want to work. For example, a graphic artist must have the computer skills that go with that job.
Soft skills are the personal characteristics that go with a variety of jobs - they include social skills, problem solving, communication, time management, and organisation. For example, a person who prefers to work alone might find a research job particularly appealing. Explore Career Skills in more detail here.
People with Asperger Syndrome may have certain highly developed skills and talents. It is important that these be identified and developed to compensate fro underdeveloped social and communication skills.
In choosing a college course, it can be important for people with AS to consider subject areas that increase their employability. An assessment of interests, talents, strengths and abilities will greatly support this process.
- Computer Science, Programming, Web Design, Animation or Engineering may be good choices, as people who work in these areas need to be logical thinkers with good visual thinking abilities.
- Accounting or Library Studies - where attention to detail and methodical approaches are vital
- Art - with an emphasis Commercial Art, Graphics, Photography or Drafting
- Areas of Mechanics and General Maintenace are also good career possibilities for visual thinkers
Many of these career options have wide ranging opportunities. Some have the added advantage that they can be done from home, or on a freelance basis.
In considering possible career choices, bear in mind that roles involving multi-tasking, or with high demands on short-term memory may be challenging for the person with AS. For example, Customer service roles, Receptionist, Air traffic controller, Waiting staff, Chef or Lab technician - all are jobs that involve a high degree of multi tasking and are based in noisy, stressful environments. Combined with placing a high demand on short-term memory function, these career types are likely to be unsuitable for a person with AS.
Famous People with Aspergers Syndrome
Many famous people such as W.B. Yeats, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton are believed to have been affected by AS.