Although individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS) usually possess average or above average intellectual functioning they often exhibit significant non-academic disabilities. These can interfere with their academic performance. Consequently college students with AS often fail. Typical college level special student supports usually do not address these types of problems. This article describes a collaborative arrangement to provide needed supports and services to college students with AS.
Asperger Syndrome was first identified by Hans Asperger in 1944, yet his work was not known in the United States until after 1981, when Lorna Wing's article publicized his work (Safran, 2002). Asperger Syndrome as a separate disability label has only been in use in the United States since the early 1990s. Before then, people with AS too often went undiagnosed. The American Psychiatric Association included AS to its diagnostic and statistical manual in 1994, as a pervasive developmental disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Considered to be on the mildest end of the Autistic Spectrum, it is characterized by disabilities in three developmental areas, communication, socialization and emotional/behavioral difficulties (Fine, 2004). Asperger Syndrome is today one of the most common developmental disabilities. Its prevalence is estimated to be 4 in 1,000 students (Nordesjo, 2002).
Communication While Asperger Syndrome does not include the delay in speech that is common in other forms of Autism, the language of one with AS is frequently quite idiosyncratic. It may include archaic word forms or unusual and rarely used words or grammar. Such language can become a social barrier, separating a person with these characteristics from others. (Barnhill, 2004)
Emotional/behavioral characteristics: a person diagnosed with AS may possess adequate adaptive skills but such skills may take unique and unusual forms. For example, although completely capable of dressing independently, a person with AS might insist on a very particular or unusual arrangement of clothing. Or, while bathing can be done independently, it might be done in a proscribed or ritualized pattern. Hand washing may be an elaborate, flamboyant and lengthy ritual. These patterns may become sources of rejection and derision. They may interfere with other important daily activities such as getting to class on time. (LaMarine, 2001)
Socialization: Poor social skills and difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships are common characteristics of AS. These might prevent a person from successfully using one's intellectual skills to excel in studies. Even where this does not interfere with academic achievement, it can result in rejection and isolation outside of class.
The concept of Theory of Mind has been proposed to explain the often divergent or socially unacceptable actions or thoughts of persons with AS. It is believed by some that people with AS can only see their own point of view, not able to understand that another person might have a differing perspective. Some use this theory of mind concept to explain the antisocial behaviors or just plain inexplicable social behaviors exhibited by some people with AS (Sally, 2004).
Despite demonstrated abilities and gifts, impairment in communication, socialization, and behavior often lead to significant problems...