In doing research on finding appropriate placements for students with either high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome, I got side tracked by a little jewel of an article that had appeared in a magazine published by the National Education Association. Titled “Square Pegs: Kids with Asperger Syndrome are Hoping You’ll Help Them Find a Place in the Classroom that Fits Just Fine,” the article quotes Lucas, a young man with Asperger’s who had just graduated high school. According to Lucas, “You’ve heard people say we don’t want to be square pegs in round holes, we want to be square pegs in square holes. To me that means we don’t need to be fixed. We’re not broken people. We just need to be understood.” What Lucas is asking for—understanding--is what is essential to ensure a successful placement for the child with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s.
Teachers who are willing to go the proverbial extra mile may discover that children on the spectrum can contribute enormously to their classrooms. These children can shine brightly with a teacher who appreciates who they are and shows classmates by example how to treat the child with autism or Asperger’s with respect. Children who are placed with rigid, top-down disciplinarians are probably not going to do so well. Everyone—the child, the teacher, the principal, and the family—are going to be miserable. And some children simply cannot have their needs met in a mainstream classroom.