Asperger denial

8th April 2005 at 01:00
Q My daughter has been diagnosed with severe dyslexia and Asperger's syndrome and is having great difficulty at school. I had a meeting with the head six months ago who told me: "Asperger's syndrome does not exist; it is just a figment of 20th century medical imagination."

My daughter's frustration has led her to become very confrontational with her teachers and family, and she has run away from home on a number of occasions. The local education authority tell me I'm one of a large number of parents who have complained about the school's refusal to acknowledge special educational needs. I'm at my wit's end. Can you help?

A This appears to be an example of very poor management on the part of the school. To challenge the validity of Asperger's is so staggering that I wonder if there is more to the school's perspective than first appears.

Perhaps the central issue is that the school feels that your daughter's difficulties represent more general oppositional behaviour?

Clearly, communication between your family and the school has broken down and this needs to be resolved before any progress can be made.

Sometimes a conciliatory approach can be more productive in the long-term than a direct challenge, as what is crucial in such cases is not merely the resources available but also intangible but essential elements of patience, understanding and sympathy in respect of your child's difficulties.

Perhaps you could ask the professional who provided the diagnosis to write to the school outlining the nature of your daughter's difficulties? If you feel you are hitting a brick wall with the headteacher, you may need to ask to speak directly to the chair of the school governors. You may wish to alert this person to the fact that a significant number of parents appear to be disgruntled with the school's special needs provision.

Given the complex needs that you outline, it seems likely that you will have already accessed relevant local authority services (an educational psychologist andor a peripatetic teacher with special responsibilities for children with autism). If not, you should seek out these specialists at once and ask for a consultation.

* Please email questions to or write to TES Extra for Special Needs, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London ElW lBX.

Neither writer can enter into correspondence with readers.

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