Advocates Focus on the Students Who Get Picked On
Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard
Bullying - an enormous obstacle to success in school for many children with high-functioning autism - is the central topic at the fourth annual Asperger Advocacy Coalition Conference, beginning today at the Downtown Athletic Club.
Teasing and exclusion by their peers can torpedo the academic achievement of kids with Asperger syndrome or other variations of high-functioning autism - a possibility that educators and parents must work against, said autism consultant Rebekah Heinrichs, who will speak at the conference today.
"What I hear from kids all over the country is they're just really devastated by what happens to them," said Heinrichs, the author of a 2003 book called "Perfect Targets: Asperger Syndrome and Bullying." "It's really questionable whether they're going to learn in that environment. I hear from parents who are so desperate to find a safe place for their child that they are trying to create their own school."
The problems worsen dramatically when these children, most of them intelligent but lacking social skills, move from elementary school to middle school.
Both the Eugene and Springfield school districts have anti-bullying, positive behavior programs in place, and have taken steps to create "safe zones" for teens with autism. In Eugene, a new program called Path Finder serves those kids who have struggled the most in a regular school setting (see accompanying story).
The Springfield district has set up magnet programs at Hamlin Middle School and Thurston High School, each of which serves eight or nine students. …