Can a child be gifted and also have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of high-functioning autism)? Yes, there are gifted children who have Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), and the gifted diagnosis is usually made prior to the AS one. Although AS is considered, by some, to be a disability, it’s not unusual for gifted children to have AS. Just as a student can be gifted and have ADHD or a learning disability, a student can be gifted and have AS.
Obtain an Evaluation or Assessment
When my son was a 5-year-old pre-kindergarten student, his teacher told me I should have him tested for our public school gifted program, because she strongly believed he was gifted. I took him for the testing, but he didn’t perform well. Yet, when he was 7, I took him to renowned physicians confirmed that he was indeed gifted, and his performance on their assessments was in the 11-12 year old cognitive range. He was given the following diagnoses: cognitively gifted, socially immature, and intense temperament, along with an articulation disorder. (He was already in speech therapy for the articulation disorder since age 4.)
Later, when reading about AS, I realized my son displayed many of the symptoms and further evaluation was needed. Upon further research, I discovered that a child could be both gifted and have AS. We returned to the previous physician who did additional testing, and he confirmed that an AS diagnosis was accurate, and it would help my son to get needed therapy and services. He is a twice exceptional child (gifted with special needs or challenges).
If your insurance won’t pay for a private evaluation, you can self pay. Another option is an assessment via your neighborhood school.
Ask if the School Has Services for Asperger’s-Gifted (AG) Children
Many schools don’t have the knowledge to help gifted children, let alone those who are gifted along with AS, known as Asperger’s-Gifted (AG). Often teachers and school officials are familiar with moderate and severe autism but don’t understand AG children’s behavior. Your child may have difficulty fitting into typical public school gifted classes, although some gifted children who are affected with AS manage adequately in these classes. Usually, an application, an I.Q. test, and an interview are required for a space in one of these programs.
General education teachers may become intolerant, because they don’t understand how a child could be so smart, but can’t seem to make friends, can’t seem to stop moving his hands, or can’t seem to stop talking about one topic (restricted interest) which is often the case with AS affected children. Behaviors that are symptoms of the child’s AS can be mistaken for emotional issues or bad behavior.
Request Special Accommodations If Your Child Needs Them
Because Asperger’s-Gifted (AG) children require support and special accommodations in a gifted classroom or mainstream/general education classroom, teachers may not have the resources or time to accommodate them, although by law, they are required to do so. This poses a dilemma, because each child is entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE)–not a “best” education. Appropriate, in school language, meets a minimum standard, and highly intelligent AS children need much intellectual stimulation; minimum standards don’t provide the “best” education for them.
Your child, although gifted, may be placed in a general education classroom, along with a one-on-one aid, because the demands of a gifted classroom may cause too much stress or anxiety. This may be the option offered to you, as educators, especially those who don’t have a special education background, are not well-prepared for the challenge of teaching your twice-exceptional children. As a parent, you can supplement your child’s school education with additional home-based work or projects.
Obtain an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for Your Child
A child who has AS, even a gifted one, will need a one-on-one aid to maneuver the social network, help organize his school work, and function in a gifted or general education classroom–especially during the early elementary school years (grades 1 through 5) and may need an aid beyond these years too. Social skills groups may also help your child to interact appropriately with his peers. Your child’s school social worker can create a social skills group, including typical children as well as those with special needs.
However, to access services for your child, you will need an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Submit a written request to the school principal asking for a full evaluation by a team of school professionals, i.e., nurse, speech-language pathologist, social worker, gifted education teacher, and special education teacher to begin the process. After the evaluations are complete, you will meet with the IEP team to discuss your child’s needs. You will then be given a written assessment with goals, accommodations, and concrete methods that will be used in and outside the classroom.
It’s a lengthy process, and although your child now has an IEP, that doesn’t mean his teacher will follow it. If the IEP is not followed, you can request another team meeting, and you are part of the team. You must advocate for your AG child constantly, and ask her how things are going at school, visit the school, as well as establish and maintain a good relationship with the principal, teacher, school counselor, and other IEP team members.
If your AG child’s academic needs are met at school, you can after school (provide instruction and extra work at home), send her to supplemental classes at your own expense, find a suitable private school, or educate her at home. The important thing is that your child gets the “best” education possible, that she be intellectually challenged, and that she doesn’t experience extreme intolerance from teachers or constant bullying from students.
Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page — Fitting In and Speaking Out: Me and Asperger’s Syndrome
U.S. Department of Education: Free Appropriate Public Education
Giftedness and Asperger’s Syndrome: A New Agenda for Education