School Daze


School Daze

The world is a baffling place for kids with Asperger's

By Diane Yapko

July/August 2009


It's one of the first days of the school year in Mrs. Reed's fourth-grade class. Not yet used to being cooped up after summer vacation, the children are noisy, fidgety, bordering on rambunctious. They refuse to settle down, even after repeated requests from her. Finally, she raises her voice and asks sternly, "Do you all want to miss recess and stay indoors today?" Everybody in the class immediately quiets down—everybody except Aaron. To her question, he immediately answers with a loud "Yes!" Some children look at him angrily, others snicker at his cluelessness. The rest of the children understood that Mrs. Reed wasn't expecting an answer from them—of course she knew they didn't want to skip recess. But Aaron assumed that if a question was asked, a reply was expected. After all, what was the purpose of asking a question if you already knew the answer?

At first, Mrs. Reed thinks Aaron is simply being provocative "Fine, then," she says angrily, "You'll stay in during recess." And he does, but instead of yearning to go outside with the rest of the kids, he spends the time rereading his beloved Star Wars book, which he's practically memorized. He knows the minutest trait of every character, but still gets pleasure from reading the book over and over again.

Aaron, who has Asperger's syndrome (AS), has great difficulty intuitively understanding the intentions or feelings beneath the literal meanings of words. To him the world is a baffling…

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