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Asperger Syndrome

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Asperger's Disorder
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Asperger Disorder
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  • Aspergers Syndrome

Asperger Syndrome

Definition: A childhood disorder predominately affecting boys and similar to autism (AUTISTIC DISORDER). It is characterized by severe, sustained, clinically significant impairment of social interaction, and restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. In contrast to autism, there are no clinically significant delays in language or cognitive development. (From DSM-IV)
Naples Spectrum Support Group
Meets the third Wednesday of the month.
Time: Meetings begin at 7:00pm
Location: Therapeutic Integration Services offices,
2960 Immokalee Rd #3, Naples, FL 34110
Contact: Angie Rue at 239-514-5010
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Education: Marco boy commutes to Naples to attend Hoffman Learning Center Naples News 25/02/2004

By Tiffany St. Martin

While riding home from school in the afternoon, fifth-grader David Wheeler often will finish the majority of his homework in his father's truck.

The trip from Journeys: A Hoffman Learning Academy in North Naples, to Marco Island takes about 45 minutes, so there's plenty of time for David to complete his assignments.

And it's worth the commute, David's mom, Sandy Wheeler said. She and her husband, Duncan, decided to send David to Journeys in October because the school focuses on what's best for each individual student.

That's especially important for 11-year-old David, who has a mild form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, which makes social interaction difficult. He also has attention deficit disorder, or ADD.

When the Wheelers adopted David at 26 months old, doctors said he was developmentally delayed. When he was six, doctors diagnosed him with Asperger's syndrome. He has taken Adderall for the past three years, and most of the tics he had due to his ADD have disappeared, Sandy Wheeler said.

He works with a speech pathologist twice a week, which helps him tremendously. "She's really great with him," his mother said.

David, who attended Tommie Barfield Elementary before going to Journeys, said he likes his new school because he has more time to finish his homework during the week, and he doesn't have any homework on Friday.

Although he had a modified curriculum at TBE, it wasn't modified enough: There still was the distraction of other students, Sandy Wheeler said. When she looked into private schools in the area, she knew Journeys was the one for David.

"We always knew eventually he would need something different," Duncan Wheeler said.

The academy is part of the Hoffman Learning Center, which opened in September and provides children with whatever special resources they need. It primarily is a tutoring center, but it also assesses students for the Challenge program, said director of education Nora Ingersoll.

The school's student-to-teacher ratio is very small; David spends most of his day with only four other students. The class limit is eight, and the school limit is 50, Ingersoll said.

"I would say hands down we customize, individualize and personalize more than any school I know," she said. "We want to keep the integrity of that really small school where everyone's invested in the children."

With so few students in the class, David's teacher, Noelle Zaldivar, is aware of each child's strengths and weaknesses, and she has time to spend with each child, Sandy Wheeler said.

Although David's lessons are modified, Ingersoll said, they are not modified in a way that takes away from his learning. David is one of two students with Asperger's syndrome at the school.

Ingersoll said the school pays close attention to his emotional as well as intellectual intelligence because if the students are calm and happy, they perform better and accomplish more.

"Miss Noelle gets more out of him than public schools ever thought they could," she said.

He always has gotten A's and B's, but now his parents can see how he's developing intellectually.

David has a "factual brain," meaning once he understands something, he doesn't need it repeated. In the past, he sometimes couldn't grasp abstract concepts such as "ants in the pants" and "raining cats and dogs," Sandy Wheeler said, although he can rationalize them since he has grown older.

His favorite subjects are math, science and English. David said he especially likes math because he gets to add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers.

When he isn't in school or doing homework, he likes watching Cartoon Network, and "I love to go fishing," he said.

He also spends time playing with one of his birthday presents, a black kitten named Leah, or playing football, basketball and baseball games on the computer in his bedroom.

"It makes Dave's little room a happier place," Sandy Wheeler said.

Sandy Wheeler said she is grateful for Journeys and the John M. McKay Scholarship that David received. McKay Scholarships come from the state, and they are for children with disabilities who have spent the previous year in a public school with an individual education plan.

"Without it, financially it would be hard to send Dave to Journeys," she said.

David is one of only two island students who attend Journeys, but Ingersoll said she would like to open a Marco branch of the school in the next couple of years if enough people express interest.
Asperger Syndrome Asperger's Disorder
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- Aspergers Syndrome