Adolescence can be a particularly difficult time for many students with Asperger’s Syndrome. During the middle and high school years, approximately 40% of students with AS manifest a behavioral disorder of some kind. Students can demonstrate extreme emotional ups and downs and explosive outbursts of temper. Lack of knowledge about Asperger’s Syndrome, the nature and structure of secondary school (and its differences from elementary school), the development of insight within young people with AS themselves, and the onset of puberty all contribute to a student’s difficulties during this time.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a relatively newly defined disability and is not well understood by many secondary school educators. Often teachers unknowingly contribute to a student’s difficulties by assuming that he is being lazy or willfully defiant and/or implementing traditional positive and negative consequences that are often not effective for these students.
Although the increased intellectual demands of middle and high school often pose minimal challenge to a learner with AS, other aspects of this “invisible” disability cause a variety of problems. Numerous factors contribute to this difficulty. Among them are: the organizational and time management skills required to handle the increased complexity and volume of schoolwork and homework, a larger physical environment, more complex logistics, and greater emphasis on social abilities during the secondary school years.
Also, many adolescents with AS begin to be aware of the fact that they are different from others during this developmental period, which also contributes to their stress. Lastly, while the physical and hormonal changes in the adolescent years can be challenging for all students, this is especially true for those with AS. The typical changes of adolescence may be prolonged, delayed, and exceptionally confusing to middle and high school students with AS.