Late May, I received an email from LizDitz about questions that a home-schooling mother had about Asperger Syndrome. Originally posted on June 2, 2010, this is my response to her questions.
Hi, I'm an autistic adult, diagnosed with Asperger's. My friend Liz Ditz passed this along to me, thinking that I could be of help. (I just got back from an anime convention, and am still recovering from the overload and sleep deprivation, so please excuse any mistakes/politely tell me if I'm not making sense).
You have a lot of questions, and I'll do my best to cover all of them.
I don't think that neurotypicals (NTs) should have a different set of standards. I don't think that the diagnosis of ASD, ADHD, or anything really, is an excuse for a child to not try to reach the same standards as others.
It's one thing if a person is proven to be unable to reach a standard or a task, but unless that happens, it's not an excuse not to try.
Now, these are kids that are being homeschooled. Like you, their parents have for one reason or another, decided that home schooling is a better place for their children. It might be that regular classrooms and even special ed classrooms are too much for them to handle.
That being said, if these kids are going to be in any way independent and interact with mainstream society, they need to know at least basic manners and social skills. If not, then they will be hampered by their lack of skills, and may even be set up to be institutionalize.
Then it's a matter of whether or not the kids really are autistic or not. It could be a case where some of the kids are rude. Then you deal with it as you would with any other child: talk to the parents.
If the child is autistic, there are reasons to disclose that information, and reasons not to disclose. The benefit of disclosure is that if the kid is trying really hard, and does mess up, there is more understanding and support. The potential downside is that there may be some discrimination, either from other children or from parents.
As you've pointed out, disclosing can lead to a lot of supports, even if it's just a general understanding that the child has trouble and doing what can be done to help.
As for the benefits for a child to have an official diagnosis of Asperger's, well, it depends where you are. In some areas, Asperger's is considered a disability and there are accommodations and supports. However, not every where. I live in Canada, and I know a few autistic people who were diagnosed as high-functioning Autism, instead of Asperger's (it's the same thing, really; the only difference seems to be less noticeable difficulties with verbal skills, although someone with AS can be dysfunction-ally verbal: can speak, but not very good at getting things across).
This is so that the person can access services that would otherwise be denied. In Canada, there is a legislative in the process of being passed that will get Asperger's to be qualified for services, which will bridge the gap between now and when the DSM-V comes out (Asperger's has been combined into Autism Spectrum Disorder).
I'm not entirely sure that there is no benefit to knowing whether a homeschooled child has Asperger's or not. If the child requires outside assistance at times, then yes, it is very helpful to know.
It would also probably be helpful to know about the learning method they are using for the child, so that you can also help out when you see the child is needing assistance, or can prompt the child with social skills, and maybe even offer to have the child over to give the parents and caregivers some respite. This would also have the added bonus of exposing the child to more social situations where he/she can practice and develop skills.
As for college and adulthood... well, I was diagnosed in my late teens. I would have benefited greatly from knowing much sooner that I am autistic, just even so that I know. It has taken me seven years of self-learning to understand how being autistic affects my ability to communicate, social skills, sensory issues and general hygiene. That's development that could've been done as a child. Also, knowing that I am autistic earlier could've helped me to navigate the minefield that is the teenage years, whereas I was in meltdown every day. With an early diagnosis, I figure that supports for me would have been put into place a lot sooner, so that I wasn't being overloaded. And that would have saved me a lot of mental grief alone, not to mention helped me with my academics.
When I was in university, I would give a little talk to the tutors and staff of the Special Needs Office, to explain how autism affects my studies and every part of my life.
So I would say that it is extremely useful to know, throughout the lifespan, because it affects everything.
I'm not entirely sure why a parent would deny the diagnosis. Maybe they still believe there is a stigma involved with ASD. But I know that high intelligence is not a pass that says the child does not has Asperger's. Take myself for example: I'm a brightly, fairly social female who as a child would talk to adults and even laughed at adult level jokes. And I'm most definitely on the spectrum.