Minister for Education and Science launches DVD on ‘Asperger Syndrome: A Practical Guide for Parents, Teachers and Young People’

Posted on: 09 July 2009

A new educational resource, ‘Asperger Syndrome: A Practical Guide for Parents, Teachers, Young People and other Professionals’ produced by the School of Education, Trinity College Dublin and the Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland (Aspire) was launched by the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD on Wednesday, July 8th last.

The two hour educational DVD provides an introduction to Asperger Syndrome, a developmental disorder considered part of the Autistic Spectrum.  Individuals with the syndrome can experience significant difficulties with social interaction, communication and flexible thinking.

With increasing numbers of individuals being diagnosed with the syndrome, this DVD has been created to guide our understanding of the condition.  It focuses on the needs of children and young people with Asperger Syndrome, from primary school, secondary school through to entry into further education and the world of work.  It also serves as an excellent resource for parents, teachers, school psychologists and guidance counsellors as well as peers in understanding classmates with the condition.

Speaking at the launch Minister O’Keeffe said: “This DVD is the latest in a series of provisions my Department has made to increase support for students with Asperger’s syndrome and it is committed to ensuring that all children with special educational needs including Asperger’s syndrome receive an education appropriate to their needs”.

“My Department is very pleased to support this DVD through the Special Education Support Services – SESS and contributes further to raising the awareness of the needs of students with Asperger’s syndrome.  This important resource provides essential information for parents, teachers and professionals in this area.”

The project has been led by TCD’s Director of Postgraduate Teaching and Learning at the School of Education, Dr Carmel O’Sullivan in collaboration with the Honorary Secretary of Aspire, Des McKernan.  The DVD will be distributed to every primary and secondary school in the country with the aid of funding from the Department of Education and Science (DES) and the Special Education Support Service.

“A particularly valuable feature of the DVD is the practical, tangible advice offered by parents, teachers, the young people themselves, and a number of other professionals such as occupational therapists, advocacy officers and job coaches, who are involved in the provision of support services for young people with AS,” says Dr O’Sullivan.

The DVD is divided into six chapters:

– Chapter One: An introduction to Asperger Syndrome

– Chapter Two: Living with Asperger Syndrome

– Chapter Three: Issues Relating to Primary School Education

– Chapter Four: Transition to Secondary School and Related Educational Issues

– Chapter Five: Further and Higher Education, Training and Transition to Employment

– Chapter Six: Using Drama in the Education of Children and Young People with Asperger Syndrome

Development Coordinator with Aspire, Shane O’Halloran and one of the assistant producers of the DVD, said: “It is wonderful to hear individuals with the disorder describe their own experience of living with the condition, and talk openly about difficulties with ordinary interaction, as well as their strengths and interests”.

“The production of this DVD fulfils Aspire’s mission which is to assist people with Asperger Syndrome to lead full and independent lives.  The Association undertakes and supports research into the condition and works to raise awareness of the syndrome among parents, professionals and the general public”,  he added.

Des McKernan, Honorary Secretary of Aspire, noted that a further unique feature of this DVD is its inclusion of a 30-minute chapter presenting TCD’s Dr O’Sullivan’s pioneering research in developing a highly effective educational approach using drama to enhance the social skills of young people with AS.

Commenting on her research team’s work at TCD and the impact it has had on the project’s participants with AS with  whom they  worked during the five year project,  Dr O’Sullivan said: “The use of drama and theatre in education involves participants in fictionally created contexts which are based on a problem-posing and problem-solving methodology, where imaginative and engaging characters are presented in various dilemmas. The aim underpinning this approach to learning is to engage the participant in an exploration of another character(s)’ life, and to involve the participant in following that journey and working collaboratively at resolving various problematic situations as they arise”.

“Generic and transferable skills development is achieved through this approach, and the workshops focus variously on encouraging and developing imagination, turn-taking, maintaining eye contact, listening and responding appropriately to others, as well as collaborating and  working in pairs and small groups.”

The DVD has been produced by the Audio-Visual and Media Services (AVMS) in TCD.