Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

FUHSD now offers Asperger's Support Center

The Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) has grown over the years to offer a good number of special education programs and service to help students with special needs. With the 2008-2009 school year, they have added the Asperger’s Support Center in order to assist students afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome.

The Asperger’s Support Center offers support and “emergency intervention” for students at the high school who have Asperger’s syndrome and is a place for the students to work on assignments during the day. The center has a specialist available throughout the day to talk to students about concerns or situations they may have and students are given “social training,” which helps them with problem-solving and social interaction.

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, Asperger’s syndrome is a “developmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others.” It states that children and teens with Asperger’s syndrome typically “exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics.”

Asperger’s syndrome is enveloped in the autism spectrum, but the differences between Asperger’s and autism are evident in a child’s early developmental stages. A child with Asperger’s syndrome usually develops language skills normally, while an autistic child will have more difficulty acquiring language skills as a preschooler, said Sallie Hunt, special education director for FUHSD.

Asperger’s syndrome is at times confused with high functioning autism and is classified under autism in the FUHSD disability classification system. However, students with Asperger’s syndrome are capable of learning the general curriculum taught at the high school with the help of differentiated instruction, resource centers and support in the general education classroom.

Hunt and the rest of the special education staff saw the need for additional support for the growing number of students with Asperger’s syndrome. While the program in place for the 2007-2008 school year was adequate, Hunt felt that it “could be better.”

Hunt reported that in the past eight years, the number of students with Asperger’s syndrome has grown substantially, from only three students in 2000 to 24 students this year.

These students are a part of the general student body, and while they are usually able to handle the classroom environment very well, they are at times “paralyzed by anxiety” because of “sensory overload,” which is common for students with Asperger’s.

When the student’s routine is changed, or there is a lot of noise or people in a classroom, it can become a real problem. Students with Asperger’s can become “too concerned with what’s bothering them to focus on the lessons or the assignments,” explained Hunt.

If this happens, the student goes to the Asperger’s Support Center and talks to the specialist about what is bothering them. It is then determined whether it is a situation that the student “misunderstood” or a “legitimate complaint.”

Afterward, the student can either stay in the center to work on assignments, or if he has calmed down sufficiently, go back to class.

The minimum cost to run the Asperger’s Support Center is $50,000. In order to be able to offer an optimal program for the students in the center, Hunt had to raise at least $20,000 to match the money provided by FUHSD to expand the program.

Hunt was able to obtain the additional funds from the Fallbrook Healthcare District and the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE). She continues her search for support from a variety of individuals and agencies in or near the Fallbrook community.

The NCCSE gave the center enough money for the initial year, but Hunt hopes to keep the center running on an ongoing basis and enhance it over time. She would like to facilitate participation in clubs, activities, extracurricular activities and school events, with the students.

Hunt also plans to start a parent support group for students with Asperger’s syndrome in order to “let them know they aren’t alone in this situation.”

To comment on this story, visit


Reader Comments(0)