Starting this issue, we introduce our new Special Education Help and Advice column, aimed at any parent, teacher or school looking for answers to the challenges they face with their special education needs children at home or in the classroom.

We invite you to submit questions to our column expert Cecil Patrick Burton, a Special Education teacher and consultant that has been living and working in Japan for over 18 years. His school in Takarazuka (The Cee Bee Center) provides education, training and therapy for children with special education needs as well as education, counselling and training programs and workshops for parents, teachers and schools.

We will publish one question and answer each issue, with other non-published queries addressed individually and directly via email. All personal details we receive from you will be kept private and confidential. All enquiries can be sent directly to [email protected].

For our first column we answer a question concerning Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder – one of five disorders on the autism spectrum (ASDs). It is generally estimated to affect 48 children in 10,000 – roughly one in 200, though severity varies greatly. It affects both sexes, though boys much more frequently: approximately four boys have Asperger’s for every girl. These numbers have increased in recent years but it is likely that this is more a reflection of greater awareness and improved diagnosis than an increase in frequency.

No specific cause has been identified for Asperger’s Syndrome. The best evidence strongly suggests that all ASDs have a genetic basis, though no single gene is responsible. It also appears that certain factors can increase risk, including complications during pregnancy and some environmental factors such as air pollution during pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is a large amount of misinformation on the subject, which can lead parents to false hope and expensive ‘treatments’ which lack any scientific basis. In spite of what can be read on the web, Asperger’s is not caused by any of the following: diet, vaccinations, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), fluoride in the water, antibiotics or ‘bad parenting’.

Q. Our son was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. How can we work with his teachers to make sure he is getting the right kind of support he needs at school?

A. Once your son has been diagnosed make sure that you first get a proper assessment done for your child. The assessment should cover all details of his weaknesses and strengths. This means what your child can and can’t do in terms of not just only education but also physical and social activities, etc. This should be followed up with a proper 6 month IEP (Individualized Education Program) that should include remedial therapies, educational and physical activities, and the responsibilities of the child and parents as well as the teachers at school.

Sometimes it is difficult for the child at school with teachers who don’t understand how to deal with such a child. I would suggest making sure after the IEP has been made, to have a meeting with the teacher and principal or person-in-charge and make sure they understand their role in helping the child at school. If you still do not get any support for your child after that at school, then I think your child is attending the wrong school.

It is usually very difficult to find proper help for a special education child in Japan, and even when you do, it can cost you an arm and a leg. Do your best to find a well regarded, experienced specialist in special education, to ensure that your child receives the help they deserve.

To learn more about The Cee Bee Center, its work and programs please see:

For Kansai residents, Mr. Burton also organises an open support Meetup group for parents and teachers to discuss their various problems or to get more information on how to deal with special education needs children. http://www.meetup.com/Kansai-Special-Education-Support-Group