Alia Secondary College: Asperger's Aspects
Alia Secondary College
We have had considerable success with Asperger's type students. However there are some things parents should be aware of before jumping in too quickly.
1. We do not consider Asperger's Syndrome to be a disability requiring some form of special therapy. If you are looking for a school that provides special therapies for specific mental disabilities then you may do well to look elsewhere.
We simply provide a mainstream educational environment which most students (including aspies) seem to find very much to their liking.
An argument could be made that people who follow an unthinking herd mentality are the ones who are in need of some sort of special treatment. So we are more inclined to provide aspies (and others and even neurotypicals) with tools useful for sharpening their thinking skills, getting good qualifications and therefore being able to provide whatever treatment or therapy is appropriate for those who don't think!
We do this by providing a conducive environment that allows students the space to learn calmly.
2. We are not a school specialising in Asperger's Syndrome. We have always had some aspies and they seem to provide important elements to our environment. We also have plenty of regular students; vegetarians and omnivores; feminists and jocks; soccer players and couch potatoes; and every other sort. We don't have any particular aim to become an Asperger's school.
Consequently this web page is not a main page on our website menu at the left; and may not even be available from any google search that you did that got you here because we may remove that option before long. Book mark this page now if you wish to maintain access to it.
3. There are no psychologists on the staff here; nor are there any staff who are otherwise qualified or experienced in management of Asperger's students or of students with specific learning difficulties. We don't regard Asperger Syndrome students as needing any special therapy beyond surviving the damage that can be inflicted by our society. We simply have an environment that is tolerant of difference and perhaps a little more considerate than elsewhere. Aspies just like it here.
4. We also focus rather more than most schools on the academic side of schooling rather than concentrating first on behavioural rules and management procedures. We are also much more willing to chat openly about our behavioural expectations and the reasons for them. Aspies seem to like that too.
[Another side issue! You'll like this. When we say "behavioural expectations" above we mean our "unthinking natural inclination to feel that something might go a certain way." We don't mean enforced behavioural rules. Many mainstream schools seem to understand that "rules" is a dirty word these days; so they soften their language by using "expectations" to mean "rigidly enforced rules." This particular reworking of meaning is now so common that it rates almost as standard formal "Education Speak" and if you don't realise it then you can be labelled as lacking maturity or missing the big picture. And of course, you won't realise it if you are culturally attuned to dealing with problems by logic, facts and sincere discussion. You have to adopt the mindset of the dominant paradigm in our culture to even begin to understand the situation; which is: The only realistic means of managing is by force and punishment. It is acceptable for powerful people to say one thing and do another as Plato asserted. Living hell in other words. At Alia we try to be real about what we say; but it is very difficult when others are using the same words with opposite meaning.
5. We also make no value judgement about aspies [or anyone else.] We don't accept that Asperger Syndrome is necessarily negative or a disability. There is plenty of evidence that many neurotypicals can be very difficult people.
6. Our psychology teacher thinks we also have a few undiagnosed aspies enrolled. The principal thinks the psychology teacher is too focussed on formal assessments and the 'medical model'. The principal thinks that many psychological and behavioural diagnoses are suspect. The principal's wife thinks that he has aspie traits himself. But then; at Alia nobody completely agrees with anyone else on just about any topic other than perhaps that this is a great place. Quot homines tot sententiae.
7. Have a good read through the website here. We do lots of things differently to other secondary schools. You must trust your child to be reasonably sensible, self managing and responsible - beyond the general expectation for students in regular schools! That is also pretty important for being allowed to stay here.
8. We strongly encourage students to think for themselves and to argue their point [respectfully!] Staff model that sort of behaviour. Respect works both ways here. It goes well; but you will want to see for yourself; because every school says wonderful things like that about themselves.
9. Teachers at Alia don't manage by threat of punishment. There are no specified punishments for specified rule infractions. Consequently things have to be seriously well sorted out by everyone in order to avoid chaos.
10. These days nothing that you read is necessarily believable or convincing. Every school says that it is wonderful. Nobody is really believed and everybody expects spin. So; you can't even believe what you are reading here. Just come and see for yourself. You can do that at anytime but the absolute best times are at 9am SHARP or 3pm when you get to see what really makes this place so amazing. You (and your offspring) can also chat with students.
11. Our program here is based on mainstream qualifications aiming for university entry in academic, commercial, creative, etc faculties; and sometimes aiming for trade qualifications. It has commonly been said that the program suits capable, but creative or sensitive students.
12. The atmosphere here is live-and-let-live and avoids judgementalism. Otherwise we don't expect everybody to be the same.
Question: Why don't you put this on your main website menu? Are you trying to hide your Aspergers students from the world?
Answer: Whenever we have advertised some unique aspect of the school we have had problems. For example, when we emphasised the general level of happiness here we got an influx of sad kids; sometimes sad to the point of depression! So sometimes making too much of a point can tip the mix of students to a point where it alters the thing that you were adverising from what you originally had. We have always had some Aspies. They seem very important to maintaining the culture here in some way. We just want to maintain whatever it is that makes this place so fantastic. Even aspies probably benefit from being in a respectful mix of students which includes neurotypicals.
Question: But what do you actually DO to actively support aspies?
Answer: Not that much. It's more what we don't do that seems to work. There is freedom to speak and reason out loud. The neurotypicals here are more or less civilised. Just come and see for yourself . Don't bother with the formal Information Nights just visit any day at 9am or 3pm. We like it if you call first on (03) 9822 9622 [i.e. +61 3 9822 9622] but that isn't absolutely necessary. You can also visit at other times but you will miss the bit that you will really want to see and have to come back. Better to go the other way around - see the remarkable bit first.
By the way: Feel free to think up some questions. See the
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