It’s hard to be a kid in junior high. It’s even harder to be a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome.

One Warrenville mom, whose son Steven suffers from this disorder, has been managing its effects for years. “One of the main characteristics of Asperger’s is a lack of social skills,” says Claudia. “Steven can only learn so much at school and in a family of four.”

When he entered junior high, he had a hard time transitioning. That’s where the the Quest Program at Warrenville Youth & Family Services came in.

Quest

Claudia says Steven’s assistant principal first suggested Quest when she noticed how Steven was struggling. And it’s made all the difference in Steven’s life. “Quest provided the social interaction he needed,” she says. “It’s the perfect environment—Quest has kids from all different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds, so Steven learned to relate to a wide variety of young people. He wouldn’t have received that opportunity anywhere else!”

People with Asperger’s often say whatever is on their mind. They have the innocence of a child in the body of an older kid or adult, explains Claudia. “Interacting with so many different kids taught Steven when it’s appropriate to comment on something and when it’s not,” she says. “Steven’s really grown a lot from being in such a diverse setting.”

A Welcoming Staff

Sometimes it’s hard for teachers to know how to deal with Asperger’s kids because they see the world differently than typical kids. Claudia praises the Quest staff for their hard work and understanding with Steven.

“They disciplined Steven based on what he understood he did wrong. They were very good about asking Steven what he thought he did, as opposed to just treating him based on what he actually did,” said Claudia. “That made a huge difference in how he responded.”

Learning to Lead

But Quest made an even larger impact on Steven when staff asked him to be a student leader. According to Claudia, his entire perspective changed. About a week after he became a student leader, he began to talk about the program differently.

“He’s on the other side of the fence now,” explains Claudia. “He notices the things kids do that he used to do. Now that he’s a leader, he can’t allow it.”

But while he is committed to enforcing the rules, he is understanding with the kids. “If a kid breaks a rule, Steven will tell that kid that he can relate because he used to do that, too,” says Claudia. “But then he’ll tell him why they don’t have to act like that. He’s really come full circle in the Quest program.

“I can’t thank Quest enough for working with Steven and enabling him to become a student leader,” continues Claudia. “I’m so thankful that there are people in the community who care.”