Thursday, June 23, 2011

Differently abled: Local schools find gifts in autistic students

Karol Sigda is as bright as he is troubled. He knows nearly every dinosaur and the era they came from, but gets so frustrated by handwriting that he struggles to complete book reports. The 8-year-old Berwyn resident already has developed plots for three more “Star Wars” sequels, but sometimes lacks the social skills to effectively communicate with his classmates and teachers. Sigda has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning diagnosis within the autism spectrum of disorders.From an education standpoint, Sigda is problematic. He’s years ahead of his classmates in many ways, but still occasionally throws tantrums or just shuts down if he feels bored. Rather than put Sigda and other children like him in special education classes, Havlicek Elementary School Principal Nancy Akin decided to try something new. Sigda and two other autistic third-grade boys were placed in a gifted program known simply as AIMS at the beginning of the most recent school year.

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