We know that Charles, as a young man, had great difficulties in school. He may have been bullied and the structures of formal schooling may have been confining and confusing for him. But he seemed to be bright.
Why did Richter have such struggles?
Charles Richter most likely had Asperger Syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum. This condition made it difficult for Charles to socialize easily, to form friendships, and to communicate. Charles, like others with this condition, was socially awkward and had an all-absorbing interests in specific topics. Charles faced serious difficulties when he briefly attended school and was almost certainly a target for bullying.
Characteristics of persons with Asperger may include:
● Difficulty with social relations
● Sensitivity to light and sound
● Extreme preoccupation with a special interest
● Stiff, lecture-type, one sided conversation
● Apparent lack of empathy
● Problems with social use of language
● Motor clumsiness
● Difficulty with changes and surprises
● General anxiety and outbursts of temper
Do you, or someone you know have some of these characteristics?
It is important to always remember that: Everybody’s brain works differently!
That’s what makes getting to know different people so amazing! No one thinks in just the same way. The same is true for people with autism and Asperger’s. The way their brain works may make it hard to talk, listen, play, understand, or learn in the same way as others. However, they may have remarkable skills in remembering information, drawing or playing music. And, of course, all individuals with autism are -- individual! Although they share the same difficulties with social communication, they also have wonderful differences that make them unique.
The importance of space
We need to be aware that sometimes our friends with autism need space. They might not do well with bright or flashing lights, and they may prefer dimmer lights. They may not like loud or sudden noises and may need a quieter space to play. They may react to strong smells and need to get away from that sensory overload. They may want to play by themselves frequently, instead of engaging with a large group of children.
The above information comes from Dayton Children’s Hospital. For more information, you can check out the website for OASIS (Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support) at: http://www.firststepsforkids.com
ACTIVITY: Suppose that you, or a classmate of yours, share some of Richter’s challenges. What are three things you might do to make life in school a bit more settled and peaceful for such a person? Share these ideas with your classmates and teacher and decide as a group what ideas you will implement.