Growing up with Asperger's Syndrome: One family's story

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - A 13-year-old boy has been charged with assault in a knife-wielding incident Thursday at Pine Middle School. His father says his son has Asperger's Syndrome and was reacting to being bullied. Another local family says they know what he's going through.

Toni Richard was better prepared than most to know what her daughter Aurora faced when diagnosed with Asperger's at age 6. Already active in the autism community, she saw the signs.

"I knew the therapy she needed and I knew the people to go get it from and how to get it."

Like many with Asperger's, Aurora was very bright, intellectually talented beyond her years, but her disorder left her lacking the social skills to connect with others.

"It was very hard for her because she couldn't understand why kids wouldn't play with her. Aurora's very much like Sheldon from the 'Big Bang Theory.' There's some sarcasm things that she doesn't pick up on, some body language. She's very blatant and up front in her comments and sometimes that's offensive to people."

With each school, each teacher, there was a struggle to explain what her daughter was going through. Meanwhile Aurora was facing isolation and bullying.

"I mean, we tried to get some help through counseling and that never really seemed to work and then I got suicidal," says 15-year-old Aurora.. "I tried to grab my mom's sleeping pills and take all of them and she called the police. They had me handcuffed."

And she ended up in a treatment center. Her mother says there was little help for Aurora or others like her. Insurance wouldn't cover counseling. Schools didn't know what to do.

"There's thousands of kids in the Washoe County area that fell through the cracks. They did not get the services when they were younger. They're not in the correct school placement. Teachers aren't prepared to handle these children and they're not ready to handle the social stigma and being picked on."

But things turned around they both say when after a search they found Innovations High School.

"She loves that school where you're accepted and included in everything," says Toni Richard.."It's just made an unbelievable difference."

"It's a lot better," agrees Aurora. "I'm definitely not suicidal anymore and I don't get bullied anymore either, which really helps."

Their advice, seek help and don't give up.

Tony Richard asked us to put her in touch with the father of the boy at Pine Middle School. She thinks she can help.