With school quickly approaching, I will be focusing on different aspects of Asperger’s syndrome (AS) in education. While Aspies are above average in intelligence, the major symptoms of AS, social difficulties, rigid thinking, obsessions and differences in language development can still cause problems within the classroom. Over the next few weeks, we will have information on Individualized Educational Plans, Section 504 and accommodations in the classroom that can help students with AS. This week, we will start out with some tips for teachers.
Work to make your student’s school day structured and consistent. Aspies tend to do better when they know what to expect and when to expect it. Keeping a structured routine will help minimize feelings of being overwhelmed and stress. If the school day schedule needs to change, try to talk about it beforehand and help him prepare.
Provide visual organizers to help your student keep track of the daily schedule. Use calendars, daily organizers and other visual methods for him to keep with him throughout the day. On days the schedule changes, highlight the changes to make it easy to see.
Pay attention to not only what you say but how you say it. Aspies are extremely literal and will assume you mean exactly what you say. Avoid using jargon, idioms or other unnecessary language. Instead, keep verbal cues that are short and concise.
Provide an area within the classroom for times when stress becomes overwhelming. Melt-downs frequently occur because of stimulus overload; give your student the ability to walk away for a few minutes to calm down. Setting aside a specific area the student knows he can go to sit quietly can help him refocus without going in to melt-down.
Keep in mind that making eye contact is difficult for many people with AS. Rather than insisting the student “look you in the eye” hold a prop in your hand when speaking directly to the student; changing props may result in the student looking at you.
Have clear expectations for the classroom. Many Aspies are strict “rule followers” so be aware of how each rule is perceived by your students. Using clear, concise language can help to minimize and misinterpretations.
Understand that skills are not always understood in different settings. Aspies often have a difficult time transferring skills in different situations. When teaching a new skill, practice it in a variety of situations.
Pay attention to possible bullying. Many students with AS indicate they have been bullied at some time. Watch for this type of behavior on the playground, in the cafeteria and in the hall. If needed, make sure an adult is available to supervise interactions. Talk with your student about how to handle different situations and what he can say or do if bullying does occur. Let all of your students know that bullying is never acceptable.
Be aware that many students with AS have problems with organizational skills. Provide extra assistance in organizing materials, remembering what to bring to class or keeping his desk and locker neat.
Use visual cues when teaching abstract concepts. Aspies think in literal terms and may have trouble understanding abstract concepts. Using pictures, drawings and other visual aids may help.
Remember, children with AS do not usually intentionally misbehave. Often, perceived misbehaviors come from a lack of understanding or confusion about what is going on around them. Many have a hard time reading facial cues and other body language. Instead of becoming frustrated, take the time to talk with your student to find out where he is having problems.
Published On: July 13, 2012