Tips for Teaching Children with High-functioning Autism/Asperger's Syndrome

Health Writer
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(http://www.healthcentral.com/autism/c/1443/151817/functioning-autism) (HFA)  and Asperger’s syndrome are often in mainstreamed classrooms. They might do well academically and chances are they have average to above average intelligence. Even so, there are areas where they often need extra help and support. The following are ways parents and teachers can help those with HFA and Asperger’s syndrome succeed in school and socially.

Organization

Not all children with HFA or Asperger’s have problems with organization. Some are highly organized and have developed their own organizational system for papers, notes and other school information. For those that do have difficulty with organization, you can:

  • Develop a regular schedule to clean out desks or lockers. The student might need help if he becomes overwhelmed.
  • Create checklists for what supplies need to go home at the end of the day and a checklist for home to make sure he had needed supplies when he leaves for school in the morning.
  • A buddy that can help gather supplies to go home at the end of the school day.
  • Break down tasks into steps, asking the student to check with you after every few steps.
  • Children and teens with HFA and Asperger’s often have problems with organization. They might be highly organized, needing everything “just right” and have difficulty adjusting when anything disrupts their organizational system, including changes to the daily schedule. While this student is highly organized, he might need additional help adjusting when there are changes in the schedule, work that must be organized in a different way and learning fle he becomxibility.
  • Be sure to provide information on what is expected and how the student will know when he is completed before assigning tasks.
  • Provide a general overview of lessons before beginning and summarize the lesson at the end.
  • Allow the student to use a laptop computer to take notes.
  • Provide a written schedule and prepare the student when the regular schedule must be changed

Social and Communication Skills

A lack of social skills is one of the most prevalent symptom for anyone on the autism spectrum.  Children and teens with HFA or Asperger’s syndrome often want to be part of a group or make friends but simply don’t know how. The following are ways you can increase social awareness in the classroom:

  • Create structured group projects to allow the student to work with and interact with others.
  • Use a buddy system during free time (lunch, recess)
  • Have the guidance counselor develop a social skills program and work with several children with autism on specific skills, including understanding non-verbal social cues
  • Look over extracurricular activities and encourage the student to join clubs and activities that are closely aligned with his interests
  • Create a method of communication with parents. Children with HFA and Asperger’s might have a difficult time conveying information or even talking about what happened during the day. Send messages to parents via email or a special place in the child’s homework notebook.

For older students, extracurricular activities become a source of social interaction, especially if there are programs that are interesting. Look for groups that expand on the student’s interest and give him a common ground to start social relationships with other group members.

Concrete Thinking

People with autism often have difficulty understanding abstract concepts. They are very literal thinkers.  During your interactions with students with autism:

  • Avoid the use of idioms, sarcasm and double meanings.
  • Use concrete language and avoid the use of examples using abstract concepts
  • Avoid vague questions, such as “Why did you do that?”
  • When giving directions, avoid vague instructions and ask the student to repeat the directions back to make sure they are understood.

As the saying goes, “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” Everyone is unique, while there are similarities and shared symptoms, autism manifests differently in each person. Observe students with autism and determine which strategies will best help him or her.

For more information

10 Tips for Managing Asperger’s Syndrome in the Classroom

12 Apps to Help Teach Social Skills

References:

“Tips for Teaching High-Functioning People with Autism,” Date Unknown, Susan Moreno and Carol O’Neal, Indiana Resource Center for Autism