Teacher’s Asperger’s Syndrome Guide
As a teacher you know that each classroom is filled with children who come from a variety of background. You also recognize that some of them will have learning challenges which may or may not be adequately addressed in the home. Yet are you prepared for the situations that arise from having a child in your class that has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome?
A child with Asperger’s Syndrome is well known for the intelligence with which she or he can converse on a topic that is of interest to the youngster. Dr. Asperger himself used to call them the little professors he would work with. At the same time, such children may display an extraordinary reticence at shifting gears in between different activities, leading teachers to sometimes experience something like exasperation.
It is important for a teacher to understand what it is like teaching a child with Asperger’s Syndrome and if you follow this guide, you are well on your way to integrating this child into your classroom and teaching.
* Recognize that simple acts, like forgetting homework, is not an affront toward you, but simply might be an expression of the child’s inability to remember a routine task.
* Behavioral skills are not transferable. If your science minded Asperger’s Syndrome student is able to go ahead and do the research on a complex science matter, it does not automatically mean that he is able to transfer this research ability to a much simpler social studies project. If the topic does not appeal to the student, he will not know how to do the same things he did for science.
* Positive reinforcement is a must with your student. While many students may do well with negative consequences and actually learn from their mistakes, the Asperger’s Syndrome student will get frustrated. Work hard to notice the good behaviours, and gently work with the parents to correct the bad choices the student makes.
* Asperger’s Syndrome children will have meltdowns. The younger the student, the more prone to meltdowns he will be. Even older children will still showcase this behaviour, although in many cases they will have learned how to handle the frustrations that set them off a bit better. If you have younger kids in your classroom, offer a safe spot away from the other children where the child may cool off. During such a meltdown there is little you can do for the child other than acknowledging his feelings and giving him some time to regroup.
* Understand that an Asperger’s Syndrome child is considered odd by his classmates. If you do the group approach to teaching, assigning the groups rather than letting the kids do the picking is crucial. Otherwise you will end up with the child consistently being the odd man out.
* The child has parents. Do not fall into the trap of trying to parent the child during school hours. Work together with the parents to help him during class time and make yourself available for help within the confines of your schedule, but do not try to correct or undo what the parents do at home.
Supplemental Guide for Teachers of Children with Asperger’s Syndrome
There is little doubt that teaching a child with Asperger’s Syndrome can be an intimidating prospect. After all, they do not call these children little professors for nothing. At the same time, their proverbial hair trigger temper is all but legendary, and those who do not work on providing a safe and also structured environment for students with the condition will soon find that their classroom will have a lot of problems. Mind you, these problems are not the fault of the student with Asperger’s Syndrome, but they are the responsibility of the teacher who failed – in spite of being alerted to the child’s condition -- to prepare for teaching properly.
In the hopes of minimizing the problems your classroom faces this year, here is a supplemental guide for teachers of children with Asperger’s Syndrome.
* Underestimating the frustration a child with Asperger’s Syndrome faces is easy, in part because their verbal skills are far advanced ahead of their peers. This leads to repeated overestimation of their academic prowess, which in turn places a lot of pressure on the child. Pressure turns into frustration, and frustration may lead to unwanted acting out. Avoid this vicious cycle by accurately assessing the actual learning rather than inferring skills.
* All peer interactions are stressful, and bullying can happen even if you do not personally believe any of the kids in your class to be able to engage in such behaviour. Work closely with playground supervisors to know what is going on when the children are not under your watchful eye. Adopt a zero tolerance policy for bullying and nip even the earliest signs of this kind of behaviour in the bud.
* Remember that students with Asperger’s Syndrome often have a hard time when forming their words on paper. This causes them to fall behind in activities and makes the classroom experience one of intense frustration. Counteract this problem by limiting the amount of writing the children need to do in class, and instead focus on other activities first. If you can schedule the writing activities to be done toward the end of class, this offers an open end that other children who are already done with their writing may use to read or get a start on their homework, while it will not allow the child with Asperger’s Syndrome to fall behind the rest of the class.
* Consider a foray into typing. Typing is a normal motor skill that children with Asperger’s Syndrome can easily learn and it will make their homework preparation a much simpler task. Work with parents and caregivers to establish proper typing techniques and then let all your children choose to either type or handwrite their homework assignments.
* Whenever possible test orally. This flies in the face of a lot of common school wisdom, but when teaching a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, you will find that the old school wisdom does not always work. Additionally, you may find that this mode of testing also helps your other kids do better on their evaluations and learning. You may be surprised how many actually are auditory learners as opposed to visual learners!
Is Special Education the Best Way for Children with Asperger’s Syndrome to Learn?
In the past, special education used to be the catchall term for all those kids who did not learn as well in the regular classroom environment as other kids. This led to those with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, developmental and also cognitive disabilities to be lumped together in huge classrooms where precious little learning actually took place. Chronically underfunded, these special education classrooms were scrapped, and gave way to the educational model that would put all kids into the same classes.
This, too, is a recipe for disaster as it leaves those who are differently able to flounder while children who are considered normally enabled find a curriculum almost exclusively geared toward them. Parents who kids diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome have been wondering for some time if there is a good way of educating their youngsters, and since neither the all inclusive nor the special education classroom experience seems to have worked, there is some confusion and frustration evident.
It is important to recognize that Asperger’s Syndrome in no way affects a child’s IQ. As a matter of fact, while children with the condition may have a hard time in their social development, their ability to learn and even excel in some studies is well documented. Unfortunately, it is there that some run afoul those educators with a specific agenda that would see them once again crammed into special education classrooms where – under the guise of having their special abilities catered to – they are kept separate from other kids with different abilities.
Parents must be vigilant in their efforts to keep their children in educational environments that combine those with Asperger’s Syndrome and those without the condition. At the same time, teachers trained in the fine art of teaching students with all levels of abilities should make up the majority of the faculties of education facilities. The separation of differently able children who have the cognitive wherewithal to learn alongside their peers is a process that presents more problems than it solves while at the same time failing to properly help children to integrate and interact with those who might be slightly different.
There is, however, a bona fide venue for special education when it comes to teaching children with Asperger’s Syndrome to interact with others. Lacking of course are social skills and the ability to read and understand verbal nuances and nonverbal body language clues. A form of special education that promotes interaction between children with Asperger’s Syndrome and those without, for the express purpose of teaching the former how to interact properly, is a great idea that should find a lot of support on the neighbourhood level as well as on the national level.
Of course, until both parents and educators understand that there is no IQ driven reason for separating students with Asperger’s Syndrome from other kids progress will be rather slow in coming. Once again, parents must be the educated advocates who will push on for their children’s proper education and socialization, and moms and dads simply cannot afford to remain inadequately informed on the issue.