Dealing with the Deceptive Genius of Asperger’s Syndrome
Children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome were called little professors by Dr. Asperger. This hearkens back to their ability to focus in on one subject and then learn all there is to know about it. They may read, study, hypothesize on their own, or simply take ownership of the topic in a variety of different ways. This unfortunately also points to the deceptive genius of Asperger’s Syndrome: learning by rote.
Those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome have the singular ability to learn long lists of facts and even complex items simply through memorization. Unfortunately, they may not actually understand what they have learned, and therefore no real learning took place. Instead, the process could be compared unfavourable to someone learning a complex issue by rote in a foreign language. Although she or he may sound very knowledgeable and come across very convincing, the individual most likely does not understand what it being said.
Dealing with the deceptive genius of Asperger’s Syndrome requires a bit of savvy and also a good knowledge of the student. As a teacher you must learn to look past the unusually large vocabulary that so many students with the condition possess, and you also need to understand that the distinct way of speaking is not synonymous with expertise. Instead, it is simply one of the symptoms of the condition and a by product of the mechanics of the disease.
To this end, teachers need to know to ask for information in a number of different ways. For example, you may laud your student’s ability to recite the exact phrasing in the text books, but then ask what this means. Conversely, when explaining a subject matter, use two or three different ways of looking at the situation and then explain it in as many different ways. This fosters the understanding that there are different ways to look at a problem and if one way does not reward the student with success, another way might actually make a problem a lot easier to understand.
On the other hand, a mistake often made by novice teachers who have never encountered a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is to assume that genius in things mathematical automatically transfer to other subjects. Such teachers are frequently quite surprised to find out that instead of also dealing with a genius at literature, they are instead finding that they are face to face with someone who is not able to draw even the simplest conclusions from a fictional passage. This goes back to the inability of an Asperger’s Syndrome child to read between the lines and establish social clues, but at the same time it also points to the fact that children with this condition have one or two topics with which they will do exceptionally well while the others lag behind.
The skilled teacher will seek to draw out the child with Asperger’s Syndrome by connecting areas of interest with those in which the child shows a weakness. This of course offers a whole new possibility for class work.
Elementary School Students with Asperger’s Syndrome Face Uphill Battle
Even as parents have been alerted to the fact that Asperger’s Syndrome will make their child’s education more difficult, they may have breathed a sigh of relief when junior made it through preschool and kindergarten relatively unscathed. After all, there were few incidents and overall your child seemed to be doing remarkably well. This of course is a rather deceptive relief, especially since the real problems do not usually show up until the elementary school years, when social interactions are compounded with a more demanding academic schedule.
Elementary school students with Asperger’s Syndrome face an uphill battle in that they must now learn to contain themselves and their potential for hyperactivity and also emotion outbursts during a rigorous eight to ten hour day. Needless to say, this is where the first chinks in the armour will occur, and before long the child may realize that it is indeed markedly different from the peers and those who surround her or him. Even as intelligence is not an issue and the speech development is considered normal, the fact that Asperger’s Syndrome precludes the accurate understanding of non verbal clues renders the children almost helpless in a world that to an increases extent seems to be made up of such communications.
This is where the advocacy of parents comes to the forefront. Working together with teachers and school administrators, parents of Asperger’s Syndrome children may succeed in having the teaching methods changed to such an extent as to warrant adaptive technologies, altered curriculum studies, and even a difference in playground supervision. There is little doubt that elementary school children dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome do not have to be the odd man out they so frequently become when unskilled teachers and uninvolved parents fail to prepare them and their peers for successful interactions.
Although this only focuses on the social skills, they are a major factor in the life of any elementary school child, and wise is the parent who focuses her or his attention on this aspect of the scholastic life their child leads. The academic skills will take a bit of work as well, but most likely there it is a matter of helping the child to express their interest in certain subjects without actually disrupting the classroom setting, such as it may happen if the child calls out questions or even answered without being called upon and even after the teacher has already moved on to a difference subject matter.
Teaching a child with Asperger’s Syndrome does not have to be a complicated undertaking, but it does require some preparation, knowledge, and the support of caregivers. To this end parents and teachers are often urged to cooperate fully in the attempt to make the elementary school years as rewarding and positive for the child with Asperger’s Syndrome as is possible, and while it is simplistic to assert that there will be no problems, the fact that many of them can be nipped in the bud makes it a hopeful undertaking for those who do not want to put the child into a special education setting.