"What would be the most important teaching strategy to use with my Aspergers students?"
The short answer is: capitalize on the child's natural visual-thinking skills...
Children with Aspergers Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism often think differently than other children. They often have what is known as 'visual thinking'. While many of us think in words or abstractly, Aspergers kids think in pictures and films playing in their head.
They have a difficult time seeing a generic representation of, say, a cat, and instead recall exact images of cats they have seen. Some researchers believe that the way Aspergers people think is a good way of compensating for losses in 'language thinking'. This is what often makes these kids good at building things and seeing the end product of something before it is done.
Using this visual thinking to an advantage can help parents and teachers educate Aspergers students better. Teaching them through videos, pictures and other visual aids can help them learn while getting around the areas they have trouble with.
One Aspergers student stated, “I think totally in pictures. It is like playing different DVDs in a DVD player in my imagination.” Many Aspergers children and teens can manipulate the pictures in their imagination, which helps them to learn different things. To access spoken information, they can be taught to replay a “video image” of the person talking to them. In some cases, this represents a slower way of thinking, but it generally gets the job done.
Visual thinking often puts people with Aspergers in jobs that involve architecture or design. Not only is their visual learning superior, but their learning memory is more intact than other ways of remembering things. Many Aspergers individuals can create elaborate visual images of things as complex as computer programs and musical pieces, and then can fill in the rest of their knowledge around that. The thinking is often non-sequential so that pieces of knowledge are filled in like jigsaw puzzle pieces in no particular order.
When parents and teachers catch on to this method of thinking, it becomes easier to see the strengths the Aspergers student has -- and it becomes easier to find ways of using the visual imagery to teach concepts.