Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Classroom Challenges for Asperger Students

The characteristics of Aspergers (high functioning autism) translate into challenges to learning, behavior, and socialization for the youngster with the disorder and pose just as significant difficulties for the teacher in terms of teaching, controlling behaviors, and maintaining a classroom environment that is conducive to learning by all students, including the youngster with Aspergers. The list below provides a quick reference guide for some of the common difficulties kids with Aspergers have in the classroom.

Common difficulties in the classroom:

• Academic difficulties
• Appear “normal” to other people
• Difficulties with abstract concepts
• Difficulty with learning in large groups
• Difficulty with reciprocal conversations
• Emotional vulnerability
• Inability to make friends
• Insistence on sameness/difficulty with changes in routine
• Interests limited to specific topics
• Low frustration tolerance
• Motor clumsiness
• Pedantic speech
• Poor concentration
• Poor coping strategies
• Poor organization skills
• Poor writing skills (fine-motor problems)
• Problem-solving abilities tend to be poor
• Restricted range of interests
• Sensory issues
• Socially na├»ve and literal thinkers
• Tend to be reclusive
• Vocabulary usually great; comprehension poor

Because these kids have so many strengths, it is often easy to overlook their weaknesses. Also, some of their behaviors may be misinterpreted as “spoiled” or “manipulative,” resulting in the mistaken impression that kids with Aspergers are being defiant and “troublemakers.”

It is important for teachers to recognize that inappropriate behaviors are usually a function of poor coping skills, low frustration tolerance, and difficulty reading social cues. Most teaching strategies that are effective for students with autism (structure, consistency, etc.) also work for students with Aspergers. However, because these kids are often aware that they are different and can be self-conscious about it, teachers may need to be subtler in their intervention methods.

My Aspergers Child: Highly Praised Program for Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums at Home and in the Classroom

Aspergers Students: Dealing with Tantrums, Rage and Meltdowns in the Classroom

Tantrums, rage, and meltdowns (terms that are used interchangeably) typically occur in three stages that can be of variable length. These stages and associated interventions are described below. The best intervention for these behavioral outbursts is to prevent them through the use of appropriate academic, environmental, social, and sensory supports and modification to environment and expectations.

The Cycle of Tantrums, Rage, and Meltdowns and Related Interventions

 Initial stage

During the initial stage, children with Aspergers (high functioning autism) exhibit specific behavioral changes that may appear to be minor (e.g., nail biting, tensing muscles, indicating discomfort). During this stage, it is imperative that an adult intervene without becoming part of a struggle.


Effective interventions during this stage include: antiseptic bouncing, proximity control, support from routine and home base. All of these strategies can be effective in stopping the cycle of tantrums, rage, and meltdowns and can help the youngster regain control with minimal adult support.


If behavior is not diffused during the initial stage, the child may move to the rage stage. At this point, the youngster is disinhibited and acts impulsively, emotionally, and sometimes explosively. These behaviors may be externalized (e.g., screaming, biting, hitting, kicking, destroying property, self-injury), or internalized (e.g., shutdowns, withdrawal). Meltdowns are not purposeful, and once the rage stage begins, it most often must run its course.


Emphasis should be placed on youngster, peer, and adult safety, as well as protection of school, home, or personal property. Of importance here is helping the child with Aspergers regain control and preserve dignity. Adults should have developed plans for (a) obtaining assistance from educators, such as a crisis teacher or principal; (b) removing the student from the area (removing the upset student from the peer group is far less memorable for the peers than is moving the entire peer group away from the upset student); or (c) providing therapeutic restraint, if necessary. Especially in elementary and middle school, every effort should be made to prevent allowing a student to have a meltdown in view of peers as this behavior tends to “define” the student in the peers’ minds in years ahead.


Following a meltdown, the youngster with Aspergers often cannot fully remember what occurred during the rage stage. Some may become sullen, withdraw, or deny that inappropriate behavior occurred. Other children are so physically exhausted that they need to sleep.


During the recovery stage, kids are often not ready to learn. Thus, it is important that adults work with them to help them to once again become a part of the routine. This is often best accomplished by directing the child to a highly motivating task that can be easily accomplished (e.g., activity related to a special interest). If appropriate, when the student has calmed sufficiently, “process” the incident with him or her. Staff should analyze the incident to identify whether or not the environment, expectations, or staff-behavior played a role in precipitating the incident.

My Aspergers Child: Methods for Preventing Meltdowns at Home and in the Classroom

What is the best way to communicate with my Aspergers child?


What is the best way of effectively communicating things to my child with Aspergers?


Communicating with a child who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be a delightful experience. It can just as often be a frustrating experience. Children with ASD can have a wide range of communication skills, so it’s important to tailor any communication specifically to your child. Many times, you’ll have to try some communication techniques to see if they’re effective.

Be sensitive when speaking with a child with Asperger’s (high functioning autism). Understand that your child might not be able to maintain eye contact or that he might not want you sitting close to him or touching him. Understand that you will need to teach him how to communicate effectively.

Using a tool such as Interactive Training Cards, created by Joan Green, can help you teach your child about communication. Interactive Training cards were developed by special educators specifically to help facilitate communication with people with communication delays or difficulties. Each set of communication cards comes with 120 2”x2” laminated cards that relate to the topic of the set. The set also includes four sentence and cards containing common words, such as yes, no, thank you, no thank you, and more. Words are printed on the front and back of each picture.

These Interactive Training Cards come in several sets, each set having a different theme. The Food Set includes foods for each meal, snacks, condiments and kitchen materials and utensils. The Home and Health Set include chores, hygiene activities, body parts and physical ailments. Another set contains Elementary and High School Activities.

Understand that communicating with a child with ASD will be repetitive and time consuming. It can often be frustrating. Be patient. Often children with ASD are slower to process things they hear, so expect the pace of conversation to be different than in a standard conversation. Give your child time and space to respond appropriately and to formulate a response.

When working on communication skills with your child, try to engage him in a topic of interest to him. This will help extend the conversation and give him a change to feel confident while talking to you. He will be excited and will be more willing to engage when the topic piques his interest.

Communicating effectively with children with ASD can be a challenge. But the rewards and benefits are tremendous. Your child will reap the benefits of your efforts, as he is able to understand the world a bit better and to learn more effective communication skills.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

Classroom Strategies for Aspergers Students

Since the 1960's there have been numerous legislative acts intended to protect the rights of kids with disabilities. One key piece of legislation, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), provides that kids be placed in the least restrictive environment possible for their education. Anderson, Chitwood, and Hayden (1997), state,

"before IDEA, our schools almost always segregated kids with disabilities from kids without disabilities. Now, however, our nation has legislation that requires all pupils to have equal access to education. As a result, increasing numbers of kids with disabilities are being integrated into regular education classrooms. Under IDEA, pupils with disabilities are guaranteed services in the least restrictive environment." (p. XV).

One disability that is becoming more prevalent is Aspergers. Asperger's Disorder or Aspergers (AS) is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (2000) as, "The essential features of Aspergers are severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. This disturbance must cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. In contrast to Autistic Disorder, there are no clinically significant delays or deviance in language acquisition (e.g., single non-echoed words are communicatively by age 2 years, and spontaneous communicative phrases are used by age 3 years), although more subtle aspects of social communication (e.g., typical give-and-take in conversation) may be affected." (p. 80).

Although this legislation is necessary and does protect a youngster's rights to the best public education possible, it poses a challenge for educators. With classroom enrollment limits rising, teachers are spread thin. Inclusion laws require educators to instruct kids at many different places developmentally. In addition to being in different places, the addition of kids with learning disabilities such as Asperger's requires the instructor to use a variety of teaching strategies in order to reach each individual.

According to Cumine, Leach and Stevenson (1998), many teachers feel they have not received training to instruct kids with these kinds of learning disabilities. Additionally, Strosnider, Lyon, & Gartland (1997) express the pressure regular education instructors feel to carry out educational plans. The authors address the issues of the scarcity of time to collaborate and the shortage of special education instructors. These difficulties magnify the fact regular education instructors are ultimately responsible for implementing strategies in the classroom. The review of the literature will explore strategies of instruction valuable for educators who are not familiar with AS pupils and their special needs.

Review of Related Literature

In reviewing the significant research related to ASPERGERS it is necessary to clarify that, although ASPERGERS differs from Autism in regards to language acquisition and early cognitive development, they do have similarities. These similarities in the areas of social impairment, impairment in reading social non-verbal language, inflexibility, and persistent preoccupation allow for some of the research involving teaching strategies for Autistic pupils to be applied to ASPERGERS pupils as well.

Both qualitative and quantitative research has been conducted regarding ASPERGERS. For the purpose of clarity, the literature review will be categorized. The categories will include the theories associated with ASPERGERS, strategies for curriculum education, and strategies for social education.

Theories Associated With ASPERGERS

There are several theories associated with ASPERGERS. The predominant premise is the Behaviorist Theory. "By means of relatively few basic concepts, the behavioral perspective attempts to explain the acquisition, modification, and extinction of nearly all types of behavior. Maladaptive behavior is viewed as essentially the result of (1) a failure to learn necessary adaptive behaviors or competencies, such as how to establish satisfying personal relationships, and/or (2) the learning of ineffective or maladaptive responses." (Butcher, Mineka, & Hooley, 2004, p. 82).

The first explanation for maladaptive behavior fits ASPERGERS pupils particularly well. ASPERGERS individuals are impaired socially and often do not detect social clues. It is common for them to be unaware that someone is irritated if the only clue is a frustrated facial expression. If they miss a social clue then they miss the lesson associated with the experience. They will likely repeat the irritating behavior because they are unaware of its effects.

The idea of reinforcement is useful with individuals with ASPERGERS. Dr. Bryna Siegel (1996) states that, "Although autistic kids have difficulty figuring out most principles of human interaction, they are usually pretty astute about cause-and-effect principles, especially in instrumental contexts." (p.232). This indicates that although a pupil with ASPERGERS might be unaware of another individual's desires or emotions he or she is aware of his/hers. This can be useful in education if the instructor takes the time to ascertain what is pleasing to the youngster. Once this pleasure has been determined the teacher can request the desired behavior and reinforce the behavior with the object of desire.

A further teaching technique that finds its roots in behavioral conditioning is the implementation of applied behavior analysis and discrete trial training (ABA/DTT). Siegel, describes ABA/DTT as "a science that studies how principles of behavioral conditioning can be applied to learning. Discrete trial training is a method of training that is consistent with the principles of applied behavior analysis." (Siegel, 2003, p. 312). Siegel explains the design of DTT suggests learning can be broken down into small steps, building upon each other, and ultimately leading to the overall concept.

ABA/DTT is highly recommended for pupils with Autism. The principles of the strategy are affective for ASPERGERS pupils as well. Shore's (2002) research explains the difficulties ASPERGERS pupils have with sensory perception. It is problematical for these pupils to sort through the different stimulus occurring throughout the school day. Applying ABA/DTT allows the pupil to focus on smaller quantities of information and possibly the opportunity to complete an assignment rather than becoming overwhelmed. Understanding the theories associated with ASPERGERS aids in the appropriate evaluation of the pupil but specific strategies are still necessary for instruction.

Teaching Strategies for Curriculum Education

Initially it is necessary to understand the nature of the ASPERGERS pupil in regards to curriculum education. Safran (2002) indicates many of the characteristics of ASPERGERS can be "masked" by "average to above average IQ scores." (p. 284). This can result in the ASPERGERS being misunderstood by instructors. Safran (2002) explains that adults often presume the pupil is capable of more than is being produced. Lack of understanding of the ASPERGERS pupil in this way can significantly impede the desire of the instructor to search for strategies useful in overcoming the hindrances caused by the disability.

Another misunderstanding is the relationship between curriculum and social education. For example, a youngster with ASPERGERS might find a social setting overwhelming and distracting. If kids are placed in a small group for project work this might predominantly become a social setting to an ASPERGERS pupil. It is possible the pupil would be so over stimulated by the social aspect that it would be extremely challenging to focus on the curriculum aspect of the group.

Strosnider, et al., (1997) recognize this overlap between curriculum and social education. The researchers suggest that when considering modifications the most important aspect is considering all the elements involved in public education and not just deciding which area to modify. These authors propose that three areas effect education. The areas in review are academic, physical and interpersonal. These are all areas of difficulty for the ASPERGERS pupil. Strosnider, et al., (1997) compiled The Academic, Physical and Interpersonal Inclusion Plan (API Inclusion Plan). This plan assists the regular education instructor in brainstorming strategies for each of the three mentioned areas of education. This is particularly useful when considering the potential unavailability of a special education instructor for collaboration purposes.

The overlap between social and curriculum education is also expressed by Bashe and Kirby (2001). They report, "if asked to design an environment specifically geared to stress a person with ASPERGERS, you would probably come up with something that looked a lot like a school. You would want an overwhelming number of peers; periods of tightly structured time alternating with periods lacking any structure; regular helpings of irritating noise from bells, schoolmates, band practice, alarms, and crowded, cavernous spaces; countless distractions; a dozen or so daily transitions with a few surprises thrown in now and then; and finally, the piece de resistance: regularly scheduled tours into what can only be described as socialization hell (a.k.a. recess, lunch, gym, and the bus ride to and from school). It's a wonder that so many kids with ASPERGERS manage to do so well." (p. 365).

All of these types of stressors must be taken into consideration when evaluating what types of strategies will be beneficial to the ASPERGERS youngster. Kluth (2003) addresses the idea that the learning environment is itself a strategy.

In creating the right environment Kluth (2003) suggests one aspect to be considered is that of sounds. This researcher uses the familiar example of nails on a chalk board. Just imagining it can send a chill down the spine. Kluth (2003) explains that to a youngster with ASPERGERS every day sounds can have a similar affect.

Kluth (2003) advocates the important of an instructor taking inventory to determine sounds difficult for the pupil to listen to. Also offered is the solution of allowing the pupil to listen to soft music with headsets during class times including excessive noise. Earplugs are another solution suggested.

Williams (2001) supports the proposal of Kluth. According to Williams (2001), minimizing the stress and worry ASPERGERS pupils face is crucial to education. The researcher offers the notion of minimizing transitions and insuring the environment is predictable to the pupil. When there are changes in the routine, it is recommended the pupil be prepped ahead of time so excessive anxiety will not arise. In addition to alleviating stress, the researcher notes that frequent changes in routines make it difficult for the pupil to focus on the curriculum due to preoccupation concerning what will come next in the day.

Although all of these suggestions provide a better environment for the ASPERGERS pupil, a public school is not a static environment. ASPERGERS pupils, like all others, change teachers each year. Additionally, there is the requirement of moving from elementary, middle, and high school. These transitions are considered by Adreon and Stella (2001). These researchers recommend a "transition-planning meeting" be scheduled prior to such transitions taking place. (p. 271). This meeting allows the previous instructor to educate the incoming teacher on successful strategies as well as provide general education on the characteristics of ASPERGERS. The pupil should be orientated as well. Allowing the pupil extra time to become familiar with a new environment will prevent unnecessary stress during transition.

Once the environment has been considered, other instructional strategies can be implemented. One approach to education widely used is the Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Kids program. It is referred to as TEACCH. Ozonoff, Dawson, & McPartland (2002) describe this method as a way to build upon the ASPERGERS youngster's memory strengths. Many pupils display these memory skills in their ability to remember large quantities of information on subjects they are interested in. A youngster may, for example, become fascinated with trains and be able to offer as much detail as an expert in the field.

Cumine et al., (1998) indicate that TEACCH has 4 main elements. These elements include the physical structure of the classroom, a visual schedule of the day's activities, an explanation of the type and length of the work expected, and instructions presented visually in addition to verbally. These strategies are considered by the researchers to provide "scaffolding" for the ASPERGERS pupil. (p. 35).

Ozonoff, et al., (2002), elaborate on the suggestion of visual signs for the ASPERGERS pupil. The research claims that visual instructions and schedules help the pupil to feel more secure and less stressed so the mind can direct its attention to learning.

Because these pupils have difficulty learning in a traditional manner, depression can ensue. The capability to acquire information is present but performance is hindered. A depressed pupil will undoubtedly have some kind of academic struggles. For these pupils, depression is just one more barrier to education.

Just as Ozonoff et al., (2002) suggest that the pupil's strengths be maximized, Shevitz, Weinfeld, Jeweler, and Barnes-Robinson (2003) suggest a program that accomplishes the idea of maximizing pupil's strengths as well as increasing self esteem by using the pupil's preoccupation with one individual topic.

Shevitz et al., (2003) describe a mentoring program called "Wings Mentor Program". The authors explain how current statistics show there is approximately one Gifted/Learning Disabled (G/LD) pupil in each classroom. This was the motivation to establish the Mentor Program. The program was piloted in 1989. The results indicate, "that the mentor program improves pupils' self-concept, positively changes others' perceptions of them, and promotes their overall motivation in the classroom." (Shevitz, et al., 2003, p. 42).

"These are the pupils who, also able to participate actively in a class discussion, are unable to write a complete sentence. They are the pupils who rarely have homework completed, or if done, cannot find it. They are light years ahead in math, but reading below grade level. These same pupils may not only be able to program the computer, but they may be able to take it apart completely and put it back together again. Ask them about the Civil War, DNA cloning, lasers, or ancient civilizations and you might be bombarded with information and unique insights. Ask them to write about the same topic and they may produce little or nothing." (Shevitz, et al., 2003, p. 37).

The program attempts to remedy this problem by coupling a mentor with a pupil. A topic is selected and for 8 weeks the mentor meets with the pupil for one hour each week. The pupils can choose to study an area that is a source of preoccupation. At the end of the 8 weeks the class or school hosts a show-off night where the pupils share their project. This could also replace the traditional research projects that are done at the elementary school level. Pupils are filled with pride in the ability to impress moms and dads and peers with presentations.

This program is a very effective method of instruction for pupils with ASPERGERS. It is effective because these kids are usually bright but frustrated with traditional education environments. This program offers the opportunity to be excited about learning as well as the chance to learn about individual abilities and how these abilities can be applied to the classroom environment in which they learn.

Barnhill (2001) provided further encouragement for programs allowing pupils to exhibit knowledge. This research elucidates such opportunities give the ASPERGERS pupil's peers a reason to appreciate and respect ASPERGERS classmates. This argument is valuable from a social and educational perspective.

Similar to the mentor program, Safran (2002) recommends a one-to-one aide or shadow. The assistance of a shadow can keep the ASPERGERS pupil on task as well as serving as an interpreter in social settings. It is noted in the report there is no real evidence to support the notion this type of aide is effective. Like most strategies, it works for some pupils and is less effective with others.

Strategies for Social Education

As previously mentioned, curriculum education is not the only education a AS pupil encounters in the public school system. Social behaviors are not only necessary for successful playground interaction, they are necessary for successful acquisition of educational curriculum. This was previously mentioned in the example of group projects being problematic for an ASPERGERS pupils due to the social element involved. Myles and Simpson (2001) have entitled this aspect of education "The Hidden Curriculum". (p. 279).

The "Hidden Curriculum" suggests an aspect of learning that is not obvious to pupils with ASPERGERS. This aspect of learning includes the basic how -to's of living. These are things that other pupils seem to just know. The social know-how that tells most people what is inappropriate conversation material may be foreign to an ASPERGERS pupil. The investigators (2001) put forward teachers instructing pupils struggling in this realm through the use of "scope and sequence, direct instruction, social stories, acting lessons, and self-esteem building." (p. 283). Social stories and acting lessons give examples of proper actions in given public settings.

Middle school and high school settings present new social challenges for the ASPERGERS pupil. Gagnon and Robbins (2001) address the craziness these pupils encounter during classroom transitions. Passing periods are a desirable time of socializing for most pupils. For the ASPERGERS pupil, passing periods are a social zoo. The researchers advocate allowing the pupil to leave 5 minutes early in order to avoid the overwhelming social interaction. Without such options, the ASPERGERS pupil could possibly spend most of the next class trying to recover from the distressing sensory overload experience.

Often frustration can develop from a lack of understanding that these pupils are unable to generalize the skills that they learn. For example, a parent or instructor might work at teaching the pupil how to respectfully address a teacher. Typically this skill would then be generalized to any person in a position of authority. A pupil with ASPERGERS is likely to only apply the skill to the person initially used as the target of respect in the learning process. He or she will probably not apply this behavior to a yard supervisor, principal, or law enforcement officer. Understanding this inability to generalize will elevate frustration on the part of instructors.

There are additional techniques that have used in assisting pupils to learn to generalize. Myles and Simpson (2001) suggest that modes of instruction such as "scope and sequence" (p. 283) can be useful in equipping pupils with the skills that assist in social and academic learning as well as generalization.

The authors (2001) define scope and sequence training as teaching the pupil about the basics prior to expecting the generalized rules to be learned. They give the example of teaching a pupil the tone of a person's voice sends a message prior to teaching the youngster they should use a tone that is respectful to others. Due to the difficulty these pupils have with generalization, failing to teach the basics will further enhance their inability to generalize.

The inability to generalize can also pose a problem in classroom assignments. According to Jackson (2002), a youth author with ASPERGERS, giving the direction to open a math book to a certain page does not communicate to additionally begin solving the problems. The author instructs educators to verbally give all the steps necessary to complete an assignment rather than assuming ASPERGERS pupils will know what comes next.

It is clear from the teaching strategies outlined in this project, that similar to pupils without ASPERGERS, pupils with this pervasive developmental disorder are unique and require different techniques and approaches in their educational experience. Every pupil has unique abilities and struggles. This is true of ASPERGERS pupils as well.

There are two conclusions that can be drawn from the research done in this project. First, it is of the utmost importance that the instructor understands what ASPERGERS is and how it hinders pupils. Without a clear understanding of this disorder, the instructor will not understand the pupil. Actions that are clearly a part of the syndrome can be confused with behavioral issues and dealt with inappropriately.

Secondly, the instructor must educate his/herself on effective teaching strategies. An outstanding method of continuing education is collaboration among educators. In research conducted by Hunt, Soto, Maier, and Doering (2003), a Unified Plans of Support (UPS) team is studied. At risk pupils who had a UPS team meeting once a month to strategize and reevaluate existing plans intended to assist each pupil climbed in measured test scores.

The IDEA Act is clear in its declaration that pupils must be placed in the least restrictive environment possible in an effort to provide them with the best education possible. This can only be achieved by means of evaluation by instructors as to the effectiveness of their chosen teaching strategies and a willingness on the part of educators to continue to learn new techniques of instruction.

All of these strategies are helpful and potentially vital to the education of ASPERGERS pupils. Inclusive classrooms give them the opportunity to have their intellectual capacity challenged and nurtured. With this opportunity comes the responsibility for educators to learn the strategies necessary for the success of these pupils. "Inclusion is more than a set of strategies or practices, it is an educational orientation that embraces differences and values the uniqueness that each learner brings to the classroom." (Kluth, 2003. p. 23-24). With the diversity existing in the classroom, knowledge of these strategies will better prepare the educator to meet the academic and social needs of all pupils.

The basic principles that prove effective with pupils outside the ASPERGERS group work for those within. Every youngster needs to be evaluated, have a plan established addressing areas of weakness, and most importantly have an instructor that believes in the pupil and expects him/her to reach appropriate grade level requirements. Instructors who are willing to learn and implement new strategies will provide the best education for all pupils.

Seven Characteristics of Aspergers & Accompanying Classroom Strategies—

Kids diagnosed with Aspergers (AS) present a special challenge in the educational milieu. Typically viewed as eccentric and peculiar by classmates, their inept social skills often cause them to be made victims of scapegoating. Clumsiness and an obsessive interest in obscure subjects add to their "odd" presentation. Kids with ASPERGERS lack understanding of human relationships and the rules of social convention; they are naive and conspicuously lacking in common sense. Their inflexibility and inability to cope with change causes these individuals to be easily stressed and emotionally vulnerable. At the same time, kids with ASPERGERS (the majority of whom are boys) are often of average to above-average intelligence and have superior rote memories. Their single-minded pursuit of their interests can lead to great achievements later in life.

Aspergers is considered a disorder at the higher end of the autistic continuum. Comparing individuals within this continuum, Van Krevelen (cited in Wing, l99l) noted that the low-functioning youngster with autism "lives in a world of his own," whereas the higher functioning youngster with autism "lives in our world but in his own way" (p.99).

Naturally, not all kids with ASPERGERS are alike. Just as each youngster with ASPERGERS has his or her own unique personality, "typical" AS symptoms are manifested in ways specific to each individual. As a result, there is no exact recipe for classroom approaches that can be provided for every youngster with ASPERGERS, just as no one educational method fits the needs of all kids not afflicted with ASPERGERS.

Following are descriptions of seven defining characteristics of Aspergers, followed by suggestions and classroom strategies for addressing these symptoms. (Classroom interventions are illustrated with examples from my own teaching experiences at the University of Michigan Medical Center Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital School.) These suggestions are offered only in the broadest sense and should be tailored to the unique needs of the individual pupil with ASPERGERS.

Insistence on Sameness

Kids with ASPERGERS are easily overwhelmed by minimal change, are highly sensitive to environmental stressors, and sometimes engage in rituals. They are anxious and tend to worry obsessively when they do not know what to expect; stress, fatigue and sensory overload easily throw them off balance.

Programming Suggestions

• Allay fears of the unknown by exposing the youngster to the new activity, teacher, class, school, camp and so forth beforehand, and as soon as possible after he or she is informed of the change, to prevent obsessive worrying. (For instance, when the youngster with ASPERGERS must change schools, he or she should meet the new teacher, tour the new school and be apprised of his or her routine in advance of actual attendance. School assignments from the old school might be provided the first few days so that the routine is familiar to the youngster in the new environment. The receiving teacher might find out the youngster's special areas of interest and have related books or activities available on the youngster's first day.)
• Avoid surprises: Prepare the youngster thoroughly and in advance for special activities, altered schedules, or any other change in routine, regardless of how minimal
• Minimize transitions
• Offer consistent daily routine: The youngster with ASPERGERS must understand each day's routine and know what to expect in order to be able to concentrate on the task at hand
• Provide a predictable and safe environment

Impairment in Social Interaction

Kids with ASPERGERS show an inability to understand complex rules of social interaction; are naive; are extremely egocentric; may not like physical contact; talk at people instead of to them; do not understand jokes, irony or metaphors; use monotone or stilted, unnatural tone of voice; use inappropriate gaze and body language; are insensitive and lack tact; misinterpret social cues; cannot judge "social distance;" exhibit poor ability to initiate and sustain conversation; have well-developed speech but poor communication; are sometimes labeled "little professor" because speaking style is so adult-like and pedantic; are easily taken advantage of (do not perceive that others sometimes lie or trick them); and usually have a desire to be part of the social world.

Programming Suggestions

• Although they lack personal understanding of the emotions of others, kids with ASPERGERS can learn the correct way to respond. When they have been unintentionally insulting, tactless or insensitive, it must be explained to them why the response was inappropriate and what response would have been correct. Individuals with ASPERGERS must learn social skills intellectually: They lack social instinct and intuition
• Emphasize the proficient academic skills of the youngster with ASPERGERS by creating cooperative learning situations in which his or her reading skills, vocabulary, memory and so forth will be viewed as an asset by peers, thereby engendering acceptance
• In the higher age groups, attempt to educate peers about the youngster with ASPERGERS when social ineptness is severe by describing his or her social problems as a true disability. Praise classmates when they treat him or her with compassion. This task may prevent scapegoating, while promoting empathy and tolerance in the other kids
• Kids with ASPERGERS tend to be reclusive; thus the teacher must foster involvement with others. Encourage active socialization and limit time spent in isolated pursuit of interests. For instance, a teacher's aide seated at the lunch table could actively encourage the youngster with ASPERGERS to participate in the conversation of his or her peers not only by soliciting his or her opinions and asking him questions, but also by subtly reinforcing other kids who do the same.
• Most kids with ASPERGERS want friends but simply do not know how to interact. They should be taught how to react to social cues and be given repertoires of responses to use in various social situations. Teach the kids what to say and how to say it. Model two-way interactions and let them role-play. These kids's social judgment improves only after they have been taught rules that others pick up intuitively. One adult with ASPERGERS noted that he had learned to "ape human behavior." A college professor with ASPERGERS remarked that her quest to understand human interactions made her "feel like an anthropologist from Mars" (Sacks, l993, p.112)
• Older pupils with ASPERGERS might benefit from a "buddy system." The teacher can educate a sensitive nondisabled classmate about the situation of the youngster with ASPERGERS and seat them next to each other. The classmate could look out for the youngster with ASPERGERS on the bus, during recess, in the hallways and so forth, and attempt to include him or her in school activities.
• Protect the youngster from bullying and teasing

Restricted Range of Interests

Kids with ASPERGERS have eccentric preoccupations or odd, intense fixations (sometimes obsessively collecting unusual things). They tend to relentlessly "lecture" on areas of interest; ask repetitive questions about interests; have trouble letting go of ideas; follow own inclinations regardless of external demands; and sometimes refuse to learn about anything outside their limited field of interest.

Programming Suggestions

• Do not allow the youngster with ASPERGERS to perseveratively discuss or ask questions about isolated interests. Limit this behavior by designating a specific time during the day when the youngster can talk about this. For example: A youngster with ASPERGERS who was fixated on animals and had innumerable questions about a class pet turtle knew that he was allowed to ask these questions only during recesses. This was part of his daily routine and he quickly learned to stop himself when he began asking these kinds of questions at other times of the day
• For particularly recalcitrant kids, it may be necessary to initially individualize all assignments around their interest area (e.g., if the interest is dinosaurs, then offer grammar sentences, math word problems and reading and spelling tasks about dinosaurs). Gradually introduce other topics into assignments
• Pupils can be given assignments that link their interest to the subject being studied. For example, during a social studies unit about a specific country, a youngster obsessed with trains might be assigned to research the modes of transportation used by people in that country
• Some kids with ASPERGERS will not want to do assignments outside their area of interest. Firm expectations must be set for completion of classwork. It must be made very clear to the youngster with ASPERGERS that he is not in control and that he must follow specific rules. At the same time, however, meet the kids halfway by giving them opportunities to pursue their own interests
• Use of positive reinforcement selectively directed to shape a desired behavior is the critical strategy for helping the youngster with ASPERGERS (Dewey, 1991). These kids respond to compliments (e.g., in the case of a relentless question-asker, the teacher might consistently praise him as soon as he pauses and congratulate him for allowing others to speak). These kids should also be praised for simple, expected social behavior that is taken for granted in other kids
• Use the youngster's fixation as a way to broaden his or her repertoire of interests. For instance, during a unit on rain forests, the pupil with ASPERGERS who was obsessed with animals was led to not only study rain forest animals but to also study the forest itself, as this was the animals' home. He was then motivated to learn about the local people who were forced to chop down the animals' forest habitat in order to survive

Poor Concentration

Kids with ASPERGERS are often off task, distracted by internal stimuli; are very disorganized; have difficulty sustaining focus on classroom activities (often it is not that the attention is poor but, rather, that the focus is "odd" ; the individual with ASPERGERS cannot figure out what is relevant [Happe, 1991], so attention is focused on irrelevant stimuli); tend to withdrawal into complex inner worlds in a manner much more intense than is typical of daydreaming and have difficulty learning in a group situation.

Programming Suggestions

• A tremendous amount of regimented external structure must be provided if the youngster with ASPERGERS is to be productive in the classroom. Assignments should be broken down into small units, and frequent teacher feedback and redirection should be offered
• If a buddy system is used, sit the youngster's buddy next to him or her so the buddy can remind the youngster with ASPERGERS to return to task or listen to the lesson
• In the case of mainstreamed pupils with ASPERGERS, poor concentration, slow clerical speed and severe disorganization may make it necessary to lessen his or her homework/classwork load and/or provide time in a resource room where a special education teacher can provide the additional structure the youngster needs to complete classwork and homework (some kids with ASPERGERS are so unable to concentrate that it places undue stress on moms and dads to expect that they spend hours each night trying to get through homework with their youngster)
• Kids with severe concentration problems benefit from timed work sessions. This helps them organize themselves. Classwork that is not completed within the time limit (or that is done carelessly) within the time limit must be made up during the youngster's own time (i.e., during recess or during the time used for pursuit of special interests). Kids with ASPERGERS can sometimes be stubborn; they need firm expectations and a structured program that teaches them that compliance with rules leads to positive reinforcement (this kind of program motivates the youngster with ASPERGERS to be productive, thus enhancing self-esteem and lowering stress levels, because the youngster sees himself as competent)
• Seat the youngster with ASPERGERS at the front of the class and direct frequent questions to him or her to help him or her attend to the lesson
• The teacher must actively encourage the youngster with ASPERGERS to leave his or her inner thoughts/ fantasies behind and refocus on the real world. This is a constant battle, as the comfort of that inner world is believed to be much more attractive than anything in real life. For young kids, even free play needs to be structured, because they can become so immersed in solitary, ritualized fantasy play that they lose touch with reality. Encouraging a youngster with ASPERGERS to play a board game with one or two others under close supervision not only structures play but offers an opportunity to practice social skills
• Work out a nonverbal signal with the youngster (e.g., a gentle pat on the shoulder) for times when he or she is not attending

Poor Motor Coordination

Kids with ASPERGERS are physically clumsy and awkward; have stiff, awkward gaits; are unsuccessful in games involving motor skills; and experience fine-motor deficits that can cause penmanship problems, slow clerical speed and affect their ability to draw.

Programming Suggestions

• Do not push the youngster to participate in competitive sports, as his or her poor motor coordination may only invite frustration and the teasing of team members. The youngster with ASPERGERS lacks the social understanding of coordinating one's own actions with those of others on a team
• Individuals with ASPERGERS may need more than their peers to complete exams (taking exams in the resource room not only offer more time but would also provide the added structure and teacher redirection these kids need to focus on the task at hand)
• Involve the youngster with ASPERGERS in a health/fitness curriculum in physical education, rather than in a competitive sports program
• Kids with ASPERGERS may require a highly individualized cursive program that entails tracing and copying on paper, coupled with motor patterning on the blackboard. The teacher guides the youngster's hand repeatedly through the formation of letters and letter connections and also uses a verbal script. Once the youngster commits the script to memory, he or she can talk himself or herself through letter formations independently
• Refer the youngster with ASPERGERS for adaptive physical education program if gross motor problems are severe
• When assigning timed units of work, make sure the youngster's slower writing speed is taken into account
• Younger kids with ASPERGERS benefit from guidelines drawn on paper that help them control the size and uniformity of the letters they write. This also forces them to take the time to write carefully

Academic Difficulties

Kids with ASPERGERS usually have average to above-average intelligence (especially in the verbal sphere) but lack high level thinking and comprehension skills. They tend to be very literal: Their images are concrete, and abstraction is poor. Their pedantic speaking style and impressive vocabularies give the false impression that they understand what they are talking about, when in reality they are merely parroting what they have heard or read. The youngster with ASPERGERS frequently has an excellent rote memory, but it is mechanical in nature; that is, the youngster may respond like a video that plays in set sequence. Problem-solving skills are poor.

Programming Suggestions

• Academic work may be of poor quality because the youngster with ASPERGERS is not motivated to exert effort in areas in which he or she is not interested. Very firm expectations must be set for the quality of work produced. Work executed within timed periods must be not only complete but done carefully. The youngster with ASPERGERS should be expected to correct poorly executed classwork during recess or during the time he or she usually pursues his or her own interests
• Capitalize on these individuals' exceptional memory: Retaining factual information is frequently their forte
• Do not assume that kids with ASPERGERS understand something just because they parrot back what they have heard
• Emotional nuances, multiple levels of meaning, and relationship issues as presented in novels will often not be understood
• Kids with ASPERGERS often have excellent reading recognition skills, but language comprehension is weak. Do not assume they understand what they so fluently read
• Offer added explanation and try to simplify when lesson concepts are abstract
• Provide a highly individualized academic program engineered to offer consistent successes. The youngster with ASPERGERS needs great motivation to not follow his or her own impulses. Learning must be rewarding and not anxiety-provoking
• The writing assignments of individuals with ASPERGERS are often repetitious, flit from one subject to the next, and contain incorrect word connotations. These kids frequently do not know the difference between general knowledge and personal ideas and therefore assume the teacher will understand their sometimes abstruse expressions

Emotional Vulnerability

Kids with Aspergers have the intelligence to compete in regular education but they often do not have the emotional resources to cope with the demands of the classroom. These kids are easily stressed due to their inflexibility. Self-esteem is low, and they are often very self-critical and unable to tolerate making mistakes. Individuals with ASPERGERS, especially adolescents, may be prone to depression (a high percentage of depression in adults with ASPERGERS has been documented). Rage reactions/temper outbursts are common in response to stress/frustration. Kids with ASPERGERS rarely seem relaxed and are easily overwhelmed when things are not as their rigid views dictate they should be. Interacting with people and coping with the ordinary demands of everyday life take continual Herculean effort.

Programming Suggestions

• Affect as reflected in the teacher's voice should be kept to a minimum. Be calm, predictable, and matter-of-fact in interactions with the youngster with ASPERGERS, while clearly indicating compassion and patience. Hans Asperger (1991), the psychiatrist for whom this syndrome is named, remarked that "the teacher who does not understand that it is necessary to teach kids [with ASPERGERS] seemingly obvious things will feel impatient and irritated" (p.57); Do not expect the youngster with ASPERGERS to acknowledge that he or she is sad/ depressed. In the same way that they cannot perceive the feelings of others, these kids can also be unaware of their own feelings. They often cover up their depression and deny its symptoms
• Be aware that adolescents with ASPERGERS are especially prone to depression. Social skills are highly valued in adolescence and the pupil with ASPERGERS realizes he or she is different and has difficulty forming normal relationships. Academic work often becomes more abstract, and the adolescent with ASPERGERS finds assignments more difficult and complex. In one case, teachers noted that an adolescent with ASPERGERS was no longer crying over math assignments and therefore believed that he was coping much better. In reality, his subsequent decreased organization and productivity in math was believed to be function of his escaping further into his inner world to avoid the math, and thus he was not coping well at all
• It is critical that adolescents with ASPERGERS who are mainstreamed have an identified support staff member with whom they can check in at least once daily. This person can assess how well he or she is coping by meeting with him or her daily and gathering observations from other teachers
• Kids with ASPERGERS must receive academic assistance as soon as difficulties in a particular area are noted. These kids are quickly overwhelmed and react much more severely to failure than do other kids
• Kids with ASPERGERS who are very fragile emotionally may need placement in a highly structured special education classroom that can offer individualized academic program. These kids require a learning environment in which they see themselves as competent and productive. Accordingly, keeping them in the mainstream, where they cannot grasp concepts or complete assignments, serves only to lower their self-concept, increase their withdrawal, and set the stage for a depressive disorder. (In some situations, a personal aide can be assigned to the youngster with ASPERGERS rather than special education placement. The aide offers affective support, structure and consistent feedback.)
• Prevent outbursts by offering a high level of consistency. Prepare these kids for changes in daily routine, to lower stress (see "Resistance to Change" section). Kids with ASPERGERS frequently become fearful, angry, and upset in the face of forced or unexpected changes
• Report symptoms to the youngster's therapist or make a mental health referral so that the youngster can be evaluated for depression and receive treatment if this is needed. Because these kids are often unable to assess their own emotions and cannot seek comfort from others, it is critical that depression be diagnosed quickly
• Teach the kids how to cope when stress overwhelms him or her, to prevent outbursts. Help the youngster write a list of very concrete steps that can be followed when he or she becomes upset (e.g., 1-Breathe deeply three times; 2-Count the fingers on your right hand slowly three times; 3-Ask to see the special education teacher, etc.). Include a ritualized behavior that the youngster finds comforting on the list. Write these steps on a card that is placed in the youngster's pocket so that they are always readily available
• Teachers must be alert to changes in behavior that may indicate depression, such as even greater levels of disorganization, inattentiveness, and isolation; decreased stress threshold; chronic fatigue; crying; suicidal remarks; and so on. Do not accept the youngster's assessment in these cases that he or she is "OK"

Kids with Aspergers are so easily overwhelmed by environmental stressors, and have such profound impairment in the ability to form interpersonal relationships, that it is no wonder they give the impression of "fragile vulnerability and a pathetic childishness" (Wing, 1981, p. 117). Everard (1976) wrote that when these youngsters are compared with their nondisabled peers, "one is instantly aware of how different they are and the enormous effort they have to make to live in a world where no concessions are made and where they are expected to conform" (p.2).

Teachers can play a vital role in helping kids with ASPERGERS learn to negotiate the world around them. Because kids with ASPERGERS are frequently unable to express their fears and anxieties, it is up to significant adults to make it worthwhile for them to leave their safe inner fantasy lives for the uncertainties of the external world. Professionals who work with these youngsters in schools must provide the external structure, organization, and stability that they lack. Using creative teaching strategies with individuals suffering from Aspergers is critical, not only to facilitate academic success, but also to help them feel less alienated from other human beings and less overwhelmed by the ordinary demands of everyday life.

General Points to Consider—

1. An increase in unusual or difficult behaviors probably indicates an increase in stress for the Aspergers pupil. Sometimes stress is caused by feeling a loss of control. Many times the stress will only be alleviated when the pupil physically removes himself from the stressful event or situation. If this occurs, a program should be set up to assist the pupil in re-entering and/or staying in the stressful situation. When this occurs, a "safe-place" or "safe-person" may come in handy.

2. Do not take misbehavior personally. The high-functioning person with Aspergers is not a manipulative, scheming person who is trying to make life difficult. They are seldom, if ever, capable of being manipulative. Usually misbehavior is the result of efforts to survive experiences which may be confusing, disorienting or frightening. People with Aspergers are, by virtue of their disability, egocentric. Most have extreme difficulty reading the reactions of others.

3. People with Aspergers have problems with abstract and conceptual thinking. Some may eventually acquire abstract skills, but others never will. When abstract concepts must be used, use visual cues, such as drawings or written words, to augment the abstract idea. Avoid asking vague questions such as, "Why did you do that?" Instead, say, "I did not like it when you slammed your book down when I said it was time for gym. Next time, put the book down gently and tell me you are angry. Were you showing me that you did not want to go to gym, or that you did not want to stop reading?" Avoid asking essay-type questions. Be as concrete as possible in all your interactions with these pupils.

4. People with Aspergers have trouble with organizational skills, regardless of their intelligence and/or age. Even a "straight A" pupil with Aspergers who has a photographic memory can be incapable of remembering to bring a pencil to class or of remembering a deadline for an assignment. In such cases, aid should be provided in the least restrictive way possible. Strategies could include having the pupil put a picture of a pencil on the cover of his notebook or maintaining a list of assignments to be completed at home. Always praise the pupil when he remembers something he has previously forgotten. Never denigrate or "harp" at him when he fails. A lecture on the subject will not only NOT help, it will often make the problem worse. He may begin to believe he cannot remember to do or bring these things. These pupils seem to have either the neatest or the messiest desks or lockers in the school. The one with the messiest desk will need your help in frequent cleanups of the desk or locker so that he can find things. Simply remember that he is probably not making a conscious choice to be messy. He is most likely incapable of this organizational task without specific training. Attempt to train him in organizational skills using small, specific steps.

5. Use and interpret speech literally. Until you know the capabilities of the individual, you should avoid:

o "cute" names (e.g., Pal, Buddy, Wise Guy)
o double meanings (most jokes have double meanings)
o idioms (e.g., save your breath, jump the gun, second thoughts)
o nicknames
o sarcasm (e.g., saying, "Great!" after he has just spilled a bottle of ketchup on the table)

6. Assume nothing when assessing skills. For example, the individual with Aspergers may be a "math whiz" in Algebra, but not able to make simple change at a cash register. Or, he may have an incredible memory about books he has read, speeches he has heard or sports statistics, but still may not be able to remember to bring a pencil to class. Uneven skills development is a hallmark of Aspergers.

7. Avoid verbal overload. Be clear. Use shorter sentences if you perceive that the pupil does not fully understanding you. Although he probably has no hearing problem and may be paying attention, he may have difficulty understanding your main point and identifying important information.

8. Be aware that normal levels of auditory and visual input can be perceived by the pupil as too much or too little. For example, the hum of florescent lighting is extremely distracting for some people with Aspergers. Consider environmental changes such as removing "visual clutter" from the room or seating changes if the pupil seems distracted or upset by his classroom environment.

9. Behavior management works, but if incorrectly used, it can encourage robot-like behavior, provide only a short term behavior change or result in some form of aggression. Use positive and chronologically age-appropriate behavior procedures.

10. Consistent treatment and expectations from everyone is vital.

11. If the pupil does not seem to be learning a task, break it down into smaller steps or present the task in several ways (e.g., visually, verbally, and physically).

12. If your class involves pairing off or choosing partners, either draw numbers or use some other arbitrary means of pairing. Or ask an especially kind pupil if he or she would agree to choose the individual with Aspergers as a partner before the pairing takes place. The pupil with Aspergers is most often the individual left with no partner. This is unfortunate since these pupils could benefit most from having a partner.

13. If your high-functioning pupil with Aspergers uses repetitive verbal arguments and/or repetitive verbal questions you need to interrupt what can become a continuing, repetitive litany. Continually responding in a logical manner or arguing back seldom stops this behavior. The subject of the argument or question is not always the subject which has upset him. More often the individual is communicating a feeling of loss of control or uncertainty about someone or something in the environment. Try requesting that he write down the question or argumentative statement. Then write down your reply. This usually begins to calm him down and stops the repetitive activity. If that doesn't work, write down his repetitive question or argument and ask him to write down a logical reply (perhaps one he thinks you would make). This distracts from the escalating verbal aspect of the situation and may give him a more socially acceptable way of expressing frustration or anxiety. Another alternative is role-playing the repetitive argument or question with you taking his part and having him answer you as he thinks you might.

14. Prepare the pupil for all environmental and/or changes in routine such as assembly, substitute teacher and rescheduling. Use a written or visual schedule to prepare him for change.

15. Remember that facial expressions and other social cues may not work. Most individuals with Aspergers have difficulty reading facial expressions and interpreting “body language”.

16. Since these individuals experience various communication difficulties, do not rely on pupils with Aspergers to relay important messages to their moms and dads about school events, assignments, school rules, etc., unless you try it on an experimental basis with follow-up or unless you are already certain that the pupil has mastered this skill. Even sending home a note for his moms and dads may not work. The pupil may not remember to deliver the note or may lose it before reaching home. Phone calls to moms and dads work best until the skill can be developed. Frequent and accurate communication between the teacher and parent (or primary care-giver) is very important.

Bullet Points—

Definition of Aspergers

• Language, self-care skills and adaptive behavior and curiosity about environment show normal development up to 3 years of age.
• Qualitative abnormality in reciprocal social interaction and circumscribed interests and repetitive, stereotyped patterns of activities.

In Summary

• Anxiety increases quickly
• Have narrow interests
• Perfectionist
• Rule and routine bound
• Sensory Issues
• They are smart
• They do not know what to say
• Uncoordinated
• Want things their way


• Academic Skills
• Medical Evaluation
• Motor and Sensory Skills
• Social and Play Skills
• Speech and Language Skills

Academic Evaluation

• Clumsy
• Handwriting is often poor
• Knowledge based subjects may be a strength
• Math may or may not be weak
• Organization skills are weak
• Writing creative sentences is difficult.

Classroom Accommodations

• Put the following in the binder: Assignment Notebook, Take-Home folder, Give to the Teacher folder, Homework folder, Extra’s pocket, labels, reinforcements, paper.
• Pupils with AS need more time than other pupils to learn how to keep track of work, due dates, notes, etc.
• Take to school and home every day!

The Assignment Notebook

• Establishes a routine
• Everyone checks it!!!!!
• Informs moms and dads
• Keeps the pupil organized
• Notifies of schedule changes
• Provides for planning ahead
• Teaches responsibility


• Amount
• Busy work
• Check for understanding
• Divide into sections
• Purpose
• Written directions


• Copy of test
• List of topics and terms
• Multiple choice
• No Fill-in or T/F
• Nothing NEW!
• Oral exams
• Practice test
• Teacher-provided outline


• Ability to formulate ideas and transfer to written form may be impaired
• Print
• Reduce emphasis on neatness
• The best way to assess your youngster’s actual knowledge of a subject or proficiency in self-expression may be to write for him/her or use assistive technology
• Try Handwriting Without Tears program

Writing is difficult

• Fine motor problems and difficulty creating language make writing creative sentences difficult
• Use Assistive Technology

1. Be his secretary
2. Use tape recorders or computers
3. Alphasmart
4. Co Writer
5. Write: Out Loud
6. Voice activated problems

Cut & Enlarge

• Attach to graph paper
• Cut into sections
• Don’t do all at once
• Enlarge worksheets

Home-School Communication

• Change in Routine Notification
• Communication Notebook
• Picture Charts
• Support Services

Speech and Language Evaluation

• Language skills-syntax and vocabulary
• Pragmatics
• Speech-articulation, voice and fluency

Pragmatic Disorder

• Decreased understanding and use of gestures
• Decreased use of questions
• Difficulty maintaining a conversation
• Lack of understanding about the reciprocity of verbal and nonverbal communication

Language Disorder

• Sometimes language learning is precocious
• Style of learning language may be like an autistic youngster: echolalia, difficulty learning pronouns, difficulty understanding verbal explanations
• There must be words by 2 years and phrases by 3 years


• Preschool Language Scale-4
• Clinical Evaluation of Language
• The Test of Language Development
• Expressive One Word Vocabulary Test
• Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test

Language Test Scores Show an Unusual Profile

• Highest scores are in expressive vocabulary
• Next highest are in receptive vocabulary
• Next are in grammatical structures
• Often below average are tests of problem solving
• Lowest area is in pragmatic language skills

Difficulty with Higher Level Language Functions

• Understanding idioms, figurative language
• Understanding sarcasm
• Understanding verbal explanations
• Understanding what is being asked in When, Why, How, What if questions

Speech Disorders

• Articulation disorders – same as in all kids
• Fluency – same as in all kids
• Often there is a prosody difference in the melody and intonation and pitch

Do Speech Therapy If the youngster with Aspergers:

• Does not understand what is being asked by “where,” “who,” and “when”
• Has difficulty carrying on a reciprocal conversation
• Has low language scores

Effective Strategies to Teach Higher Level Language Skills

• Traditional language therapy to teach specific language skills including questions, pronouns, and direction concepts
• Use Fast ForWord to speed up auditory processing
• Use materials such as Linguisystems to teach idioms, problem solving, etc

Effective Strategies to Teach Pragmatic Language

• Carol Gray’s Social Language Stories
• Coaching During Social Times
• Reciprocal Conversation with Therapist
• Role Playing
• Social Language Groups
• Videotaping

Techniques That Work in Social Language Groups

• Coaching
• Give Visual Prompts
• Keep Anxiety Low
• Scripting and Rehearsal
• Teach Flexibility
• Teach Question Asking
• Use Their Interests

Scripting and Rehearsal

Give the youngster the exact words to say:

• Say, “Dad, I want to go to the store”
• Say, “Joe, it’s my turn”
• Say, “Teacher, I need help”


• Have the youngster practice
• Show and tell the youngster what to do
• Teach the protocol of the activity

Getting Points: Make it very clear what he is to work on in the group such as:

• Asking questions
• Be explicit about getting points means you are doing it right
• Following someone else’s rule
• Give compliments
• Sharing

Teach Flexibility:


• Let him be red and explain to the others that maybe next time he can let someone else be red, but it is too hard to change today.
• If two want RED, let them share turns
• If the argument persists then you can either give in or let him wait until it is his turn to be RED.

“I have to win!”

• Make losing, fun.


• Announce that we can either argue for a long time or play. Which would you rather do?
• Are you having fun yet?
• Whoever “compromises” gets a star.


• Teach the rule: If you compromise, you are doing right.
• Compromise means letting the other guy have his way.
• If you let the other guy have his way, you get a point.


• They turn the other kids off by being bossy, controlling and judgmental.
• They lose a point (or a turn) for teasing criticizing another youngster.
• They get extra points for saying something nice.

If the youngster starts out saying several nice things, he is not teased as much.

Use Visual Aids

• Be Sure To Include “Things might change.”
• Get Them Hooked On Lists
• Plan It Together
• This Takes Away The Unexpected
• Visual Charts
• Written Lists

What To Do with Anxiety

• STOP the activity
• Ensure safety
• Decrease the causes of the anxiety
• Medication
• Reestablish calmness
• Then REHEARSE it using coaching, enticing, and “sweeten it up.”

Social Language Groups
Goal: Engage in Reciprocal Communication

• Make friends
• Play together
• Talk to each


• Find a time to meet regularly, usually once a week.
• Have the youngster participate in the decisions.
• Rehearse game protocol in individual sessions.
• Select 3 or 4 kids who are compatible in age and language level and interests.

Beginning the Groups

• Start by saying that we will make a list of activities for the day.
• First they sit at the table.
• Then the list is written (or pictured) and activities are crossed off as they are finished.
• At the end we often summarize the activities emphasizing the good behaviors they displayed.

Determine the Level of Social Communication
What Do They Do When They Play?

• Argue and are bossy and gives commands
• Difficulty understanding feedback
• Has to win
• Monologues
• Play by themselves or next to each other

Level One

• They Start Out With Parallel Play
• Use Scripting and Rehearsal

Teach Rule: Take Turns.

Level Two

• They Start With Simple Turn Taking Games
• Use Activities With Simple Winning

Teach Rule: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose.

Level Three

• They Have To Control, Argue, Are Bossy
• Use Activities That Need A Little Discussion

Teach Rule: Say Things That Invite A Response – Talk To Make Friends.

Level Four

• They Monologue
• Use Structured Conversation

Teach Rule: Say Two Things and Then Ask A Question.

Level Five

• They Do Not Give Or Get Feedback
• Use Conversation

Teach Rule: Look At Your Listener. Learn What The Other Person Is Feeling.

Tasks that will need adaptation

• Breaks
• Circle of friends
• Communication with moms and dads
• Lunch
• Organization
• Recess
• Staying on task
• Verbal explanations


• The key to academic and social success for pupils with Aspergers is TEAM WORK!

The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism


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• Siegel, B. (2003). Helping Children with Autism Learn. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
• Strosnider, R., Lyon, C., & Gartland, D. (1997). Including Students with Disabilities into the Regular Classroom. Education, 117 (4), 611-622. Retrieved January 6, 2005 from
• Williams, K. (2001). Understanding the Student with Asperger Syndrome: Guidelines for Teachers. Intervention in School & Clinic 36 (5), 287-298. Retrieved November 10, 2004 from
• Wing, L. (1981). Asperger's syndrome: A clinical account. Psychological Medicine 11, 115-129.
• Wing, L. (l991). The relationship between Asperger's syndrome and Kanner's autism. In U. Frith (Ed.), Autism and Asperger syndrome (pp. 93-121). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Aspergers Children and Sexual Fetishism


Overall, my Aspergers son has been a good kid. Loves going to school (but all through elementary school had bullying issues). Seems better this year in high school (he chose a new school). He has Asperger's syndrome (terrible social skills...yet loves to be social, but can't fit in). He has always been extremely "strong willed". I am at my wits end....he lies to me (minor things), he is disrespectful to myself and his dad, he starts and will not give in to numerous arguments (until we tell him he is right and we are wrong....this can go on for hours). The worse thing is that now he seems to have developed a fetish...he is stealing diapers and I don't know what is going on. This last thing has now distanced myself from him....I cannot deal with this, nor do I know how..He looks up pictures of diapers on internet (when he is supposed to be doing internet homework projects), then he lies about it when I ask him why he is on these sights. It is him, because there is no one else. Therapists are out, unless we know something about them, they can mess you up more than help, unless they are good.

Can you help?

Desperate mom


Sexual fetishism, or erotic fetishism, is the sexual arousal brought on by any object, situation or body part not conventionally viewed as being sexual in nature. Sexual fetishism may be regarded, e.g. in psychiatric medicine, as a disorder of sexual preference or as an enhancing element to a relationship. The sexual acts involving fetishes are characteristically depersonalized and objectified, even when they involve a partner. Body parts may also be the subject of sexual fetishes (also known as partialism) in which the body part preferred by the fetishist takes a sexual precedence over the owner.

Psychologists and medical practitioners regard fetishism as normal variations of human sexuality. Even those orientations that are potential forms of fetishism are usually considered unobjectionable as long as all people involved feel comfortable. Only if the diagnostic criteria presented in detail below are met is the medical diagnosis of fetishism justified. The leading criteria are that a fetishist is ill only if he or she suffers from the addiction, not simply because of the addiction itself.

The diagnostic criteria for fetishism are as follows:
  • Unusual sexual fantasies, drives or behavior occur over a time span of at least six months. Sometimes unusual sexual fantasies occur and vanish by themselves; in this case any medical treatment is not necessary.
  • The affected person, her object or another person experience impairment or distress in multiple functional areas. Functional area refers to different aspects of life such as private social contacts, job, etc. It is sufficient for the diagnosis if one of the participants is being hurt or mistreated in any other way.

There are two possible treatments for fetishism: cognitive therapy and psychoanalysis, though treatment is not usually necessary. Both may be complemented by additional treatments.

Cognitive therapy—

Cognitive therapy seeks to change a person's behavior without analyzing how and why it has shown up. It is based on the idea that fetishism is the result of conditioning or imprinting.

One possible therapy is aversive conditioning, in which the person is confronted with his fetish and as soon as sexual arousal starts, is exposed to a displeasing stimulus. It is reported that in earlier times painful stimuli such as electric shocks have been used as aversive stimulus. Today a common aversive stimulus are photographs that show unpleasing scenes such as penned in genitals. In a variant called assisted aversive conditioning, an assistant releases abominable odors as an aversive stimulus.

Another possible therapy is a technique called thought suppression, in which the therapist asks the patient to think of the fetish and suddenly cries out "stop!". The patient will be irritated, their line of thought broken. After analyzing the effects of the sudden break together, the therapist will teach the patient to use this technique by him or herself to interrupt thoughts about the fetish and thus avoid the undesired behavior.


Psychoanalysis tries to find the traumatic unconscious experience that has caused the fetish. Bringing this unconscious knowledge to a conscious state and, by enabling the person to work out the trauma rationally and emotionally, may relieve the person from the problems. Unlike cognitive therapy, psychoanalysis tackles the cause itself.

There are various techniques available for the analyzing process, including talk therapy, dream analysis and play therapy. Which method will be chosen depends upon the problem itself, the person's attitude and reactions to certain methods and the therapist's education and preference. This type of treatment is rarely used.


Various pharmaceutical drugs are available that inhibit the production of sex steroids, especially male testosterone and female estrogen. By cutting down the level of sex steroids, sexual desire is diminished. Thus, in theory, a person might gain the ability to control their fetish and reasonably process their own thoughts without being distracted by sexual arousal. Also, the application may give the person relief in everyday life, enabling them to ignore the fetish and get back to daily routine. Other research has assumed that fetishes may be like obsessive-compulsive disorders, and has looked into the use of psychiatric drugs (serotonin uptake inhibitors and dopamine blockers) for controlling paraphilias that interfere with a person's ability to function.

Although ongoing research has shown positive results in single case studies with some drugs, e. g. with topiramate, there is not yet any medicament that tackles fetishism itself. Because of that, physical treatment is only suitable to support one of the psychological methods.


•    Anonymous said… I do agree.. Maybe too, he is experiencing this pre occupation because of his anxiety about getting older and growing up, as we lnow Children on the spectrum do not like change and on a subconcious level wanting to be younger than he is, hence babies and Diapers?
•    Anonymous said… Is it possible there is anxiety about using the bathroom in public places and the interest in the diapers is not a fixation but a means to regulate his own anxiety and bowel comfort?
•    Anonymous said… Maybe he will develop a better diaper in the future. I always encourage my kids in their "fetishes" to take it to the next step. After all it's not the normal people that are boring that create new and exciting things for us
•    Anonymous said… This sure isnt easy being a parent to an Aspie and their forever changing little ways and obsessions ..wish there were more groups to learn and get tips and support !! Love him but my god i'm exhausted ♡
•    Anonymous said… Yr not alone. My son has a fixation on body parts and will comment on his own or others inappropriately and often completely out of context. He's an 8 year old aspie and It has me worried!
•    What does his "fetish" look like? What are his behaviors? Do you think the lying has something to do with the difficulty you are having dealing with this issue?

Post your comment below…

Teaching Kids with Aspergers: Tips for Educators

Aspergers (high functioning autism) is a neurological disease typically diagnosed in kids ages two to four. It is a form of functional autism that largely affects a person's communication and social skills. Some kids with Aspergers must be placed in special education classrooms, while others function relatively well in standard education classes.

In my tenure of teaching, I have taught sixteen kids with Aspergers, and it has been both a challenging and rewarding experience. Kids with Aspergers often have discipline problems and have trouble interacting with other kids, but they are usually quite bright. In fact, their IQ's are sometimes approaching genius level, and many are youngster prodigies in one area or another. Many take to memorizing facts, which has earned them the affectionate nickname of "little professors."

The complications with working with kids who have Aspergers are two-fold. On the one hand, many teachers are uncomfortable with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of Aspergers kids, and they have trouble communicating with the students beyond their limitations. At the same time, teachers must also deal with other students' reactions to a youngster with Aspergers.

Characteristics of Kids with Aspergers—

As with many other behavioral disorders, symptoms of Aspergers vary among those who have it. Here are some common behaviors that you might notice:

1. An extremely reliable memory.
2. Avoiding eye contact.
3. Clumsiness
4. Consistent adherence to routines and schedules.
5. Constant reiteration of facts and figures related to subjects that interest them.
6. Higher comfort level with adults than with peers.
7. Inability to grasp implied meanings.
8. Lack of control of facial expression.
9. Misunderstanding directions.
10. Over-eagerness to answer questions or participate in classroom activities.
11. Pedantic way of speaking.
12. Preoccupation with a specific subject
13. Taking expressions literally.

A youngster with Aspergers may have only one of these symptoms, or he or she might suffer from them all. Aspergers can be diagnosed in a wide range of severity.


The first time a youngster with Aspergers was placed in my classroom, I was informed about it during the summer by my Assistant Principal. He called to let me know a little bit about the youngster, and gave me a few brochures about the disease. He wanted to be sure that I was comfortable with the arrangement - which I was - and I thought that he handled the situation very professionally.

If you are not given the same courtesy, or if you are concerned about teaching a youngster with Aspergers, do your research. Understanding the disorder is foremost in learning how to most effectively teach a student.

You might also speak to your school guidance counselor and see if he or she has any literature on the subject. Your local library should have books about Aspergers, as should your local bookstore.


In any situation like this, your best resource is the youngster's parents. They shouldn't mind your calling or requesting a meeting to discuss their youngster's specific symptoms of Aspergers, and to pick their brains about what works best. They will invariably have little tidbits of information to share that will assist in everyday activities with their youngster, and they will be grateful for your concern and attention.

Classroom Activities—

You are likely to discover that kids with Aspergers are not dim-witted at all, but actually rather intelligent. In this respect, they are easier to handle than kids with other disorders. They invariably understand that they have a condition, and might even be aware of their uncommon habits, but are simply unable to control it themselves. Knowing this, you can work with them in the classroom to maintain order.

1. Preoccupation—I had one student four years ago who was quite intelligent and also quite sweet, but had a habit of shouting out statistics about car crashes at random. He had researched car crashes, crash test ratings and safety reports, and knew everything there was to know about the subject. I loved his enthusiasm, but it wasn't helpful when he would blurt out statistics in the middle of English class. If you observe this behavior, be kind but firm. Every time he or she goes off-topic or talks out of turn, ask him or her a question related to the subject you are teaching. For example, every time my student would shout out a statistic, I would ask him to list the main characters in the book we were reading. It worked quite well.

2. Other Kids—This is a decision that must be made with the youngster and parents, but I have found it enormously helpful if the youngster with Aspergers explains to the class what Aspergers is. Twelve of my sixteen Aspergers students have agreed to stand in front of the class and take questions about their condition. This works only in high school age kids - not elementary or junior high, because of maturity - but it is highly effective. Using this method, the other students become comfortable with Aspergers and are unlikely to tease or to be mean to the student. At the same time, it helps the student with Aspergers to become comfortable talking about his or her condition, and to feel confident when interacting with his or her peers.

3. Misunderstandings—If you find that the student has trouble understanding what other people are saying - taking literal interpretations of expressions, for example - be proactive in explaining things to him or her. You might discover that other students in the classroom are put off by this behavior, but simply step in if you see a problem. Take control of your classroom in this way, and be there when assistance is needed.

4. Impulsiveness—Many kids with Aspergers are very impulsive, and want very much to participate. They will eagerly raise their hand in class, blurt out answers and insist they have turns before other students. To counteract this, work out a signal that only you and the student knows. For example, when you walk in front of their desk, they know that they should calm down. Or if you scratch your ear, they understand that they should give someone else a turn. This has proved highly effective.

Teaching kids with Aspergers can be a rewarding experience if approached in the right mindset. Remember to encourage positive behavior, discourage negative behavior, and to do your best to that student as much as the others.

The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content