As a teacher, you are responsible for helping to shape the lives of young people and preparing them to be successful adults. Your Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) students may come from different family backgrounds and leave your classroom for different futures, but they spend a significant portion of their young lives with you right now. Next to their parents and immediate family, you have the greatest opportunity and the power to positively influence their lives. To do this successfully, you need to understand and be able to meet their needs. You already know that, in addition to intelligence, passion, and enthusiasm, teaching requires patience, sensitivity, and creativity.
Having a youngster with Aspergers in your classroom will present unique challenges for you as a teacher, but it also gives you the opportunity to learn new ways to teach young people the academic and social skills that will last them a lifetime.
With the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975 and subsequent legislation, all kids with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Inclusive classrooms, where kids with all types of disabilities are included in the general education classroom for part or all of the day, are now the norm in public schools. Given the increasing numbers of kids diagnosed with Aspergers, chances are good you will have a youngster with the disorder in your school and at some point in your classroom.
Having a youngster with Aspergers in your class will have an impact on the educational and social environment of the classroom. Kids with Aspergers have academic strengths and weaknesses like all kids, but the effects of the disorder require different teaching strategies to discover and capitalize on their strengths and facilitate successful learning. Kids with Aspergers also face many obstacles to successful social interactions and relationship building, which are essential elements of the school experience for young people.
As a teacher, you can help ensure that kids with Aspergers are fully integrated into the classroom and are able to participate socially with their peers in the day-to-day activities of school life.
The first challenge for you in teaching a youngster with Aspergers is to recognize it as a serious mutual challenge for the student and you. It can be very deceptive, almost invisible to the untrained eye at first. Kids with Aspergers can look and act like their typical peers and often perform as well or better academically, thus masking the potential effects of Aspergers.
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at Home and in the Classroom