Strategies for Teachers to Prevent Emotional Outbursts
Aspergers is a form of high functioning autism and can co-exist with other disorders such as ADHD, depression, and anxiety. But mostly, Aspergers affects a youngster’s ability to socialize. Aspergers children have difficulty recognizing facial expressions, sarcasm, and teasing, and struggle to adapt to unexpected changes in routine. Their interests tend to be very narrow, and this can limit their capacity to relate to others.
Due to these struggles, youngsters with Aspergers oftentimes experience anger, fear, sadness, and frustration. There are several effective interventions that can be employed in the classroom to help improve an Aspergers youngster’s learning experience. These can assist the child in feeling more comfortable and decrease anxiety, paving the way for academic achievement.
Make Classroom Rules Clear—
Children with Aspergers thrive on rules, but will often ignore them when they are vague or not meaningful. Educators should detail the most important classroom rules and why they exist. A written list prominently displayed, or a handout of the classroom rules can be very helpful.
Minimize Surprises in the Classroom—
Children on the autism spectrum need structured settings to succeed. They do not like surprises. Things like sudden seating changes or unexpected modifications to the routine could cause anxiety and even meltdowns. Educators should try to provide ample warnings if there is to be a change of plans. For instance, sending a note home to the parents if a seating change is imminent would be beneficial.
A back up plan can be presented to the class in anticipation of schedule changes. When the Friday schedule that usually includes watching an educational film in the afternoon changes if time is short, the teacher should inform the children ahead of time that they will work on free reading or journaling instead, as an example.
Provide Sensory Support—
Many youngsters with Aspergers also experience sensory processing issues. Sensitivity to light, sound, touch, taste, and smells can irritate the youngster, making him more likely to act out or withdraw. Consult the parents to determine what these sensitivities are. Minimizing classroom chaos, noise, and clutter will be a good start.
If possible, get help from an occupational therapist and try to work sensory breaks into the youngster’s school day. Chores such as returning a load of books to the library or even doing a few jumping jacks in the hallway can go a long way in helping the youngster realign and get back to learning.
Promote Supportive Friendships—
If it seems appropriate, educate the class about Aspergers. Develop empathy by making children aware of inappropriate words and bullying behaviors. Highlight the youngster’s strengths in classroom lessons to enable him to find friends with common interests.
If the child with Aspergers seems to be struggling with friendships, group him during classroom activities with those that are more kind and empathetic. At recess or lunch, try assigning a classroom buddy who will be supportive and guide the youngster through those more chaotic times.
Make a Plan for Emotional Outbursts—
Provide a quiet place for the child who has frequent meltdowns. This may be a trip to the bathroom with a classroom aide, or a visit to the school counselor. A written plan for coping in these periods of high stress is critical for an Aspergers child’s success.
Helping youngsters with Aspergers in the classroom is yet another challenge for today’s overburdened educators. However, with insightful monitoring, parental and professional guidance, and creative strategies, a love of school and learning can be fostered in youngsters with Aspergers.
My Aspergers Child: Preventing Emotional Outbursts in Aspergers Children