Please copy and paste the following letter and hand-deliver it to your Aspergers child’s teachers (edit according to your specific situation):
Dear Mrs __________,
As you may know, my son has Aspergers (also called high functioning autism). I took the liberty of providing this tip sheet so that you may consider factoring-in some of his special educational needs. Thank you for taking time to look it over.
Kids with Aspergers have a variety of classroom challenges. Because these kids tend to be high-functioning, many are placed in general education classrooms in order to receive the best education possible. Educators working with Aspergers children may or may not be aware of how to provide the best learning environment.
In a classroom setting, Aspergers may manifest in behaviors which include, but are not limited to:
- Average to excellent memorization skills
- Clumsy walk
- Conversations and activities only center around themselves
- Inability to usually socially appropriate tone and/or volume of speech
- Lack of common sense or "street smarts"
- Lack of empathy for others
- Lack of facial expressions
- May be teased, bullied or isolated by peers
- May excel in areas such as math or spelling
- Often very verbal
- Poor eye contact
- Talking about only one subject and missing the non-verbal cues that others are bored with that subject
The following are techniques that can be incorporated to help Aspergers students adjust and become successful in the classroom:
1. A buddy system can be helpful to Aspergers students. In social situations, the buddy can help the Aspergers child handle these situations.
2. A daily routine is critical. The Aspergers students should know what to expect of the routine as this would help them to function properly and concentrate on the tasks at hand.
3. Allow the Aspergers youngster to earn "free time" in his chosen area of interest (e.g., art or computers) for completing work. Kids with Aspergers tend to have an area of intense interest that can consume their conversations and activities. Using this interest to motivate the youngster can help him learn to be productive in his work while still having time to concentrate on his area of interest.
4. Ask questions to check the Aspergers youngster's understanding of the instructions you have just given, or ask him to verbalize the instructions back to you to clarify understanding. Kids with Aspergers appear as though they fully comprehend what is being asked of them or what they have read because of their "professor-like" responses to questions; however, these may mask the fact that their comprehension is truly lacking. By probing further, you can ask more pointed questions or have the youngster verbalize in his own words, not repeating your exact phrases, what is expected.
5. Be very patient and ready to teach both academic and social skills over and over again. Kids with Aspergers need an educator who will remain calm when the situation escalates. When the educator begins to get frustrated and tense, the same feelings will tend to heighten in the youngster. However, dealing calmly with the situation will allow the youngster to calm down more quickly. In addition, being aware that the youngster with Aspergers will need a great deal of practice and repetition of newly taught skills in order to be successful will help you better prepare for what you will need to do to help that youngster be successful.
6. Begin discussing with the Aspergers youngster how others view his acting-out. Kids with Aspergers have difficulty understanding how to initiate or maintain social interactions. They do not realize what effect their acting out has on those around them. You should therefore begin discussing these issues with the kids early in order to facilitate a better understanding of the social consequences of their behaviors.
7. Establish a schedule early on, and be consistent with it. Kids with Aspergers find comfort in knowing exactly what will happen next. By providing these children with a very consistent schedule that has little variance, you increase their sense of security, making them better able to function appropriately in the classroom and feel successful about their work.
8. For physical coordination problems, ensure an Aspergers child with physical limitations is in an adaptive educational program rather than a general PE class.
9. Have the Aspergers youngster complete this same activity with his own behavior. After the youngster has been exposed to the method previously described, he can then begin doing it himself with or without prompting. Writing the message to himself and posting it in his notebook or on his desk may help him internalize and remember the expected behavior.
10. It would be helpful to always enforce bullying rules and minimize teasing.
11. Model and role-play social situations incorporating appropriate behaviors. Continually working on general socially accepted behavior helps Aspergers kids begin to internalize the behaviors that are expected of them in society. By watching both good and bad examples of behaviors that occur in various social situations, these kids can learn to make better choices in their behavior.
12. Please ensure the environment is safe and as predictable as possible.
13. Please keep transitions the same for as many activities as possible.
14. Please teach the Aspergers student about social cues and help him to make friends. Most children with Aspergers do want to have friends …they just do not know how to make them. Teachers can help by teaching the student what social cues mean.
15. Provide a safe place in which the Aspergers youngster can retreat when he becomes over-stimulated or has difficulty adjusting to a new activity or environment. This base could occupy a corner of class where the youngster can be in a dark, quiet place with little or no stimulation in order to calm down. Once the youngster feels secure and in control of her body, he can join the class again.
16. Provide a social skills notebook with stories of correct and incorrect social behaviors that the Aspergers youngster can use as a guide and reference. This notebook can be used to prompt the youngster as to what behaviors are considered appropriate or not appropriate in various social situations. Providing weekly opportunities to read through the stories in a notebook, continuing to stress socially appropriate behaviors, and practicing how to use them in real-life situations will enhance the child's social success.
17. Provide a visual representation of the daily schedule. Posting a chart in class that displays the schedule and routines for the day only adds to this security by allowing the Aspergers youngster to determine what will occur next so that he has a better transition to the next activity.
18. Provide social skills practice and role-playing for any upcoming social events. Children with Aspergers need to have opportunities to act out certain situations so they can prepare for them socially. Because kids with Aspergers have poor social judgment, repetitive practice prior to the event will provide them with the knowledge they need to respond appropriately. However, because transfer to different situations may be difficult to achieve, these kids must have several opportunities to practice these socially appropriate behaviors in a variety of contexts.
19. Provide verbal and written instructions for the Aspergers youngster. When giving the class instructions or directions for an assignment or activity, provide written instructions that coincide with your verbal instructions for the youngster with Aspergers. The instructions can be in picture form as well as in words to further aid in comprehension and success.
20. Provide visual cue cards of expected social behaviors, and place them in areas where those behaviors are expected. Visual cue cards can be used as prompts of expected behaviors of the youngster in various settings. Through role-playing and modeling, children are first introduced to the behaviors. By including visual cue cards in this role-playing, you help the youngster with Aspergers learn to use those visual cues to help him remember what behavior he should exhibit in the classroom and school environments. However, kids must be taught how to use these cards. They cannot simply be posted in the room in hopes that the youngster will understand what their purpose is. They must be shown how to use them and be allowed time to practice using them.
21. Provide visual cue cards to use during instruction and teaching. Due to the difficulty kids with Aspergers have in processing auditory input, visual cues of what is being taught could help them be more successful in taking in the new information and remembering it. They may still require more time to process all the information; however, by providing instruction both verbally and visually, you offer children with Aspergers a better opportunity to learn the material.
22. Set clear expectations and boundaries, and post them on the wall. Providing a visual representation of what is expected so that the Aspergers youngster can refer to it as needed provides security and increased opportunities for comprehension of the material, both of which will increase productivity in class.
23. Simplified lessons may be required. Please ensure the Aspergers student understands what is being said to him. It is common for the child to simply repeat what is being taught without understanding the concept.
24. Some peers can be educated about Aspergers and talk to understand what to expect from their fellow student.
25. Teach specific socially appropriate phrases to use in certain situations. By providing a written script that the Aspergers youngster can use in various situations and allowing him to practice his reactions in role-playing activities, you make it more likely for the youngster to be successful socially. During such social events where the youngster is expected to act as taught, prompting may be necessary to remind him how to act until he has had ample opportunities to practice the skill in a real-life situation.
26. Teach the other kids how to interact appropriately with the Asperger student in both academic and social settings. Kids can be very supportive and accepting of people with disabilities and differences when they are taught to have such compassion and are shown how to work and play with those individuals. In order for the youngster with Aspergers to be fully accepted in the class, the other kids in the class have to be taught how to interact and accept her. Through role-playing, modeling, and discussions, successful friendships and interactions can take place and even add to successful inclusion.
27. Try to seat the Aspergers student at the front of the class so the teacher can instruct him directly and regularly. Since concentration is often a problem, please develop a system of non-verbally reminding him to pay attention, such as a pat on the shoulder.
28. Use a timer to limit perseveration/ echolalia/singing. Establish the routine that as soon as the timer goes off, the Aspergers youngster returns to the previous activity. Some Aspergers kids will begin to perseverate on objects or ideas or participate in other behaviors that can hinder academic development during the school day. Providing a time limit will help curb such behaviors so that academic progress can be made. You must establish the routine that as soon as the youngster begins to exhibit a certain inappropriate behavior, the timer is set for a certain amount of time. The youngster must then be taught that as soon as the timer rings, he must rejoin the rest of the class in the current activity. As time progresses, the time limit should be reduced so that less and less time is actually being spent on such behaviors.
29. Write down what behavior the Aspergers youngster is exhibiting and what behavior he should be exhibiting. For example, "You are drawing on your paper. A better choice would be to work on writing your story." Providing written responses instead of verbal ones may help the youngster with Aspergers better understand what is being asked of her. Connecting these messages to visual pictures may also be beneficial.
30. Write notes in advance for the Aspergers youngster if the schedule is going to change for a special event. Let the youngster know what the change will be and when it will occur because variation in the routine can lead to stress and anxiety, which can cause outbursts and tantrums. Providing advanced notice of alterations in the schedule allows the youngster time to transition and prepare himself for the change in schedule. In addition, because many Aspergers kids tend to process auditory information less efficiently, written notes allow the youngster another avenue to obtain and understand the message.
Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA