Not all teachers are necessarily prepared to accommodate the Aspergers (high functioning autistic) student and her/his special needs, but most are willing to learn. As a parent, it is your responsibility to educate those who need to be “in-the-know” about the disorder. Copy, paste, and print-out the information below, then “hand-deliver” this information sheet to your "Aspie’s" teacher. In this way, the teacher will have some initial steps to get the ball rolling (he/she will hopefully get more up-to-speed with special considerations as the school year progresses).
Aspergers Information Sheet:
Dear _____ (teacher’s name),
Please review the following “teacher’s tips.” They may prove to be very helpful in dealing with my Aspergers child – and may make your job a lot easier! Thank you.
_____ (parent’s name)
1. An increase in unusual or difficult behaviors in my child probably indicates an increase in stress. Sometimes stress is caused by feeling a loss of control. When this occurs, a "safe place" or a "safe person" may come in handy, because many times the stress will only be alleviated when my child physically removes himself from the stressful event or situation. If this occurs, please set up a method to assist him in re-entering the stressful situation once he appears to be calmed down.
2. Aspergers children seem to have either the neatest or the messiest desks or lockers in the school. The one with the neatest desk or locker is probably very insistent on sameness and will be very upset if someone disturbs the order he has created. The one with the messiest desk will need your help in frequent cleanups of the desk or locker so that he may find things. At this point, I’m not sure whether my child will be “neat” or “messy.” If he is messy, please know that he is probably not making a conscious choice to be messy. He is most likely incapable of this organizational task without some specific training. Please train him in organizational skills using small, specific steps if needed.
3. Be as concrete as possible in most of your interactions with my child. Facial expression and other social cues may not work.
4. Be aware that normal levels of auditory and visual input can be perceived by my child as too much or too little. For example, the hum of fluorescent lighting is extremely distracting for some students with Aspergers. Consider environmental changes such as removing some of the "visual clutter" from the room or seating changes if he seems distracted or upset by his classroom environment.
5. Children with Aspergers often have trouble "getting" the teacher’s points. If repetitive verbal arguments or questions occur, consider the possibility that he is very concerned about the topic and does not know how to rephrase the question or comment to get the information he needs.
6. If my Aspergers child uses repetitive verbal arguments and/or repetitive verbal questions, try requesting that he write down the question or argumentative statement. Then write down your reply. As the writing continues, he usually begins to calm down and stops the repetitive activity. If that doesn't work, write down his repetitive verbal question or argument, and then ask him to formulate and write down a logical reply or a reply he thinks you would make. This distracts him from the escalating verbal aspect of the argument or question and sometimes gives his a more socially acceptable way of expressing his frustration or anxiety.
7. If my child doesn't seem to be able to learn a task, please break it down into smaller steps or present the task in several different ways (e.g., visually, verbally, physically).
8. If your class involves pairing-off or choosing partners, please either draw numbers or use some other arbitrary means of pairing – or ask an especially kind child if he or she would agree to choose my child as a partner. Please arrange this before the pairing is done. The child with Aspergers is most often the student left with no partners. This is unfortunate since these children could benefit most from having a partner.
9. In answering essay questions that require a synthesis of information, Aspergers students rarely know when they have said enough, or if they are properly addressing the core of the question. Please keep this in mind in your grading.
10. Most students with Aspergers use and interpret speech literally. Until you know the capabilities of my child, please avoid the following: (a) "cute" names (e.g., Pal, Buddy, Wise Guy, etc.), (b) double meanings (e.g., most jokes have double meanings), (c) idioms (e.g., save your breath, jump the gun, second thoughts, etc.), (d) nicknames, and (e) sarcasm (e.g., saying "Great!" after he has just spilled a bottle of ketchup on the table in the lunch room).
11. Please avoid “verbal overload.” You may want to use shorter sentences if you perceive that he doesn’t fully understand you. Although he has no hearing problem and may be paying attention, he may have a problem understanding your main point and identifying the important information.
12. Please avoid asking questions such as, "Why did you do that?" Instead, consider saying something like, "I didn't like the way you slammed your book down on the desk when I said it was time for gym. Please put your book down on the desk quietly and get up to leave for gym." This matter-of-fact approach will work best.
13. Please don't take misbehavior personally. The Aspergers student is not a manipulative, scheming child who is trying to make life difficult for you. Usually misbehavior is the result of efforts to survive experiences which may be confusing, disorienting, or frightening. Students with Aspergers tend to be egocentric and have extreme difficulty reading the reactions of others. They are literally incapable of being manipulative.
14. Prepare my child for all environmental and/or routine changes (e.g., assembly, substitute teacher, rescheduling, etc.). You may want to use a written or visual schedule to prepare him for the change.
15. Since Aspergers children experience various communication difficulties, please don't rely on my child to relay important messages to me 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 he has mastered this skill. Even sending home a note may not work. He may not remember to deliver the note or may lose it before reaching home. A phone call to me may work best until this skill can be developed.
16. Students with Aspergers have problems with abstract and conceptual thinking. Some may eventually acquire a few abstract skills, but others never will. Please avoid abstract ideas when possible. When abstract concepts must be used, please use visual cues, such as gestures, or written words to augment the abstract idea.
17. Students with Aspergers have trouble with organizational skills, regardless of their intelligence and/or age. Even a "straight A" child 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, please provide some aid in the least restrictive way possible. Strategies could include having my child put a picture of a pencil on the cover of his notebook or reminders at the end of the day of assignments to be completed at home. Also, please consider “praising” my child when he remembers something he has previously forgotten. This will help him remember even better the next time, which will save you from constant “reminders.”
18. When it comes to Aspergers children, behavior management works, but if incorrectly used, it can encourage robot-like behavior, provide only a short-term behavior change, or result in more aggression. Please use positive and chronologically age-appropriate behavior procedures.
For more information on teaching Aspergers students, please visit www.MyAspergersChild.com
Thank you for your kind consideration _____ (teacher’s name again).