Many students with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) are unable to generalize the skills that they learn. For instance, the teacher may inform the student how to respectfully address a teacher. Normally this skill would then be generalized to any adult in a position of authority. However, a student with AS or HFA is likely to only apply the skill to the individual initially used as the target of respect in the learning process. The student will probably not apply this behavior to a principal, dean, or police officer.
The inability to generalize can also pose a problem in classroom assignments. For example, giving the direction to open a math book to a certain page does not communicate to additionally begin solving the problems. Thus, teachers should verbally give all the steps necessary to complete an assignment rather than assuming the AS or HFA student will know what comes next.
There are additional techniques that have been used in assisting “special needs” students to learn to generalize. Modes of instruction such as "scope and sequence" can be useful in equipping these students with the skills that assist in social and academic learning as well as generalization. Scope and sequence training involves teaching the student about the basics prior to expecting the generalized rules to be learned. For example, it would be best to (1) teach the student that “the tone of a person's voice sends a message” BEFORE (2) teaching the student he should “use a tone that is respectful to others.” Due to the difficulty AS and HFA students have with generalization, failing to teach the basics will further enhance their inability to generalize.
The IDEA Act is clear in its declaration that students 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 teachers as to the effectiveness of their chosen teaching strategies and a willingness on the part of teachers to continue to learn new techniques of instruction. Every AS and HFA youngster needs to (a) be evaluated, (b) have a plan established addressing areas of weakness, and most importantly (c) have a teacher that believes in the student and expects her to reach appropriate grade level requirements.
It is important that the teacher understands what AS and HFA is – and how it hinders students. Without a clear understanding of this disorder, actions that are clearly a part of the syndrome can be confused with behavioral issues and dealt with inappropriately.
Teaching Students with Aspergers and HFA