How Parents Can Educate Teachers About Aspergers

Please copy and paste the following letter and hand-deliver it or email 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.


Mr __________

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


Anonymous said...

Hello Mark,

Thanks a lot! That is very valuable help for me.
Sometimes, it's hard to make them understand that problem because my child is a good student.


Anonymous said...

I've tried to get the Buddy System for my son for 7yrs now. The school keeps saying that it would involve telling the student that my son has Aspergers and that's against the privacy act. grrrrrrr.

Anonymous said...

I have an IEP coming up...... i have noticed this year especially,,,, my sons not being able to tie his shoes....and all the things that go with that..... his being able to follow verbal commands.... kinda can easily be swayed into another direction on his way to brush his teeth or something.... this sort of no organization fluttering around is more noticeable as he gets older. maybe swept under the rug when younger (second grade now) but I am trying to let the teachers know... that they cannot give him a checklist of things to do at school and be held responsible for it... (he keeps coming home with no hat, missing homework and crumbs in his backpack) he has an aid but I do not know how to convince them that he is not misbehaving... he simply needs help!!!! and the whole day... I feel like even with an aid he is faced to fend for himself...

Wessel said...

We live in South Africa an my son is going to Public School. We have always been open and upfront with the teachers regarding his Aspergers. The Teachers are very accommodating and started a buddy system from the offset. He started in a new, smaller school this year and the teachers implemented a Buddy system form the beginning. It helps to have an open channel to the school and in all cases the school, at least once a year, addresses the subject of being 'different' with all the pupils and it has worked well. We told our son (he is now 11) recently about Aspergers and he wants to tell the school about it during assembly.

Anonymous said...

School is so hard for my 7 yr old. The process is so demanding to him. He used to love the idea of it and now it is like pulling teeth everyday to get him to go. Any suggestions on how to help him? I've got an IEP meeting tomorrow. Suggestions?

Anonymous said...

I used to joke about my son he would be a 1st grade dropout if he could have been. After getting an IEP and moving to a better school he enjoys school more but still has a struggle. What we did was highlight the breaks for him to help he see it's not a never-ending process. By Wednesday we would say only 2 more days to the weekend & breaks are his favorite so we would do a countdown on the calendar. Some of his best behavior days were on the Thurs/Fri before breaks. We also kept tabs on special events at school that he liked so he would find things to look forward to at school.

Anonymous said...

It almost seems like because he is high functioning and can speak, the schools insist on treating him like everyone else. Some days I feel like just pulling my hair out. How did you incorporate breaks into his day?

Anonymous said...

Through his IEP we have breaks for him to go to the Resource room or the Counselors room, in 2nd grade his teacher gave him 2 places to go during class if he needed a break. We worked with him to recognize when he wasn't feeling right or "funny" as he says to ask to go to his break space. He was allowed 5-10 minutes to take his break where he could do his favorite activity such as look at his favorite books, work on computer, feed the class pet, etc. Sometimes when he was particularly struggling with work they would allow him a break and then transition him back to his assignment. You have to have his classroom teacher on board to make it work.

Anonymous said...

That is part of the problem. All I hear is how he needs to do what every body else does. He can do what every body else does, he just has to do it in a different way. I feel like they don't understand him and make very little effort to do so. His teachers frustrate easily and he will not cooperate if the adult isn't calm, you know? We made a tentative IEP so we'll see how it goes.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher of a student with Asperger's syndrome. I hope that parents realize that good teachers truly do want the best for ALL of their students. But please bear in mind that we are responsible for a classroom of children, all of whom have needs. Try as we might, we are not perfect. I try to express to parents that we are on the same team; I am not the "enemy." But often parents want to have someone to blame for their child's struggles or difficulties - - and it is often the teacher on whom the blame is placed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your blog and the work you do, trying to educate others about the intricacies of Autism. My son has Aspergers and is wonderfully bright. We have been having some issues with his school and their method of discipline. When he has behavior issues they do things like write his name on the board, write him up and send him to the principle's office. He is 5 years old and only in kindergarten. I have been shocked at the idea that they would do that for any child let alone one with special needs. I was curious, do you have any posts or information that could help me in approaching this situation with the school and/or helping my sons behaviors? I really want to maintain a positive relationship with his school but I continue to feel that the school just doesn't seem to "get it." Any help really would be appreciated.

Unknown said...

My sister has asbergers and has a hard time going to school everyday she doesn't want to see the people and throws a fit. She misses all the time. How can we help her go. The school is trying to help too but she just has a hard time going. Can someone please direct us on how to help her go.

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