The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Aspergers is a condition on the “autism spectrum” that generally encompasses high functioning children with autistic tendencies.

A child with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) can have difficulty in school because – since he fits in so well – many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive. When teaching Aspergers students, a teacher should be aware of their special needs and accommodate both her classroom and teaching strategy to support the students’ special needs.

Are you setting-up your Aspergers student for success? 

Use the following checklist to see where your areas of strengths and weaknesses are:
  1. Are your activities engaging and motivating for the Aspergers student?
  2. Are your objectives, routines and rules clearly understood by him or her?
  3. Are your rules and routines posted clearly and stated positively?
  4. Do you always demonstrate respect for the student and value his contributions?
  5. Do you ensure you have her attention before starting?
  6. Do you give instructions and directions at the child’s level of need?
  7. Do you have a variety of rewards and consequences that are well known by the Aspergers student?
  8. Do you have smooth transitions from one subject to another and when students return from recess or lunch?
  9. Do you pause when he/she interrupts?
  10. Do you promote self-esteem and confidence?
  11. Do you remember to have fun with her/him and provide humor when the opportunity presents itself?
  12. Have you considered the child’s learning style?
  13. Is your Aspergers student able to cope with assigned tasks?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions, your teaching plan will be very successful with the Aspergers student. If you answered ‘no’ to the items on this list, look toward improving that specific area.

Teaching strategies specific to the Aspergers condition are essential for any teacher with an Aspergers student. The “Aspie” has difficulty navigating social situations, and as a result, is often teased and used as a scapegoat in the classroom. In addition, he or she often has "odd" behaviors (e.g., clumsiness, being obsessive about a specific subject, insisting on routine, experiencing meltdowns, etc.). In spite of these challenges, there are many things that teachers can do with instructional practices, classroom accommodations, and behavioral interventions to promote success for the student with Aspergers.

Aspergers students exhibit significant social communicative difficulties, as well as other defining characteristics, which may severely impact their ability to function successfully in the school setting. But, when given appropriate support strategies, through direct teaching and various accommodations and/or modifications, the “Aspie” can learn to be successful in her unpredictable, sensory-overloading, socially-interactive world. It is critical that a team approach be utilized in addressing the unique and challenging needs of a child with Aspergers -- with teachers being vital members of this team!

Having a student with Aspergers in your class gives you the chance to show your students that people who have challenges can also have strengths ...that in looking past someone's quirks, you can find someone worth knowing ...that life is richer if you don't solely interact with children who are like clones of yourself.

Teaching the Aspergers student to expect change, to be an active problem-solver, to gain skills in flexible thinking, and to manage anxiety builds a foundation for her/his future success in an unpredictable and uncertain world.

In The Complete Guide to Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism, teachers will: (a) gain a better understanding of the disorder, (b) gain insight into how the child acts in an academic setting, (c) learn effective educational interventions for the child, (d) learn the warning signs that the “Aspie” is being overcome with frustration and about to experience a "meltdown", and (e) learn to treat the child in a more holistic manner.

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