Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism: Fact Sheet for Teachers

To all parents of kids with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism:

Below is a fact sheet that you can email (or hand-deliver a hardcopy) to your child’s teacher(s). This fact sheet provides a short description of AS and HFA – and associated behaviors. Since all kids on the autism spectrum are different, parents should only use those items that directly apply to their youngster, making changes and additions as necessary. 

Copy and paste sections of the fact sheet – whatever you need to do to make it fit your child’s particular situation. It’s recommended that you only pick a few relevant items from the appropriate categories, rather than bombarding your child’s teacher(s) with the entire list.

Fact sheet for teachers with students on the autism spectrum:

Hello, I am _____'s parent. My youngster has been diagnosed with Asperger's (AS) – also called High Functioning Autism (HFA) – which is a neurobiological disorder on the autistic spectrum. Kids with AS and HFA often have difficulty using and understanding nonverbal cues and developing appropriate peer relationships. While they often have special interests and skills in certain areas, they also have difficulty with organization. AS and HFA kids often appear to lack empathy, have difficulty with sensory issues, and strongly rely on routine.

My youngster has many strengths. However, listed below are some issues that may become apparent to you as you work with him/her. Many of the behaviors you will see are not under his/her control, and they are not a result of malice or willful misbehavior. At times, my youngster simply does not innately know how to respond appropriately. I’m sure you will learn other techniques that will be helpful, and I would appreciate your sharing those with me. Please call me at any time if you have questions. I can be reached at: __________

General Behaviors:
  • AS/HFA is characterized by a sort of "Swiss cheese" type of development (i.e., some things are learned age-appropriately, while other things may lag behind or be absent). In addition, these kids may have skills years ahead of normal development (e.g., the youngster may understand complex mathematics principles, but not be able to remember to bring their homework home).
  • At times, my youngster may experience “meltdowns.” At times like this, please allow a "safe and quiet location" where he/she will be allowed to "cool off." Try to take note of what occurred before the meltdown (e.g., an unexpected change in routine). Also, it's best to talk with him/her "after" the situation has calmed down.
  • Please foster a classroom atmosphere that supports the acceptance of differences and diversity.
  • Please remember that just because my youngster learns something in one situation, this doesn't automatically mean that he/she remembers or is able to generalize the learning to new situations.
  • Please note my child’s strengths often and visually. This will give him/her the courage to keep moving forward.
  • My youngster may have vocal outbursts. Be prepared for them, especially when he/she is having a difficult time. Also, please let the other kids know that this is his/her way of dealing with stress or fear.
  • My youngster may need help with problem-solving situations. Please be willing to take the time to help with this.
  • My youngster reacts well to positive and patient styles of teaching.
  • When dividing-up assignments, please assign teams rather than have the other kids "choose” members, because this increases the chances that my youngster will be left out or teased.
  • When it reaches a point that things in the classroom are going well, it means that we've gotten it right. It doesn't mean that my youngster is “cured” …never had a problem to begin with …or that it's time to remove support. Increase demands gradually.
  • When you see anger or other outbursts, my youngster is not being deliberately difficult. Instead, this is a "fight or flight" response. Think of this as an "electrical circuit overload." Prevention can sometimes head-off these situations if you see the warning signs coming.

  • My youngster may repeat the same thing over and over again, and you may find this increases as stress increases. Please try to avoid answering the same thing over and over or raising your voice or pointing out that the question is being repeated. Instead, try to redirect my youngster's attention or find an alternative way so he/she can save face. Allowing my youngster to write down the question or thought, and providing a response in writing, may be very helpful at times.

  • Giving one or two warnings before a change of activity or schedule may be helpful.
  • My youngster may have a great deal of difficulty with transitions. Having a picture or word schedule may be useful.
  • Please try to give as much advance notice as possible if there is going to be a change or disruption in the schedule.

Sensory Motor Skills/Auditory Processing:
  • Breaking directions down into simple steps can be quite helpful.
  • Directions are more easily understood if they are repeated clearly, simply, and in a variety of ways.
  • My youngster has difficulty understanding a string of directions or too many words at one time.
  • My youngster may act in a very clumsy way sometimes.
  • He/she may react very strongly to certain tastes, textures, smells and sounds.
  • Speaking slower and in smaller phrases can help.
  • Using picture cures or directions may also help.

  • Please consider allowing my child to "move about" occasionally since sitting still for long periods of time can be very difficult for him/her. Even a 3-minute walk down the hallway and back (with a friend or aide) can help a lot.
  • My child may get over-stimulated by loud noises, lights, strong tastes or textures, because of the heightened sensitivity to these things.
  • Unstructured times (e.g., lunch, break, PE) may prove to be the most difficult for my child. Please try to help provide some guidance during these more difficult times.
  • With lots of other children around, chaos and noise, it would be helpful if you would try to help my child find a quiet refuge to which he/she can go for a time-out.

Visual Cues:
  • Hand signals may be useful, especially to reinforce certain messages (e.g., "wait your turn" … “stop talking out of turn” … "speak more slowly or softly").
  • Most AS and HFA kids learn best with visual aids (e.g., picture schedules, written directions or drawings).

  • When someone tries to help by finishing my child’s sentences or interrupting, he/she often has to go back and start over to get the train of thought back.
  • At times, it may take more than few seconds for my youngster to respond to questions. My youngster needs to stop what he's/she’s thinking, put that somewhere, formulate an answer, and then respond. Please wait patiently for the answer, and encourage others to do the same. Otherwise, he/she will have to start over again.

Eye Contact:
  • Unlike most of us, forcing eye contact may break my child’s concentration.
  • He/she may actually hear and understand you better if not forced to look directly at your eyes.
  • At times, it looks as if my youngster is not listening to you when he/she really is. Don't assume that, because my youngster is not looking at you, that he/she is not hearing you.

Social Skills and Friendships:
  • Children with AS and HFA are often at greater risk for becoming victims of bullying by peers. This is influenced by a couple of factors: (1) AS and HFA children want to be included and/or liked so badly that they are reluctant to "tell" on the bully, fearing rejection from the perpetrator or other children; (2) there is a great likelihood that the response that the bully gets from the AS or HFA youngster reinforces this kind of behavior.
  • Young people with AS and HFA often want to make friends, but don’t have a clue as to how to go about it.
  • Identifying 1 or 2 empathetic children who can serve as "helpers" will help my youngster feel as though the world is a friendlier place.
  • Talking with the other students in the class about AS and HFA may help – if done in a positive way (e.g., talking about the fact that many of us have challenges, and that the AS/HFA youngster’s challenge is that he/she can’t read social situations very well, just as others may need glasses or hearing aids).

  • Please let my child know, if possible, when there will be a substitute teacher or a field trip occurring during regular school hours.
  • Please let my youngster know of any anticipated changes as soon as you know about them, using picture or word schedules.

  • Sarcasm and humor are often not understood by my youngster. Even explanations of what is meant may not clarify, because the perspectives of AS and HFA kids can be unique and, at times, immovable.
  • Although my child’s vocabulary and use of language may seem high, he/she may not know the meaning of what he/she is saying, even though the words sound correct.

Organizational Skills:
  • If necessary, please allow my child to copy the notes of other peers. Many AS and HFA kids have difficulty multi-tasking (e.g., listening to the teacher while reading the board and taking notes).
  • It may be helpful to develop schedules (picture or written) for my child.
  • My youngster lacks the ability of remember a lot of information – and how to retrieve that information for its use.
  • Please post schedules and homework assignments on the board and make a copy for my child. 
  • Please make sure that assignments get put into my child’s backpack, because he/she can't always be counted on to get everything home without some help.

Note: At times, some of my youngster's behaviors may irritate his/her peers – and you! Please know that this is normal and expected. Try not to let the difficult days color the fact that you are a wonderful teacher with a challenging situation. Nothing works all of the time, and some things may not work at all. Always feel free to share with me whatever you would like. I have heard it all before. It will not shock me or make me think less of you. Communication is the key, and by working together as a team, we can provide the best for my youngster.

Thank you very much,

_______________ (parent’s name)

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said… Awesome!
•    Anonymous said… Great! Need to bookmark it.
•    Anonymous said… I have been so worried about my son going to middle school. Thank you thank you thank you!!!
•    Anonymous said… I really like this Fact sheet for teachers, however I'm wondering since my son has not been officially tested and/diagnosed for either, would a teacher be reluctant to acknowledge something like this if I took it to her, or would she turn it away because he hasn't been medically diagnosed as such... Either way, He meets almost every one of these facts for the teacher to think about when it comes to him. I believe there is a new Headstart teacher at his school this year that he may possibly be placed with and she has a child herself with Autism... Maybe that extra experience with it will help?
•    Anonymous said… love it! check this out! and join this group if you aren't already following.
•    Anonymous said… SO enjoyed this article.
•    Anonymous said… Thank you for this guide sheet!!!!
•    Anonymous said… Thank you Thank you Thank you...I so needed this!!!!
•    Anonymous said… Thank you! This is very helpful!
•    Anonymous said… Thanks for posting this! Great stuff on here! I already reach out to my son's teachers and provide them with a copy of "A teachers guide to Asperger's syndrome". It's an excellent guide that covers many aspects of the syndrome and how to best assist them.
•    Anonymous said… Thanks!
•    Anonymous said… there's some wonderful pointers in here...
•    Anonymous said… This is an awesome general list to get a teacher started!
•    Anonymous said… This is an excellent fact sheet to help with the teacher getting to know my son. Thank you!
•    Anonymous said… This is awesome! Thank you!
•    Anonymous said… this is excellent!!
•    Anonymous said… Totally just used it. Emailed it off to his teacher as it applied to my boy almost perfectly! Thank you!
•    Anonymous said… Very valuable tool!
•    Anonymous said… Wish I had this before my son started junior school... I ended up moving him to a new school and he is very happy now.  

*   Anonymous said... I can’t tell you HOW MUCH I appreciate this.  Our son (age 10) has AS and we had a very painful 4th grade experience and unnecessary difficult teacher; even through developing his IEP.  We are excited about a new fresh school year and I’m very appreciative to be able to use your provided letter and personalize it to our son and share it with his new teachers. 
*   Anonymous said... Many of these suggestions are quick and easy, and can reduce or prevent classroom disruption. My daughter has caused a lot of disruption in the past, and I am glad that this seems to be a great list of strategies that the teacher could use if he or she sees fit to do so. If you have ever gotten a call from a teacher who doesn't know what to do with your child then you begin to understand how this can help.
•    Anonymous said… This is the best, concise Fact Sheet I have found. I used it last year, and plan to this year. Thank you so much for making this available. It can help with anyone in authority that helps with your child. IE, coaches, Pastors, Other Parents, etc. Thanks.
•    Anonymous …Hi I am so thankful to the creator of this blog....this letter will be helpful to my sons new school teachers. I have adopted my son {at age 3 1/2} I believe he has High Functioning Autism {hoever his Dr. refuse to give him this diagnosis even though all the symptoms are ther per the materials I have researched} He is now 11 soon to be 12 and the Dr. has given him the diagnosis of ADD and Sensory disorder but it's more than that and for years my Mother has said he acts Autistic as have I. He will be ttending a new school as a 6th grader and I was so worried with how to inform his teachers about his behaviors and tics...but this letter has made me feel so relieved in getting the issues accross to the teachers. He struggled so hard in 5th grade and was so overwhelmed and frustrated that I became overwhelmed and frustrated. Looking forward to a great school year this year.
•    Anonymous …Thank you so much for providing this fact sheet. I'm going to use for all caregivers involved with my son. This will make it easier for all involved especially my son! God bless you! 

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