Part 5: Teaching Strategies for Students with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism – The Passing Period

Middle school and high school settings present new social challenges for Asperger’s (AS) and High Functioning Autistic (HFA) students. Researchers have addressed the craziness these “special needs” students encounter during classroom transitions.

Passing periods are a desirable time of socializing for “typical” students. But, for AS and HFA students, passing periods are a social zoo (e.g., a lot of disruption and noise). They often want to be able to socialize and to have friends, but simply don’t because they are not sure how to have a meaningful conversation with their peers or they are unable to interact "correctly." Friendships are an incredibly important tool for avoiding anxiety, and problems making friends can create social phobia and depression.

In addition to sensory overload, the passing period is prime time for many AS and HFA students to get mistreated (e.g., teased and bullied). Often it is intentional, but sometimes the bullying is by accident, where other students share some unkind words out of difficulty understanding their AS or HFA classmate.

The recommendation here is for teachers to permit AS and HFA students to leave 5 minutes early in order to avoid the overwhelming social interaction. Without such options, these “special needs” students may spend most of the next class trying to recover from the distressing sensory overload experience.

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