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Helping Aspergers Students Deal with Anger: Advice for Teachers

Aspergers (high functioning autistic) kid’s anger presents challenges to educators committed to constructive, ethical, and effective youngster guidance. This post explores what we know about the components of Aspergers kid’s anger, factors contributing to understanding and managing anger, and the ways educators can guide kid’s expressions of anger.

Three Components of Anger—

Anger is believed to have three components (Lewis & Michalson, 1983):

The Emotional State of Anger. The first component is the emotion itself, defined as an affective or arousal state, or a feeling experienced when a goal is blocked or needs are frustrated. Fabes and Eisenberg (1992) describe several types of stress-producing anger provocations that young kids face daily in classroom interactions:
  • Conflict over possessions, which involves someone taking kid’s property or invading their space.
  • Issues of compliance, which often involve asking or insisting that kids do something that they do not want to do--for instance, wash their hands.
  • Physical assault, which involves one youngster doing something to another youngster, such as pushing or hitting.
  • Rejection, which involves a youngster being ignored or not allowed to play with peers.
  • Verbal conflict, for example, a tease or a taunt.

Expression of Anger—

The second component of anger is its expression. Some kids vent or express anger through facial expressions, crying, sulking, or talking, but do little to try to solve a problem or confront the provocateur. Others actively resist by physically or verbally defending their positions, self-esteem, or possessions in non-aggressive ways. Still other kids express anger with aggressive revenge by physically or verbally retaliating against the provocateur. Some kids express dislike by telling the offender that he or she cannot play or is not liked. Other kids express anger through avoidance or attempts to escape from or evade the provocateur. And some kids use adult seeking, looking for comfort or solutions from a teacher, or telling the teacher about an incident.

Educators can use youngster guidance strategies to help Aspergers students express angry feelings in socially constructive ways. Kids develop ideas about how to express emotions (Michalson & Lewis, 1985; Russel, 1989) primarily through social interaction in their families and later by watching television or movies, playing video games, and reading books (Honig & Wittmer, 1992). Some Aspergers students have learned a negative, aggressive approach to expressing anger (Cummings, 1987; Hennessy et al., 1994) and, when confronted with everyday anger conflicts, resort to using aggression in the classroom (Huesmann, 1988). A major challenge for early childhood educators is to encourage Aspergers students to acknowledge angry feelings and to help them learn to express anger in positive and effective ways.

An Understanding of Anger—

The third component of the anger experience is understanding - interpreting and evaluating - the emotion. Because the ability to regulate the expression of anger is linked to an understanding of the emotion (Zeman & Shipman, 1996), and because kid’s ability to reflect on their anger is somewhat limited, Aspergers students need guidance from educators and parents in understanding and managing their feelings of anger.

Understanding and Managing Anger—

The development of basic cognitive processes undergirds kid’s gradual development of the understanding of anger (Lewis & Saarni, 1985).

Self-Referential and Self-Regulatory Behaviors—Self-referential behaviors include viewing the self as separate from others and as an active, independent, causal agent. Self-regulation refers to controlling impulses, tolerating frustration, and postponing immediate gratification. Initial self-regulation in young kids provides a base for early childhood educators who can develop strategies to nurture kid’s emerging ability to regulate the expression of anger.

Memory—Memory improves substantially during early childhood (Perlmutter, 1986), enabling young kids to better remember aspects of anger-arousing interactions. Aspergers students who have developed unhelpful ideas of how to express anger (Miller & Sperry, 1987) may retrieve the early unhelpful strategy even after educators help them gain a more helpful perspective. This finding implies that educators may have to remind some Aspergers students, sometimes more than once or twice, about the less aggressive ways of expressing anger.

Language—Talking about emotions helps young Aspergers students understand their feelings (Brown & Dunn, 1996). The understanding of emotion in preschool kids is predicted by overall language ability (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Educators can expect individual differences in the ability to identify and label angry feelings because kid’s families model a variety of approaches in talking about emotions.

Guiding Kid’s Expressions of Anger—

Educators can help Aspergers students deal with anger by guiding their understanding and management of this emotion. The practices described here can help Aspergers students understand and manage angry feelings in a direct and non-aggressive way.

Communicate with Moms and Dads—Some of the same strategies employed to talk with moms and dads about other areas of the curriculum can be used to enlist their assistance in helping Aspergers students learn to express emotions. For example, articles about learning to use words to label anger can be included in a newsletter to moms and dads.

Create a Safe Emotional Climate—A healthy early childhood setting permits kids to acknowledge all feelings, pleasant and unpleasant, and does not shame anger. Healthy classroom systems have clear, firm, and flexible boundaries.

Encourage Kids to Label Feelings of Anger—Educators and parents can help young Aspergers students produce a label for their anger by teaching them that they are having a feeling and that they can use a word to describe their angry feeling. A permanent record (a book or chart) can be made of lists of labels for anger (e.g., mad, irritated, annoyed), and the class can refer to it when discussing angry feelings.

Encourage Kids to Talk About Anger-Arousing Interactions—Preschool kids better understand anger and other emotions when adults explain emotions (Denham, Zoller, &Couchoud, 1994). When Aspergers students are embroiled in an anger-arousing interaction, educators can help by listening without judging, evaluating, or ordering them to feel differently.

Help Kids Develop Self-Regulatory Skills—Educators of infants and toddlers do a lot of self-regulation "work," realizing that the Aspergers students in their care have a very limited ability to regulate their own emotions. As Aspergers students get older, adults can gradually transfer control of the self to kids, so that they can develop self-regulatory skills.

Model Responsible Anger Management—Aspergers students have an impaired ability to understand emotion when adults show a lot of anger (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Adults who are most effective in helping Aspergers students manage anger model responsible management by acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for their own angry feelings and by expressing anger in direct and non-aggressive ways.

Use Books and Stories about Anger to Help Kids Understand and Manage Anger—Well-presented stories about anger and other emotions validate kid’s feelings and give information about anger (Jalongo, 1986; Marion, 1995). It is important to preview all books about anger because some stories teach irresponsible anger management.

Aspergers students guided toward responsible anger management are more likely to understand and manage angry feelings directly and non aggressively and to avoid the stress often accompanying poor anger management (Eisenberg et al., 1991). Educators can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing anger by adopting positive guidance strategies.


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

Aspergers Children and "Physical Education" Class

Throughout this article, Jim Dilmon, a young man with Aspergers (AS) shares with us his experiences taking physical education in a generalized education setting. Jim, who is now 25 years old, attended a large public high school in New York. He recently graduated from college and is a teacher in a public school.

I was diagnosed with Aspergers when I was 9 years old. Since that time, I have received many educational and social interventions. My experiences have been numerous, some good and some bad. School was tough at times, especially when social interactions came into play. One of the toughest areas for me was physical education. Here, I was bullied, ridiculed, and forced to face up to some of my biggest fears. My experiences in physical education (PE) were mostly negative.

The negativity relates to the fact that most tasks in PE were difficult for me; and when I attempted them, my educators were unsupportive and my peers made fun of me. Things were made even more difficult for me because my parents had serious concerns about my ability to participate in a general education PE class. Most of their concerns were related to teasing, dressing out, and my physical clumsiness. Unfortunately, their concerns were well founded in that I experienced a multitude of problems related to them.

Including kids with ASPERGERS in general education classes, in particular, physical education classes, is no longer an uncommon occurrence. More and more kids with disabilities take physical education alongside typically developing kids. Many physical educators teach kids with ASPERGERS although they may have little knowledge about:

• The instructional implications and recommendations for instruction that can serve as a guideline for determining individualized modifications and accommodations.
• The behavioral and emotional characteristics, social and peer interactions, academic and cognitive functions, and physical and motor development in kids with ASPERGERS in relation to the physical education setting.

Understanding the specific characteristics of students like Jim can help educators create a supportive physical education environment for individuals with ASPERGERS.

Understanding ASPERGERS—

"Once a rare diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is now more prevalent than childhood cancer, diabetes, and Down syndrome; it is the second most common serious developmental disability after mental retardation and intellectual impairment" (Metzger & Simpson, 2008, p. 4). ASPERGERS appears on the autism spectrum and is often called high-functioning autism. This terminology often leads to misunderstandings or misconceptions about the characteristics of kids with ASPERGERS. Educators often misinterpret the "high functioning" and fail to recognize that ASPERGERS is a lifelong serious disability. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act data (2006) indicate that between 1997 and 2006, the number of kids with autism in public special education programs increased from 42,517 to 224,584. That alarming increase has created a need to disseminate information about ASPERGERS to educators who are involved in making instructional decisions.

The most frequently identified characteristics of ASPERGERS that directly affect kids in an educational setting are the impairments that directly relate to the individual's social, emotional, and adaptive functioning. Specifically, Church, Alisanski, and Amanullah (2000, p. 12) define ASPERGERS as "a developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and emotional relatedness and by unusual patterns of narrow interests and unique stereotyped behavior." The Diagnostic and Statistical Marmai of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR; APA, 2000) expands on the characteristics of ASPERGERS and identifies the specific features of ASPERGERS that may affect a student's ability to adapt to the physical education setting. Physical educators may find that "motor clumsiness, overactivity, inattention, and emotional problems such as depression" (Safran, Safran, & Ellis, 2003, p. 155) affect their ability to instruct kids with ASPERGERS in the general physical education setting.

Implications in the Physical Education Setting—

I found that many of the PE classes I had consisted of simply playing games and in my opinion, had no real educational value. However, on the positive side, I had a fantastic physical education teacher at the private elementary school I attended. She was aware of my disability and worked with my mom to motivate me and remained very positive throughout all of my struggles. She also had no tolerance for teasing in her class, so I knew well that if I messed up I wouldn't get laughed at. In that environment, I did very well, I tried so hard and I had so much fun that I wanted to play the games and learn how to perform better!

Successfully educating kids with ASPERGERS involves a deeper understanding of the disability and the implications for how the youngster's disability may directly affect his or her ability to participate to the fullest extent possible in the physical education setting. When developing instructional programs for kids with ASPERGERS in the physical education environment, educators should examine emotional and behavioral characteristics, academic and cognitive functioning, physical and gross motor development, and social deficits in relation to peer interactions. Embedded within these areas may be such elements as language and speech delays, social skills deficits, and teasing and bullying issues.

Educators must examine all these aspects when educating any youngster, but they must pay special attention to them when educating kids with ASPERGERS in inclusive settings. Understanding how the student's specific disability can affect her or his success in the program and how it affects the development of instructional modifications is extremely important. A youngster with ASPERGERS has different needs and requirements than typically developing students within the same setting.

Emotional and Behavioral Characteristics—

Individuals with ASPERGERS demonstrate a wide variety of behavioral characteristics. In educational settings, they experience anxiety, depression, aggression, and hyperactivity because of frustration during the learning process (Griffin, Griffin, Fitch, Albera, & Gingras, 2006). They also display a limited number of interests, which can lead to a strong preoccupation with sameness. This sameness can cause a predisposition to obsessive routines, repetitive rituals, and difficulty when transitioning (Groft & Block, 2003). Observers can see the predisposition to sameness in behavior rigidity, since this rigidity affects both the thoughts and behavior of a person with ASPERGERS. "Novel situations often produce anxiety for these kids. They may be uncomfortable with change in general. This can result in behavior that may be viewed as oppositional and can lead to emotional meltdowns" (Silverman & Weinfeld, 2007). Furthermore, many kids with ASPERGERS become enamored with a topic that is relevant to their peers but do so to the point of excluding other topics (Myles & Simpson, 2002).

One main area of concern for kids with ASPERGERS in regard to behavior is "socially inappropriate behavior stemming from lack of social understanding that can range from simply annoying to highly disruptive behaviors" (Safran et al., 2003, p. 159). Unfortunately, most kids with ASPERGERS have difficulty communicating their emotional state or understanding the emotional states of others. This inability further exacerbates socially inappropriate behaviors. On an emotional level, students with ASPERGERS have difficulty accepting that they make mistakes and become easily stressed because of their inflexibility. They also tend to have lower self-esteem than same-aged peers. Such vulnerabilities may lead them to become targets for bullying and teasing.

Physical educators must actively participate in programs for preventing bullying and must employ various strategies within the physical education setting. However, to be effective, all educators should employ the same strategies across all academic settings. The physical educator should work closely with other members of the individualized education program (IEP) team to achieve this goal. Through effective collaboration, all educators can be consistent with the goals related to preventing bullying and the strategies necessary to achieve those goals. Heinrichs (2003) lists several strategies that educators can use to prevent bullying, including talking with students about bullying, being proactive, telling students to report situations, modeling appropriate behavior, being consistent in handling situations in which bullying takes place, and focusing on the needs of students with exceptionalities.

Another identified area of concern is negative behavioral outbursts. "Negative behavioral outbursts are most frequently related to frustration, being thwarted, or difficulties in compliance when a particularly rigid response pattern has been challenged or interrupted" (Silverman & Weinfeld, 2007, p. 20). Common displays when the youngster becomes frustrated or is having difficulty include vocal outbursts and shrieking. Educators frequently overlook the underlying antecedent when they address the vocal outburst. When a youngster with ASPERGERS does engage in a specific behavior problem, he or she may be experiencing feelings of stress or a lack of control (Elder, Caterino, Chao, Shacknai, & De Simone, 2006). In addition, kids with ASPERGERS exhibit a high incidence of attention issues. Many individuals with ASPERGERS have difficulty determining those elements in their environments to which they should attend, so they attend to the wrong issues. Some kids with ASPERGERS receive a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a coexisting condition.

Instructional Implications of Emotional and Behavioral Characteristics—

Kids with ASPERGERS may have difficulty in the physical education setting because of the behavioral characteristics of the disorder. Educators must consider this factor when planning for and delivering instruction. They can use the following strategies in the physical education setting to reduce high levels of frustration in students with ASPERGERS:

• Collaborate with the youngster's classroom educators: Collaboration with colleagues allows the physical educator to be consistent in the way that she or he interacts with and instructs the youngster. The physical educator can then adopt the same type of behavior management system for the youngster with ASPERGERS that other educators are using throughout the youngster's day (Auxter et al., 2005).

• Document individual progress: The physical educator can use effective data collection to monitor the behavioral progress of the youngster. The information obtained through effective data collection is a valuable tool in developing IEP objectives and determining specific skill deficits.

• Establish clear rules and consequences: The use of clear rules and consequences helps provide a more predictable environment for the youngster with ASPERGERS (Silverman & Weinfeld, 2007).

• Limit unstructured time: The most difficult time in the physical education classroom is unstructured time (Silverman & Weinfeld, 2007). If unstructured time exists, furnish more structure by directing students to work in their own areas of interest. Simply instructing students in activities that reinforce their areas of interest encourages and motivates them to be more active (Auxter et al., 2005).

• Provide a private/personal area: One way to deescalate frustration is to allow the youngster to use "a quiet or alone spot" so that she or he can compose herself or himself or think through an activity. In the gym, physical educators have limited spaces that provide reduced noise levels or are less stimulating. However, the perimeter of the gym is more desirable than the center. If a youngster needs to regain control of his or her behavior and the distractions within the gymnasium are hindering his or her ability to so, a physical educator can consider placing a beanbag chair just inside the office (Auxter et al., 2005). Regardless of the designated area, the student should always be within the view of the physical educator.

• Provide a visual schedule: Many kids with autism or ASPERGERS benefit from using visual schedules. A visual schedule serves as a cue to the youngster about upcoming activities (Griffin et al., 2006).

• Provide exercise and activities on the basis of individual interests: Building on the interests of the learner can serve as a motivator and bring meaning to the activity for the learner (Auxter, Pyfer, & Huettig, 2005).

• Provide predictability: The physical educator should keep her or his interactions with the youngster predictable. For example, a physical educator can plan the same warm-up procedures every day and give the youngster advance notice about activities planned for that day (Menear & Smith, 2008). "Insistence on sameness can be helped through providing a predictable environment, avoiding surprises, and telling students about changes as soon as possible" (Griffin el al.. 2006, p. 153).

• Use consistent reinforcement systems: Reinforce appropriate social interactions and skill performance with a consistent behavior management system. This system can include internal and external reinforcers. Physical educators should reinforce appropriate social interactions, as well as reinforcing learners for meeting classroom expectations.

• Use simplistic and literal rules for all kids to understand and follow.

The physical education setting often includes a greater number of kids than the typical number in the general academic setting. This increased number of kids may result in higher than average noise levels. Modifying the physical environment can reduce the onset of a behavioral outburst in a youngster with ASPERGERS. The following are examples of ways to modify the environment:

• Encourage and reward progress and achievement by using verbal praise (Grofl & Block, 2003).

• Limit visual distractions: Reducing the number of visual distractions helps students with ASPERGERS maintain focus on the delivery of instruction.

• Maintain routines: Routines should include "sameness" in activities, including using the same equipment and the same class organization (Auxter et al., 2005).

• Organize space and materials: Educators can organize the physical structure of the classroom to decrease anxiety levels in kids with ASPERGERS. For example, clearly labeling materials and the location of the activities helps ensure that the structures within this environment are consistent (Griffin et al., 2006).

• Reduce excessive noise: Use nonverbal signals to reinforce appropriate noise levels, including the intensity and pitch of vocalizations. Examples of nonverbal signals to reinforce appropriate noise levels include colored light systems, hand signals, or pictorial cues. In addition, minimize background noises and fluorescent lighting because many students with ASPERGERS have heightened sensitivities to these elements (Auxter et al., 2005).

• Self-monitor: Although physical education educators rarely use self-monitoring, it increases participation and promotes independence (Todd & Reid, 2006).

• Simplify the task: If the learner is misbehaving while attempting a task, he or she may be frustrated. Simplifying the task may therefore enable the learner to succeed and simultaneously reduce inappropriate behaviors. Performing a task analysis on the specific skill can enable the physical educator to break the larger task into smaller components that he or she can teach independently yet in sequence.

• Use nonverbal visual cues to accompany auditory messages: These cues, in turn, can help students refocus attention to the task (Henderson, 2001).

Academic and Cognitive Functioning—

The academic and cognitive characteristics of kids with ASPERGERS vary. Many kids with ASPERGERS receive their education in the general education classroom, as well as in the general physical education setting. The intelligence of most kids with ASPERGERS ranges from average to above average. The intelligence range of kids with ASPERGERS can be quite deceiving because many educators do not realize that kids with ASPERGERS generally experience difficulty in the classroom primarily when it "arises because of literal thinking styles, inflexibility, poor problem-solving skills, poor organizational skills, and difficulty discriminating important information" (Griffin et al., 2006).

Myles et al. (2002) reported on academic strengths and weaknesses of kids with ASPERGERS and revealed that these kids are strong in oral expression and reading recognition but weak in written expression, comprehending verbal information, and math scores for problem solving and critical thinking. As previously indicated, comprehending verbal information can pose a problem for kids with ASPERGERS. When educators furnish specific instructions, students with ASPERGERS may take the directions literally or may not be able to respond to the request as rapidly as typically developing kids can.

Instructional Implications for Academic and Cognitive Functioning—

One of the biggest problems that I faced was that I thought I was doing what I was supposed to and that I had very little challenges. It wasn't until junior high that kids in my class and my coaches seemed to see me as lacking skills. This is when I was awakened to my lack of progress and the challenge I had.

Many individuals with ASPERGERS have difficulty with abstract thinking, which can create problems in comprehension. Safran et al. (2003) indicate that kids with ASPERGERS may be able to verbalize concepts that they actually do not comprehend and that educators should assist in encouraging the kids to ask for help. Physical educators should also be aware that many students with ASPERGERS often "mask" clear understanding of concepts being presented. Although their memorization skills may be exceptional, their comprehension of the skills may be limited. Educators need to address this deficit in advanced comprehension and abstract reasoning when planning instruction.

In addition, although kids with ASPERGERS are typically of average or above average intelligence, the way that they process information differs from that of their peers. Skills that require a large amount of information to process or that require a planned form of execution are often difficult to perform as well (Renner, Klinger, & Klinger, 2000). Ways to address the cognitive and academic deficits include:

• Give small amounts of instruction at a time and reduce the number of activity requirements (Griffin et al., 2006).

• Limit the number of ways to perform a skill: When the student can perform an activity or skill in many different ways, giving the youngster only a few options may be appropriate. For example, if the physical education teacher tells students to move from one area of the gym to another by using a locomotor skill of their choice, the teacher may offer a few suggestions from which all kids may choose.

• Present skill-based activities in multiple modalities: Instructional techniques that have proved effective for kids with ASPERGERS include video modeling, social stories, graphics, and demonstrations (Auxter et al., 2005).

• Provide academic challenges: To increase the self-esteem or self-confidence of a youngster with ASPERGERS, a physical educator can furnish academic challenges. Academic challenges should link directly to the activity being performed and may focus on a youngster's specific strength (Groft & Block, 2003). For example, if a youngster with ASPERGERS shows strength in mathematics, the physical education teacher can highlight this strength while students are practicing shooting basketballs in the gym. After shooting baskets for a specified time, the teacher may ask students to calculate the percentage of baskets made during the time allowed. "Capitalizing on the learners' excellent memory skills" (Auxter et al., 2005) is another way to compensate for cognitive deficits.

• Provide choices: Motivate a student with ASPERGERS to participate in physical activity by matching her or his interests and abilities to activities. Then allow the student to gain control over decisions by offering choices between two predetermined activities.

• Provide instruction that is simple and concrete: For example, instead of telling a youngster to proceed through an obstacle course, identify the order in which he or she is to proceed. In addition, "educators should not assume that a student with ASPERGERS understands the goal of the lesson, ft is important that educators explicitly state the concept that is being taught and the importance of each learning activity" (Silverman & Weinfeld, 2007, p. 103).

• Reduce complex steps in an activity or skill.

• Use explicit language: Many kids with ASPERGERS do not understand the use of expressions or figurative speech and try to apply their own interpretations. Educators who understand the complexity of language and are aware that many kids with ASPERGERS find figurative language difficult to comprehend should focus on their own means of communicating directions and instructions (Groft & Block, 2003). For example, a clearer way to tell students to "put your hand in the basket when shooting a basketball" is "reach out as far as you can and pretend to put your hand in the basket when shooting the basketball."

Physical and Gross Motor Development—

My lack of coordination, clumsiness, poor gait, and lack of motivation has always been a hindrance to my participation and enjoyment of physical activity. During most of my time at school, I viewed PE as the worst part of the day. During the worse times, I would avoid trying new things and I would say or do anything to get out of PE. In the upper grades when recess was out and PE was separate, 1 had to interact with males. This was harder because we are much more competitive and critical of each other's physical characteristics and abilities. Now, I try to remind myself of the benefits of exercise. It helps if I am in a more private environment also.

It is uncommon for kids with ASPERGERS to possess highly athletic motor skills because they rarely display general gross motor precocity (Silverman & Weinfeld, 2007). "Educators and researchers are more and more recognizing that motor functioning is a deficit area for kids with autism" (Todd & Reid, 2006, p. 167). Individuals with autism typically have low fitness and low activity levels (Todd & Reid). In addition, the fitness level for this population is lower than that of the general population (Gillispie, 2003).

Researchers agree that this problem occurs because of the high incidence of individuals with intellectual disabilities who have a sedentary lifestyle (Draheim. Williams, & McCubbin, 2002). Adolescents with ASD are significantly less active than typically developing kids, and few engage in extracurricular activities. Clearly, promoting physical activity in this population is of high importance; however, because of the challenges that individuals with ASPERGERS face, encouraging them to be physically active at acceptable levels and within acceptable timeframes may be difficult. Specifically, motor skill deficits may hinder successful participation in physical education classes if educators do not address these deficits through effective intervention plans.

Although not all kids with ASPERGERS have identical characteristics, they generally have difficulty with tasks requiring balance and coordination and often display a generalized muscular weakness, called hypertonia, which affects posture, movement, strength, and coordination (Kurtz, 2008). Other kids with ASPERGERS may have difficulty judging distance, height, and depth or may engage in self-stimulatory behaviors (Silverman & Weinfeld, 2007). Kids with ASPERGERS may also have problems with manual dexterity. They often have impaired dynamic balance, or an inability to perform rapid, alternating movements (Hooper, Poon, Marcos, & Fine, 2006). An inability or immature ability to alternate hand and limb movements can directly affect a student's ability to fully participate in physical activities that involve such skills.

A common impairment for individuals with ASPERGERS is developmental coordination disorder (DCC). DCC often coexists with Aspergers (Elder et ah, 2006). DCC appears to be a problem involving the cortical process of motor planning (Kurtz, 2008). Common deficits that kids with this disorder experience include clumsiness and abnormal gait patterns, as well as fine-motor skill deficiencies (Tantam, 1998). Behaviors attributable to these deficits include difficulty riding a bike, playing ball games, throwing, catching, and kicking (Attwood, 1998). Not only do these physical challenges lead to problems participating in physical education, but they can also lead to social integration problems in adolescents with ASPERGERS (World Health Organization, 2007).

A relatively new area of interest among researchers is the coexistence of sensory integration disorder in individuals with ASPERGERS. Kids with ASPERGERS often have heightened sensitivity to tastes, smells, sounds, and sights and may display tactile sensitivity. Avoidance of touch, pressure, warmth, and other contributing factors can foster avoidance in participating in specific games or activities. Oversensitivity to sound can also affect routines and procedures, especially in situations in which a coach or teacher uses a whistle or bell. Physical educators should be sensitive to a student's sensory needs; they can modify or adapt group-designed activities, for example, they can use verbal signals instead of using a whistle.

Instructional Implications for Physical and Gross Motor Development—

Physical educators are well-versed in techniques related to teaching physical education to typically developing kids, but they have varying degrees of education and experience instructing kids with special needs in general physical education classes. Most kids with special needs work closely with an adaptive physical education teacher. Collaborative efforts are essential for ensuring that educators meet the physical development needs of the youngster. The physical educator should adhere to the goals and objectives of I he youngster's IEP and participate actively in developing the plan. The physical ability of kids with ASPERGERS is often lower than that of their same-aged peers. Kids with ASPERGERS often struggle with both fine and gross motor skills (Groft & Block, 2003). In addition, the physical educator should be aware that focusing on a youngster's strengths is particularly important when instructing a youngster with ASPERGERS in a physical education setting. Other recommendations when addressing motor and physical development include:

• Analyze tasks: Break skills into smaller component parts, thereby enabling a student with ASPERGERS to focus his or her motor planning in relation to the part rather than to the whole. Sequentially linking, or chaining, the component parts can then help the youngster acquire proficiency in performing the required skill.

• Assess developmental readiness: When determining the sequence for introducing skills, the physical educator should examine previously mastered developmental skills and determine new skills by using a sequential manner and rate that is developmental^' predictable (Kurtz, 2008).

• Assign peers for teams: Most physical educators select activities geared toward team sports. Physical educators should use caution when determining placement on a team. They should assign teams instead of using peer selection.

• Introduce individual fitness activities: "The tendency for students with autism to do well with repetitive activities can be an opportunity to teach individual fitness activities such as bicycling" (Menear & Smith, 2008, p. 33). Researchers have found that kids with ASPERGERS prefer such activities as running, cycling, and rowing.

• Limit competitive and team sports: "Team sports demand an ability to quickly understand, process and respond to social cues under the pressure of competition and expecting an individual to function or be accepted by peers in this setting is unrealistic" (Pan & Frey, 2006, p. 605).

• Provide alternative activities (as indicated on the IEP): The physical demands of many activities taught in physical education classes involve physical interactions among classmates (hand holding, spotting for gymnastics, and leaning against one another). Kids with ASPERGERS may exhibit hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity during this time. Accommodations may be necessary, and the youngster may need an alternative activity if the degree of sensitivity is greatly affecting her or his ability to participate.

• Set goals: To have a successful motor plan, "the youngster must have a mental picture or idea of what needs to occur, clear vestibular and proprioceptive feedback regarding movement, and the ability to make automatic, reflexive adjustments to moving in time and space" (Kurtz, 2008, p. 76). In addressing gross motor planning, a physical educator may need to help the student set specific personal goals. Although the student's goals may differ from those of her or his peers, the goals should be clear, realistic, and attainable.

• Use "part practice": When teaching skills that include several component parts, break the parts up and have the student practice them separately. The physical educator should demonstrate skills in this manner, as well (Coker, 2004). For example, a backward chain of part practice when teaching a youngster the skills involved in bowling would be to first teach the youngster how to swing her or his arm with the bowling ball in hand before asking the youngster to attempt the approach used in performing the overall skill. Once the youngster masters the first skill (the swing), then she or he can begin to practice the approach without using the bowling ball. After the youngster has addressed both skills, he or she can combine the skills and execute bowling in its entirety.

• Use repetition and re-teaching: Young kids with ASPERGERS are frequently unaware that their skill levels are not equal to those of their peers or that they perform a task incorrectly. In this situation, the student may continue using the same movements, thus not reaching the appropriate level of the skill. Teaching a new skill may require many attempts and considerable practice (Kurtz, 2008). The youngster may also need a considerable amount of re-teaching of skills.

• Use sensory stimulation to decrease self-stimulation and to help the student remain attentive to the task presented.

• Vary tasks: Furnish opportunities students to acquire skills through multiple means. For example, when working with a youngster to promote better awareness of vestibular input and balancing skills, the physical educator might ask the student to use a variety of equipment that incorporates movement, including swings, slides, balance beams, and rockers (Kurtz, 2008).

Social Deficits in Relation to Peer Interactions—

Individuals tend to ask me how having Aspergers affected me on a social level. A better question would be how it has not affected my life. Everything from my ability to make and keep friends, to interacting with peers, to understanding my emotions and feelings, to my ability to handle stress and anxiety are all affected. In short, it has affected me in almost every way possible. More specifically, in elementary school, I simply had no idea of what to do or say to my peers, so I kept my distance. In junior high I hated PE, the teasing was worse and I didn't do well.

Most kids participate in physical activity with their peers both within and outside the school setting. Social skills play an essential role in peer interactions. Individuals with AS often have difficulty playing with peers because they have difficulty understanding social cues, taking turns, sharing with others, making eye contact, playing social games, handling reciprocal conversation, and simply making friends (Autism Society of America, 2009). However, "individuals with ASPERGERS desire social interaction with others. Their social difficulties frequently stem from a lack of skill in initiating and responding to various situations" (Myles & Simpson, 2002, p. 133).

Other areas of impairment that relate to social interactions in kids with ASPERGERS include problems with social distance and difficulty understanding unwritten rules; and when kids with ASPERGERS do learn these unwritten rules, many apply them rigidly. In addition, many kids with ASPERGERS lack tact, interpret things literally, and have difficulty adapting to the social demands placed on them in the school setting (Tucker, 2000). Individuals with ASD have indicated that "intense isolation was a defining feature of his/her experience living with ASD. Most described being isolated throughout both childhood and adulthood" (Muller, Schuler, & Yates, 2008, p. 177).

Many of these individuals described themselves as feeling depressed or anxious. Another trigger for feelings of anxiety, as described by Muller et al., is having to initiate social interactions. Researchers have identified other critical social skills that kids with AS often do not acquire, including maintaining eye contact, being aware of body space, empathizing with others, giving and receiving compliments, understanding and using body language, and learning strategies related to initiating and ending conversations (Waltz, 2002).

When engaging in the physical education setting, kids with ASPERGERS may experience difficulty accepting winning and losing and handling criticism of performances, and they may have vocal outbursts in difficult situations (Tucker, 2000). Educators must address these problems when teaching kids with ASPERGERS, as well as teaching their classmates social acceptance in all settings, more particularly, the physical activity setting, in which much social interaction will occur.

Instructional Implications for Social Deficits in Relation to Peer Interactions—

Social settings, including physical education class, often heighten the stress or anxiety levels of kids with ASPERGERS. However, if properly addressed, the physical education classroom offers a good opportunity for kids with and without disabilities to interact with peers. The physical education class often requires social interaction among the students for various reasons and social skills are very important for kids with ASPERGERS to develop so that they can experience success in the physical education setting (Kirby, 2002). Teaching social skills and the ability to interact with peers is not a form of instruction that is specific to kids with Aspergers. All kids need to be taught to interact appropriately with one another, and educators should provide continuous reinforcement for their behaviors. Techniques that educators can use in the physical education setting include:

• Use visual cues: When a student dominates a conversation or takes control, he or she is often not aware of the occurrence. Developing a specific sign to share privately with the student can serve as a cue to him or her to allow others to take part in the conversation. The use of nonverbal cues gives the youngster with ASPERGERS an opportunity to work on such skills as taking turns during conversation and during games and activities.

• Use social stories: "Social stories provide a framework for improving social interactions" (Auxter et al., 2005, p. 413) often found in the physical education setting. An example of an effective social story (that a special education consultant can help develop) is how to successfully follow the rules of a game.

• Use role-playing activities: If a visual cue is not a sufficient adaptation, the physical educator may consider role playing to teach conversational interactions and other social skills needed in the physical education setting. Many kids with ASPERGERS need direct instruction in such social skills as initiating conversation and taking turns.

• Teach equipment use: Role-playing activities also can help educators instruct students in appropriate equipment use. Role playing can simplify the often-complex skills of using equipment appropriately.

• Reduce wait time: Students often display inappropriate behavior during unnecessary wait times. Keeping the students active can increase physical activity and appropriate behavior (Menear & Smith, 2008).

• Monitor social interactions: Monitor interactions closely to ensure that kids with ASPERGERS stay on task and do not dominate the conversation and to ensure that other students do not intentionally prevent kids with ASPERGERS from interacting with the group.

• Establish peer mentors: "Carefully trained and sensitive peer buddies may encourage appropriate social interaction" (Auxter et al., 2005, p. 416). In addition to encouraging social interactions, peer buddies can help students with ASPERGERS by clarifying questions or by giving them clues to help them follow instructions that the physical educator gives.

• Encourage social interactions: Pairing students and allowing them to work with a partner or partners in various activities is a successful method for increasing appropriate social interaction (Groft & Block, 2003). Activities in which pairs can participate include allowing a group of kids to decide the best way to perform a physical task that requires critical thinking or having small groups of kids participate in games and activities that involve the ability to work as a team.

All throughout school I really wanted to tell educators about my disability. 1 wanted to tell them to simply be patient, understanding, and explain what you want me to do and how to do the activity. I wanted to tell them to not assume I knew or even remembered how to participate in an activity.

Now that I look back, I really wish that I could have said, here is how you could serve me better. And then tell them this: I needed more individualized assistance and suppuri in the classroom (which should have been included my IEP goals), I needed a lot more motivation to participate in activities and try new things, I needed a PE teacher that could remain as positive as possible when I struggled with the activities and my interaction with peers. Probably, the biggest help would have been zero tolerance for teasing and bullying in PE. The tasks were already challenging - the last thing I needed was teasing and bullying on top of it.

Because schools are including more kids with ASPERGERS in physical education classes, physical educators need to understand the uniqueness of the diagnosis, including social deficits, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments, and peer interaction in relation to the physical education setting. Understanding these characteristics that kids like Jim have can help educators create a supportive physical education environment for individuals with ASPERGERS.

Few would argue against the need for the physical educator to become an active member of the IEP team. The contributions that a physical educator can make are numerous. Kowalski, Lieberman, & Daggett (2006) indicate several actions that the physical educator can take to become involved in the IEP process. The physical educator should first consult with the classroom teacher and special education teacher. The physical educator can share information about the student's daily performance in class, discuss specific abilities the youngster does or does not have, and help determine whether the youngster is meeting the goals of the IEP plan. Auxter et al. (2005) reiterate that having the physical educator collaborate with the special educator and other service personnel is of utmost importance. Collaboration between IEP team members is essential in monitoring the use and effectiveness of proposed strategies for use in the physical education environment.


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


References—

• American Psychological Association. (APA). (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders text revision (4th revision; DSM-IV-TR). Washington, DC: Author.
• Attwood, T. (1998). Asperger's syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley.
• Autism Society of America. (2009). Improving the lives of all affected by autism: Autism FAQ. Retrieved from http:// www.autism-society.org/site/ PageServer?pagename-about_FAQ
• Auxter, D., Pyfer, J., & Huettig, C. (2005). Principles and methods of adapted physical education and recreation (10th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.
• Church, C, Alisanski, S., & Amanullah, S. (2000). The social, behavioral, and academic experiences of children with Aspergere syndrome. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 15(1), 12-20.
• Coker, C. (2004). Motor learning and control for practitioners. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
• Draheim, C, Williams, D., & McCubbin. J. (2002). Prevalence of physical inactivity and recommended physical activity in community-based adults with mental retardation. Mental Retardation, 40, 436-444.
• Elder, L. M., Caterino, L. C, Chao. J., Shacknai, D., & De Simone, G. (2006). The efficacy of social skills treatment of children with Asperger syndrome. Education and Treatment of Children, 29, 635-663.
• Gillispie, M. (2003). Cardiovascular fitness of young Canadian children with and without mental retardation. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 38, 296-301 .
• Griffin, H. C, Griffin, L. W, Fitch, C. W. Albera, V., & Gingras, H. (2006). Educational interventions for individuals with Asperger syndrome. Intervention in School and Clinic. 41, 150-155.
• Groft, M., & Block, M. (2003). Children with Asperger syndrome: Implications for general physical education and youth sports. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 74(3), 38-43.
• Heinrichs, R. (2003). Perfect targets: Asperger syndrome and bullying. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing.
• Henderson, L. M. (2001). Asperger's syndrome in gifted individuals. Gifted Child Today, 42(3). 28-35.
• Hooper, S., Poon, K., Marcus, L., & Fine, C. (2006). Neuropsychological characteristics of school age children with high functioning autism: Performance on the NEPSY. Child Neuropsychology, 12, 299-305.
• Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Data. Children and students served under IDEA, Part B, in the U.S. and outlying areas by age group, year. and disabilities category: Fall 1 997 through fall 2006. Retrieved from https:// www.ideadata.org/tables30th/ar_l-ll.xlz
• Kirby, B. L. (2002). What is Asperger's syndrome? Online Asperger syndrome information and support (OASIS). Retrieved from http://www.aspergersyndrome.org
• Kowalski, E., Lieberman, L., & Daggett, S. (2006). Getting involved in the IEP process. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 77(7), 35-39.
• Kurtz, L. A. (2008). Understanding motor skills in children with dyspraxia, ADHD, autism, and other learning disabilities: A guide to improving coordination. London, NJ: Jessica Kingsley.
• Menear, K. S., & Smith, S. (2008). Physical education for students with autism: Teaching tips and strategies. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 40(5), 32-27.
• Metzger, B., & Simpson, C. (2008). Quality indicators of applied behavior analysis providers of educational programs for children with autism spectrum disorders: A guide for school district personnel. The Dialog: Journal of the Texas Educational Diagnostician Association 37(3), 3-6.
• Mulier, E., Sch�ler, ?., & Yates, G. B. (2008). Social challenges and supports from the perspectives of individuals with Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities. Autism, 12, 173-190.
• Myles, B. S., & Simpson, R. L. (2002). Asperger's syndrome: An overview of characteristics. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 1 7, 132-137.
• Myles, B. S.. Hilgenfeld, T. D., Barnhill. G. P., Griswold, D. E.. Hagiwara. T. & Simpson, R. L. (2002). Analysis of reading skills in individuals with Asperger syndrome. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, /7(1), 44-47.
• Pan, C, & Frey, G. C. (2006). Physical activity patterns in youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Development Disorders, 36, 597-606.
• Renner. P., Klinger, L., & Klinger, M. (2000). Implicit and explicit memory in autism: Is autism an amnesic disorder? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30, 3-14.
• Safran, S., Safran, J., & Ellis, K. (2003). Intervention ABCs for children with Asperger syndrome. Topics in Language Disorders, 23, 154-165
• Silverman, S.. & Weinfeld. R. (2007). School success for kids with Asperger's syndrome. Waco, TX: Prufrock Publishing
• Tantam, D. (1998). Annotation: Asperger's syndrome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 29, 245-255.
• Todd, T, & Reid, G. (2006). Increasing physical activity in individuals with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 21, 167-176.
• Tucker, E. (2000). Asperger's syndrome guide for teachers. Retrieved from hup:// www. udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/ teachers_guide.html
• Waltz, M. (2002). Autism spectrum disorders: Understanding the diagnosis and getting help. Cambridge, MA: O'Reilly Publishers.
• World Health Organization. (2007). International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems (10th ed.). Geneva: World Health Organization.

Parent-Teacher Collaboration: Help for Students on the Autism Spectrum

"I desperately need some advice on how to work with my son's (high functioning autistic) teacher so we can come up with a 'plan' that actually works for him - both academically and behaviorally."

Collaboration between parent and teacher facilitates successful education for ALL children. But for young people with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism, it’s especially important to have effective communication, consistency on goals and rewards across settings, teamwork planning, and monitoring of interventions. The parent-teacher relationship is ongoing, reciprocal, respectful, and child-centered.

This post offers important tips for facilitating effective parent-teacher teamwork:

1. A message notebook may be used so that the educator can communicate what is going on at school – and the mother or father can communicate what is happening at home. Notebook comments from the educator may discuss a youngster's progress, his behavior, attitude, the rate at which he completes class work, and so on. A message notebook also provides an opportunity for the mother or father to ask questions she or he may have for the educator or provide information about the youngster to the educator.



2. Brainstorming requires both creativity and patience. Parents need to allow the teacher to share suggestions with them, even though they might not necessarily make sense to parents at first. The best solutions are not always the most obvious ones. Parents should be flexible in their thinking and open to the teacher’s suggestions – and listen to the reasons behind the suggestions (e.g., the educator may suggest a particular approach because that intervention has been effective with other Asperger’s children in the past).

3. Children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism often have difficulty planning ahead for longer assignments or class projects. To assist with lengthy assignments, these kids benefit from having a contract for the assignment so they are aware of their timelines and responsibilities.

4. E-mail has become a very common and convenient method of communication. If moms and dads and educators both have an e-mail address, e-mail may be a convenient way for them to communicate.

5. Homework is frequently an area of difficulty for children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism – and may be the subject of the majority of parent-teacher trouble-shooting. Parents and teachers often report that Asperger’s children are not aware of assignments, have left books or homework at school, or have completed work - but have not returned or submitted it for grading. It’s important that all parties understand homework policies and their individual roles and responsibilities (e.g., How often will homework be given? How much time will be required to complete assignments? What is the parent’s role?).





It’s equally important for educators to obtain information from the mother or father about their schedules, the parents’ other children, and household routines. Many moms and dads find that assisting their Asperger’s youngster with homework requires time, organization, and patience, which can be challenging for them to muster after a day with job and family responsibilities. When educators and parents communicate their expectations and situations, they can develop and monitor successful homework plans.

6. For children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism, managing homework assignments may require assistance from an advocate or "coach." The coach is often a special education teacher who meets daily during "homeroom" or "study skills" class with children to build organizational, study, time-management, and self-advocacy skills. The special education teacher mentors and supports the child and communicates with teachers at weekly team meetings to discuss and monitor the child’s assignments and projects. The special education teacher serves as a contact person for parents and educators and provides consistent communication and teamwork between home and school for academic and behavioral growth. 

7. In order to come up with the best solutions to a youngster's problems, moms and dads and educators need to discuss the problems in detail. Although such discussions may be difficult, they are necessary in order to develop interventions that can be implemented consistently at school and at home. With the right interventions, most Asperger’s kids will improve, although it may take a while. Stay positive, work collaboratively, and think about how all of this time and effort will ultimately benefit the youngster.

8. Lack of motivation by children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism is often a factor in starting and completing school assignments. When educators offer children multiple ways of demonstrating their learning, they can explore their interests and creative talents, thus increasing their motivation and effort.

9. Make use of a student planner, which is a notebook that is used to help kids keep track of their daily homework assignments. While many educators can write the assignments that are due in the planner, some kids may be required to do this task themselves in order to increase their independence and responsibility. When kids are responsible for writing their assignments in the planner, the educator can check their notebook to see whether they completed the task accurately. Moms and dads and educators can communicate daily through a youngster's planner.

10. Medications are often an integral part of treating comorbid conditions associated with Asperger’s (e.g., ADHD, anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.). Medication can be a beneficial component of a treatment plan for some of these “special needs” children, and educators are in an excellent position to judge effectiveness of medications on behavior and learning. Therefore, moms and dads and educators will want to provide teamwork feedback to doctors regarding these kid’s behavior and performance when on medication. Information about performance before - and when receiving medication - is critical for determining the overall effectiveness of medication, its dosage and timing, and side effects. Some of the side effects that parents and educators can observe and note are nausea, loss of appetite, headaches, stomachaches, lethargy, moodiness, and irritability.

Behavioral, learning, and other side effects noted by educators are best reported to parents, who in turn, will present this information to the doctor. Parent permission is required for any direct communication between educators and doctors. Parent-teacher communication regarding medication monitoring may take the form of phone calls, notes, or forms. For working parents, it’s important to let them know that frequent communication is very useful when Asperger’s children first begin medication or adjustments are made. When medications are given at school, the school nurse should maintain a medication log and administer medications per doctor’s orders. Also, the school nurse should be included in the parent-teacher team when monitoring medication.

11. Moms and dads should attend each open house that their youngster's school holds. This is an excellent opportunity for parents to meet their youngster's educators face-to-face and get to know who they are.

12. Parental involvement should be included in all stages of assessment, identification, and the development of behavior plans. While moms and dads have always been included as participants on their youngster's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, they should also have input during pre-referral and eligibility meetings and help plan positive behavioral interventions.

13. Parents can be a volunteer. While some principals will not assign moms and dads to their youngster's classroom, being a “room mother” or “room father” is a possibility in many districts. Volunteering in another class can still provide many insights into what goes on in the school (e.g., what happens daily or how the educator manages the classroom).

14. Phone conversations can be a good way to communicate, because each party can ask more detailed questions. Phone conversations often do not provide the ongoing dialogue that corresponding through a message notebook does. However, for complex issues, a phone call may be the better choice.

15. Some districts use a homework hot line that allows educators to communicate homework information to moms and dads and children. Parents can call a certain number in order to hear the day's homework assignments for their youngster.

16. The school should develop communication folders and homework plans that foster parent-teacher teamwork. Though these specific folders and plans may vary by grade with homework requirements increasing each year, the principles and policies should be consistent across the grade levels. All “special needs” children should have a communication folder that goes back and forth from school to home each day. Announcements, notes, weekly school newsletters, and weekly homework packets should be put in this folder. The front cover of the homework packet should have a weekly class schedule, list of upcoming school events, and a list of spelling/writing words. Also in the packet, there should be a “homework schedule” with suggested assignments for each day. Moms and dads should communicate with the teacher by signing and returning the bottom half of the weekly schedule along with any comments. The folder needs to be given to the Asperger’s child on Friday and needs to be returned to the teacher the following Friday.

Keeping the homework packet in the communication folder is particularly helpful when the Asperger’s child participates in after-school study or childcare programs or has homework assistance from others. For some children on the autism spectrum, educators can make accommodations by varying the homework that is included in the packet, particularly if their achievement levels are substantially below that required of the homework. While it’s important for ALL children to practice skills and do work that is at their independent or instructional levels, this is particularly true for kids with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism, for whom focusing on “too challenging” academic work after a day at school can be particularly difficult.

17. Utilize a web-based homework list, which is a list that provides a directory of reading and homework assignments for the night. The website may also include links to relevant Internet resources. A homework list is often offered as part of a program that allows moms and dads to log in and access their youngster's grades. This feature allows parents to continually monitor their youngster's progress, which is particularly important if they are concerned that their youngster's grades may be slipping because of extracurricular activities or after school employment.

18. It’s is helpful to provide Asperger’s children with a sequence of steps for complex or multi-step assignments and a checklist to monitor their completion of the steps. This list can be created by the teacher - or by the teacher and child - as they think through the steps in the process.




19. Moms and dads have a lot to offer, whether it’s information about the youngster's medical, developmental and educational history, ratings for behavior and attention levels, or information about interests. When a problem arises, using an effective problem-solving plan that incorporates parent-teacher teamwork can be helpful for both parties. The following 10-step plan for the problem-solving process addresses specific concerns, incorporates a positive plan of action, and offers specific means for follow-up communication:
  1. Teacher writes one sentence describing the problem.
  2. Why is it an issue?
  3. Give a brief history.
  4. Whose responsibility is it (teacher, parent, or child)?
  5. What has already been tried to handle the problem?
  6. Is the problem similar at home and school?
  7. Teacher and parent generate, write, and clarify possible solutions.
  8. Teacher and parent select preferred solution(s).
  9. Teacher and parent select specific way(s) to implement the preferred solutions.
  10. Teacher and parents specify times for follow-up and teamwork.

Below is an example of the 10-step plan for problem-solving:

Child: Michael Jameson
Grade: Second
Teacher: Mrs. Smith
Date: March 2, 2013
Parent: Sara Jameson

1. Teacher writes one sentence describing the problem: Michael does not stay in his seat and complete his work.

2. Why is it an issue? Moving around the classroom distracts Michael’s fellow students.

3. Give a brief history: Michael stays in his seat for about 3 minutes when doing classwork. He misses instructions, walks around the classroom, gets a drink, talks to peers, etc. At home when doing homework, he stays in his seat for 5 minutes, then gets up and plays with his dog.

4. Whose responsibility is it (teacher, parent, or child)? This is Michael’s responsibility.

5. What has already been tried to handle the problem? Verbal reprimands have been tried.

6. Is the problem similar at home and school? Not completing assigned work happens both at school and home.

7. Teacher and parent generate, write, and clarify possible solutions:
  • Schedule appointment for physical with Michael’s doctor
  • Give Michael stickers or extra playtime for staying in area and completing work
  • Set up a behavior monitoring plan for staying in seat, listening to directions, and doing work
  • Have the school counselor talk with Michael weekly about importance of staying in his seat/desk area and completing work
  • Use masking tape on floor to outline Michael's desk area

8. and 9. Teacher and parent select preferred solution(s) and select specific way(s) to implement the preferred solutions.
  • Parent and teacher set up a behavior monitoring plan for listening to directions, staying in seat/area, and doing work at school during morning classwork and at home during homework. With his mother or teacher, Michael monitors his own behavior. Each day that he receives an "X" (hit the target) for all target behaviors, he will receive a "target sticker.” If he receives stickers 3 out of 5 days at school, he gets a "special treat" at home. If he receives stickers 3 out of 5 days at home, he gets 15 minutes of free time at school on Friday. Checklist goes back and forth from home to school in Michael’s folder.

10. Teacher and parents specify times for follow-up and teamwork: Mrs. Smith telephones Michael’s mother on Friday to check on how it’s going. Then Mrs. Smith calls Michael’s mother on March 10, 17, and 24th …and then weekly for a month. Number of days needed to get stickers will increase as Michael is successful.
  • Mrs. Smith and Michael’s mother were consistently communicating and had similar expectations.
  • Michael was actively involved in self-monitoring using a parent-teacher behavior checklist that was titled "Hit the Target".
  • When Michael received his reward for schoolwork at home and vice versa, Michael got a "double dose" of praise and, when needed, additional support.

Parent-teacher teamwork is an important key for the success of children with Asperger’s and High-Functioning Autism. Communication fosters common language and consistent expectation and engages all parties involved. Teamwork is particularly crucial for input during assessments, when developing behavior plans, when monitoring medication, and in coordinating homework.

The consistent use of parent-teacher notes is an important part of the communication system. Parent-teacher notes promote consistency in expectations and help everyone develop a common language. These notes may be simple check sheets or lists for reporting child behavior or academic work.

Using daily or weekly journals is helpful when more elaborated information is important. Educators and parents also have opportunities to regularly communicate through formal and information meetings and phone calls. 

==> Teaching Students with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

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

Aspergers Children and Gym Class


It is quite likely that kids with Aspergers will start gym classes just as any other normal kid would, that is with enthusiasm and expectations, but it is important to be careful while mixing gym class and Aspergers together in order to ensure that the experience does not become an uncomfortable one for the youngster with Aspergers.

The problems that an Aspergers youngster may have in gym classes may be related to a number of problems that they face due to their unfortunate disorder, like impaired motor skills which make it difficult for them to take quick instructions or make quick movements and thereby to play baseball, soccer or any other physically demanding sports. A gymnasium can be loud and the confusing commotion created there in combination with the players and students yelling and the coach blowing in his whistle can be devastating for certain Aspergers youngster as they are sometimes super-sensitive to noise.

Another problem faced by the Aspergers youngster is the fact that he must change among his peers, and since these special kids are not apt at changing clothes without some assistance, it could mean social embarrassment. Rude behaviors with peers and educators in gym classes by these kids are often common as well because they are often maladapted to deal with social situations.

The most dangerous part of gym classes and Aspergers kids is the fact that they are often adept at withstanding amazing amounts of pain, which, though sounds like a good thing, can put the youngster in danger because he may hide injuries he received due to some contact sports. These are some of the most common problems that are to be noted by educators and moms and dads alike in order to assure the youngster’s well being and adaptability in gym classes.

It is very important to note that it is essential to understand the problems of the particular youngster with Aspergers first before taking any steps to help them as problems differ from individual to individual, therefore, subject educators, moms and dads, gym educators and special educators must cooperate in order to create the right gym environment for these kids. Peers who are willing and kind enough to help these kids out in their day to day gym activities should be assigned to each of them and gym educators must take caution, not to surprise the Aspergers youngster with any sudden change in the routine as they follow routines and instructions by the book.

Sometimes, when the degree of the Aspergers disorder is more than average, educators may be required to use flash cards, pictures or even posters as visual cues due to their inability to interpret verbal instructions properly. Demonstrations are often extremely helpful for Aspergers kids, especially if it is done before the general students tries to do the activity.

An assigned aide can do a lot of benefit to the kids with Aspergers as they can remove a youngster from a gym session if he becomes particularly stressed out or may be due to the youngster’s inability to handle the excess noise in the gym. A properly written, general weekly schedule can help the Aspergers youngster to be clear from confusions. Finally, a physical education teacher or any teacher for instance should understand that although an Aspergers youngster will most probably be bright in some aspects, but some, he will have difficulty in handling with efficiency; for such cases a possible alternative should be offered to the student.

Kindness and willingness to help from educators, moms and dads and friends can make gym class and Aspergers go together very nicely, in fact under the right conditions, the Aspergers youngster can even excel in gym classes.


Rage-Control for Children on the Autism Spectrum

"Any tips for dealing with a high functioning autistic child who flips into a rage at the most inopportune times for no apparent reason whatsoever? This erratic behavior occurs at school as well."

Advice for Parents—

All of us exhibit some "signs" just as we begin to act-out our anger in the form of rage. Thus, it is possible to identify the rage signs in a child with Aspergers (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA). For example, you may detect a certain look in the eye, the tone of voice, or the tightness in the body. Parents need to help their youngster observe these signs right at the onset of rage. Once the child can identify the early signs, he or she can also learn to diffuse it by such methods as walking away or taking deep, vigorous breaths.

Teach your child to respond to your "signal" (e.g., your hand motion) to stay calm. Give that signal as soon as he or she starts "stewing" about something. If your child is too young for such self-control techniques, use distraction as soon as you notice him or her exhibiting a rage sign. A distraction, in order to be effective, has to be of interest to the youngster (e.g., suggest to your youngster, "Let's ride a bike" or, "Let's play a game").

It’s important to teach AS and HFA kids to talk about how they feel. Give them a language to express their feelings. For example, ask them how they feel. If they are too angry to talk or don't have the vocabulary to express their feelings, ask about the feelings relevant to the specific situation. For example, "Do you feel embarrassed?" "Humiliated?" "Let down?" or, "Is your pride hurt?" When your child expresses the feeling behind his or her rage, such as embarrassment or humiliation, suggest some other ways to look at the same event that might not be embarrassing or humiliating.
 
==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children on the Autism Spectrum

The thought, "It's not fair," is a big rage-arouser for many kids on the autism spectrum. If that is the case, ask them, "Do you feel you are being treated unfairly?" When your child answers the question, listen and don't rush to negate his or her feelings.

If the child refuses to be distracted or engaged in dialoguing about his or her rage and starts yelling, stomping or breaking an object, impose appropriate consequences. It's better to have these consequences in place to serve as a guideline. That means that you have discussed them with your child beforehand and have written them out for future reference. Armed with a list of consequences (which preferably consist of withdrawing privileges or charging the child a "penalty"), moms and dads should encourage their child to choose such alternatives as doing something else, walking away, or talking about the rage rather than acting it out.

How about your own rage in response to your child's rage? You can set an example of “rage control” for your youngster. No teaching technique is as effective as a parent "modeling" for the youngster with his or her own example.


One thing that makes many moms and dads angry is to see their own child challenging their authority and defying them. Sometimes, it may appear so, but that may not be the intention of the child. For example, he or she may be too unhappy to be told “no” because he or she wants it so badly. Of course, you shouldn't give in to the wishes of the child, but try to understand what might really be the intention behind the behavior.

Some AS and HFA kids get upset when they know they made a mistake. Instead of admitting their mistake, they act-out in rage to deflect the attention off them. If you realize that this may be the case, it's helpful to say to your child, "Everyone makes mistakes. I am okay with it. Don't feel so bad about it."

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Advice for Teachers—

Kids on the spectrum, who in a rage lash out at others, should be often reminded of such consequences as going to the Principal's office, being detained and losing privileges at home. If the rage outbursts occur in relation to classmates and you didn't observe the whole interaction from the very beginning, it's better to impose a penalty on all parties involved.

Some AS and HFA kids get angry because they don't have appropriate peer-interaction skills. For example, some don't know how to join in a conversation or a game. They abruptly try to get in. When resisted or rejected by peers, they explode. Teaching appropriate social skills can go a long way to avoid such negative encounters. We can establish a culture that reduces rage and teaches tolerance. For example, we can set a personal example for these "special needs" kids that "big people" do apologize and it's graceful to loose and try again.

Rage is believed to have three components (Lewis & Michalson, 1983):

1. The Emotional State of Rage. The first component is the emotion itself, defined as an affective or arousal state, or a feeling experienced when a goal is blocked or needs are frustrated. Fabes and Eisenberg (1992) describe several types of provocations that young Aspergers kids face daily in classroom interactions:
  • Conflict over possessions, which involves someone taking the kid's property or invading their space.
  • Issues of compliance, which often involve asking or insisting that HFA kids do something that they do not want to do--for instance, wash their hands.
  • Physical assault, which involves one child doing something to another child, such as pushing or hitting.
  • Rejection, which involves a youngster being ignored or not allowed to play with peers.
  • Verbal conflict, for example, a tease or a taunt.

2. Expression of Rage. The second component of rage is its expression. Some HFA kids vent or express rage through crying, but do little to try to solve a problem or confront the provocateur. Others actively resist by physically or verbally defending their positions, self-esteem, or possessions in non-aggressive ways. Still others express rage with aggressive revenge by physically or verbally retaliating against the provocateur. Some HFA kids express dislike by telling the offender that he or she cannot play or is not liked. Others express rage through avoidance or attempts to escape from or evade the provocateur. And some use adult seeking, looking for comfort or solutions from a teacher, or telling the teacher about an incident.

Educators can use child guidance strategies to help AS and HFA kids express angry feelings in socially constructive ways. These young people develop ideas about how to express emotions (Michalson & Lewis, 1985; Russel, 1989) primarily through social interaction in their families and later by watching television or movies, playing video games, and reading books (Honig & Wittmer, 1992). Some kids on the spectrum have learned a negative, aggressive approach to expressing anger (Cummings, 1987; Hennessy et al., 1994) and, when confronted with everyday conflicts, resort to using aggression in the classroom (Huesmann, 1988). A major challenge for educators is to encourage AS and HFA kids to acknowledge angry feelings and to help them learn to express them in positive and effective ways before they escalate into rage.

3. An Understanding of Rage. The third component of the rage experience is understanding--interpreting and evaluating--the emotion. Because the ability to regulate the expression of rage is linked to an understanding of the emotion (Zeman & Shipman, 1996), and because the HFA kid's ability to reflect on their rage is somewhat limited, they need guidance from educators and moms and dads in understanding and managing their feelings.
 
Understanding and managing rage:

The development of basic cognitive processes undergirds AS and HFA kid's gradual development of the understanding of rage (Lewis & Saarni, 1985):

1. Memory. Memory improves substantially during early childhood (Perlmutter, 1986), enabling young HFA kids to better remember aspects of rage-arousing interactions. Children who have developed unhelpful ideas of how to express anger (Miller & Sperry, 1987) may retrieve the early unhelpful strategy even after educators help them gain a more helpful perspective. This finding implies that educators may have to remind some "special needs" kids, sometimes more than once or twice, about the less aggressive ways of expressing anger.

2. Language. Talking about emotions helps young kids on the spectrum understand their feelings  (Brown & Dunn, 1996). The understanding of emotion is predicted by overall language ability (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Educators can expect individual differences in the ability to identify and label angry feelings, because AS and HFA kid's families model a variety of approaches in talking about emotions.

3. Self-Referential and Self-Regulatory Behaviors. Self-referential behaviors include viewing the self as separate from others and as an active, independent, causal agent. Self-regulation refers to controlling impulses, tolerating frustration, and postponing immediate gratification. Initial self-regulation in young HFA kids provides a base for early childhood educators who can develop strategies to nurture the  emerging ability to regulate the expression of rage.

Guiding the expressions of rage:


Educators can help kids on the autism spectrum deal with rage by guiding their understanding and management of this emotion. The ideas described below can help these young people understand and manage angry feelings in a direct and non-aggressive so they don’t escalate into rage outbursts:

1. Create a Safe Emotional Climate. A healthy environment permits these children to acknowledge all feelings, pleasant and unpleasant, and does not shame rage. Healthy classroom systems have clear, firm, and flexible boundaries.

2. Model Responsible Rage-management. HFA kids have an impaired ability to understand emotion when grown-ups have anger issues themselves (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Grown-ups who are most effective in helping these young people model responsible rage-management by acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for their own angry feelings and by expressing them in direct and non-aggressive ways.

3. Help HFA kids Develop Self-Regulatory Skills. Educators do a lot of self-regulation "work," realizing that the these students in their classroom have a very limited ability to regulate their own emotions. As these kids get older, grown-ups can gradually transfer control of the self to the children, so that they can develop self-regulatory skills.

4. Encourage them to Label Feelings of Rage. Educators and moms and dads can help young kids on the spectrum to produce a label for their rage by teaching them that they are having a feeling and that they can use a word to describe it. A permanent record (a book or chart) can be made of lists of labels for anger (e.g., mad, irritated, annoyed), and the class can refer to it when discussing angry feelings.

5. Encourage them to Talk About Rage-Arousing Interactions. AS and HFA kids better understand rage and other emotions when grown-ups explain emotions (Denham, Zoller, &Couchoud, 1994). When these kids are embroiled in a rage-arousing interaction, educators can help by listening without judging, evaluating, or ordering them to feel differently.

6. Use Books and Stories about Rage to Help AS and HFA Children to Understand and Manage Rage. Well-presented stories about rage and other emotions validate the kid's feelings and give information about rage (Jalongo, 1986; Marion, 1995). It is important to preview all books about anger, because some stories teach irresponsible “rage-management.”

7. Communicate with other moms and dads. Some of the same strategies employed to talk with moms and dads about other areas of the curriculum can be used to enlist their assistance in helping these kids learn to express emotions. For example, articles about learning to use words to label rage can be included in a newsletter to moms and dads.

Children on the spectrum guided toward responsible rage-management are more likely to understand and manage angry feelings directly and non-aggressively and to avoid the stress often accompanying poor anger-control (Eisenberg et al., 1991). Educators can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing rage by adopting positive guidance strategies.


==> My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children on the Autism Spectrum

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