Aspergers Syndrome Guide for Teachers

As a teacher you know that each classroom is filled with children who come from a variety of background. You also recognize that some of them will have learning challenges which may or may not be adequately addressed in the home. Yet are you prepared for the situations that arise from having a child in your class that has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome?

A child with Aspergers Syndrome is well known for the intelligence with which she or he can converse on a topic that is of interest to the youngster. Dr. Asperger himself used to call them the little professors he would work with.

At the same time, such children may display an extraordinary reticence at shifting gears in between different activities, leading teachers to sometimes experience something like exasperation.

Classroom Integration

It is important for a teacher to understand what it is like teaching a child with Aspergers Syndrome and if you follow this guide, you are well on your way to integrating this child into your classroom and teaching.

• Recognize that simple acts, like forgetting homework, is not an affront toward you, but simply might be an expression of the childs inability to remember a routine task.

• Behavioral skills are not transferable. If your science minded Aspergers Syndrome student is able to go ahead and do the research on a complex science matter, it does not automatically mean that he is able to transfer this research ability to a much simpler social studies project. If the topic does not appeal to the student, he will not know how to do the same things he did for science.

• Positive reinforcement is a must with your student. While many students may do well with negative consequences and actually learn from their mistakes, the Aspergers Syndrome student will get frustrated. Work hard to notice the good behaviors, and gently work with the parents to correct the bad choices the student makes.

• Aspergers Syndrome children will have meltdowns. The younger the student, the more prone to meltdowns he will be. Even older children will still showcase this behavior, although in many cases they will have learned how to handle the frustrations that set them off a bit better. If you have younger kids in your classroom, offer a safe spot away from the other children where the child may cool off. During such a meltdown there is little you can do for the child other than acknowledging his feelings and giving him some time to regroup.

• Understand that an Aspergers Syndrome child is considered odd by his classmates. If you do the group approach to teaching, assigning the groups rather than letting the kids do the picking is crucial. Otherwise you will end up with the child consistently being the odd man out.

• Do not fall into the trap of trying to parent the child during school hours. Work together with the parents to help him during class time and make yourself available for help within the confines of your schedule, but do not try to correct or undo what the parents do at home.


Bully Proofing Children with Aspergers Syndrome

As a skilled teacher, you know how to help the child with Aspergers Syndrome transition from one activity to the next in your classroom. As a matter of fact, you most likely work closely with the parents of your students anyways, and since you are sensitive to their input and the needs of your children, you are not having any troubles.

The problems which you might encounter, however, deal with the interpersonal relationships the children in your classroom are forging between themselves. There is little input from grownups and these relationships are crucial for the proper development of the youngsters social skills. Unfortunately, for a child with Aspergers Syndrome there is a very real danger of falling victim to the class or school bully.

Easy Targets

This kind of bully delights on picking on children who might be a bit move naïve and eccentric than others. These differences provide great fodder for the bully who sees this as an opportunity to pick on the child with Aspergers Syndrome. Perhaps she will point out the inability to understand jokes or the failure to read social clues.

The bully might mercilessly tease the child for being different, and before long, others might join in with name calling and ostracizing the child. Bully proofing the child with Aspergers Syndrome in your classroom is not always easy, but it is an absolute requirement to ensure the youngsters safety and also willingness to engage in the academic process.

Make It a Gift

To accomplish bully proofing, it is important to make the child with Aspergers Syndrome a valued part of the group. Whenever possible, make her or him part of a group of kids where the special abilities the child has will come to the forefront.

Since children with Aspergers Syndrome do especially well with learning by rote activities, you might want to use these teaching opportunities to make the child part of a team where this ability will lead the team to victory. Not only will this made for instant peer acceptance, but it might also make the child into a much sought after team member.

Involving Parents

Moreover, discuss with the parents or caregivers the kind of social interaction role playing that is being done in the home. If there is little or no such role playing, model the proper behavior and also engage the child in role playing in between classes.

Helping the youngster know how to respond to certain challenges on the playground as well as in the cafeteria or classroom will make her or him unattractive to the bully who is out for easy prey.

If the child is older, consider a buddy type system where a more socially mature child I paired with the Aspergers Syndrome child to help ease transitions and to basically act as a buddy that helps the child understand the implications of social interactions and leads by example.

No matter which steps you take in the short term, it is crucial to remember that a big portion of running a classroom that includes a child with Aspergers Syndrome must focus on not allowing the child to withdraw from contact. It is in your classroom that the child will learn to interact or withdraw, and when given the choice, may become reclusive.


Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Roses
Oil on canvas, 1890
National Gallery of Art, Washington