Asperger syndrome (ASD) is a developmental disorder recognized under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) broad diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Aspergers syndrome (ASD) manifests with less severe symptoms than classic autism and rarely shows language delays.
Children with ASD want to fit in and interact with others but often lack knowledge of exactly how to do that. The striking feature is a tendency to “obsess” over a specific topic, object or person. They tend to be socially awkward, with a lack of understanding of common social rules and expectations. They may demonstrate a lack of empathy and display limited eye contact. When involved in conversation, children with ASD may seem uninterested and disengaged. They often lack understanding of the meaning of common gestures or sarcasm.
Placing a child with Asperger syndrome (ASD), or any other special education need, into a regular classroom (a practice called inclusion) puts a greater workload on the teacher. This already stressful situation becomes even more so when the teacher is not afforded the extra training she needs to effectively teach the Asperger syndrome (ASD) student.
Teaching Children With Asperger Syndrome (ASD)
Teachers are very good at structuring classrooms to accommodate the many children they teach, each with different talents and myriad interests and concerns. When it comes to Asperger’s, however, the training tends to be lacking or, at the least, scarce. To help fill in a few gaps, these tips for teaching children with ASD may help:
- Make the classroom a place that is comfortable, consistent and safe.
- Children with ASD need structure. Establish a timetable for activities and expectations in the classroom. Display the timetable visually. Keep interruptions or changes to a minimal level.
- Changes are required at times; this is inevitable. When faced with necessary changes, try to provide advance warning and allow time for preparation.
- Display visual aids to remind all students of instructions, classroom rules and timetables.
- Teachers should strive to speak in a calm, peaceful manner without emotional embellishment. Keep raised voices and classroom noise to a minimum.
- Language used in the classroom should be simple. Identify metaphors and explain them when they’re used. Be prepared to explain any language that the student may interpret in different ways.
- Make it a habit to use visual aids as frequently as possible during class lessons.
- Allow the child to enjoy his special interest (a common trait in ASD). Use it as the hook to engage the child in a lesson or as a reward for successfully completing assigned tasks.
With proper training and support, teachers can effectively teach children with Asperger syndrome (ASD) along with their other students in a traditional classroom. The positive outcomes for all involved are worth the extra effort and training it takes.