Like other autism profiles, Asperger syndrome is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. People with Asperger syndrome see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. It is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’. Often people feel that Asperger syndrome is a fundamental aspect of their identity.
Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some people with Asperger syndrome also have mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels and types of support. People with Asperger syndrome are of average or above average intelligence. They do not usually have the learning disabilities that many autistic people have, but they may have specific learning difficulties. They have fewer problems with speech but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language. The child presents with greater difficulty than the majority of their peers in the following areas (the child may or may not have a diagnosis of ASD):
- Understanding social situations, responding to social cues and intuitively sensing other people’s feeling and intentions
- Inappropriate or limited social initiative and problems with establishing and maintaining reciprocal relationships
- Poor or inappropriate eye contact and non-verbal language for social interaction
- Impaired expressive or receptive language including intonation, literal interpretation and idiosyncratic phrases, conversational skills
- Rigidity of thinking and a tendency to follow agendas which are not easily amenable to adult direction with an absence of awareness of the needs or emotions of others
- Difficulty in open-ended or unstructured situations and with change/transitions
- Limitations in expressive or creative ability
- Obsessive interests or repetitive activities
- High susceptibility to anxiety and stress
- High susceptibility to hyper/hypo sensitivities
Quality first Teaching
- Teacher language is explicit, unambiguous and avoids non-literal language and inferred meaning
- Structured and consistent routines reinforced by visual timetable, support for transitions and for managing unpredicted changes to the routine
- Explicit teaching of comprehension, concepts, inferential understanding, perspective taking, empathetic thinking and generalisation of skills
- Explicitly naming emotions and thoughts of others and prompting appropriate social interaction skills
- Managing, supporting and differentiating collaborative learning (eg, opportunities to work alongside/outside of a group as appropriate)
- Providing greater structure for open ended/creative activities (eg, choice from options instead of prediction, writing about actual experience instead of imaginative writing, etc)
- Use reading to support understanding of characters’ emotions, thoughts, intentions and social interactions
- Opportunities of support to develop relationships and social skills with peers
- Manage behaviour difficulties by addressing possible underlying issues in relation to social anxiety and/or difficulties in understanding and/or communication
- Use of an individual work station and task planners and schedules
- Access to a planned safe haven/time out at times of heightened anxiety
- Awareness and planning to manage sensory sensitivities, issues, eg, light, noise, texture, temperature, etc
- Use STAR to analyse/manage behaviour
- Use relevant Quality First Teaching to support learning as per SLCN and MLD sections
- Assessment of the child’s communication and interaction needs leading to an appropriately targeted intervention programme planned in partnership with the child and their family and as advised by an outside agency where involved
- Individual/small group teaching on programmes to support the development of attention and active listening skills, turn taking, conversation skills, comprehension, concepts, inferential understanding, idioms, perspective taking, empathetic thinking, social understanding, social skills, emotional regulation, study skills, management of sensory needs and to provide specific interventions/approaches such as play interaction, circle of friends, TEACCH, social stories, etc.
- Use of appropriate ICT to reinforce skills
- Classroom support to develop communication and interaction skills and generalisation of skills taught as part of individual/small group programmes
- Support for unstructured parts of the day to provide routines and support for social interaction
- Child’s baselines and subsequent progress accurately monitored and provision regularly reviewed and adjusted in line with their progress over a sustained period (ie, at least 2 terms)
- Verbal skills tend to be a strength or relative strength, so whenever possible, use verbal cues that are short, direct, and concrete.
- Remember that students with Asperger’s Disorder tend to interpret language very literally, so avoid slang or idiomatic speech.
- Students with Asperger’s Disorder may also have difficulty interpreting tone and facial expressions. A sarcastic “Oh, that was great!” may inadvertently positively reinforce an inappropriate behavior.
- Giving , “meaningful looks” that work with non-Asperger’s peers are unlikely to be interpreted correctly.
- If the student is doing something inappropriate, tell them in unambigous, short statements what they should do.
- As much as possible, try to stick to a structured routine. Wherever possible prepare the student for potential changes or transitions.
- Those with Asperger’s generally do not handle transitions well. Verbal and visual cues may be needed, as well as direct instruction in how to make a transition.
- Eye contact is difficult for many students with Asperger’s Disorder, and on some level, it may be meaningless to them if they don’t derive as much information from looking at you as their non-Asperger’s peers do.
- If you do want them to look at you, rather than cueing or demanding eye contact, try holding a prop in your hand when you’re speaking to the class. If you change props or what you’re holding, the student will be more likely to look at you.
- If the student appears to be getting agitated or headed for a “melt-down,” it may be due to stress from the particular situation or frustration. Avoid situations that might produce “sensory overload” for the student.
- If the student is getting overwhelmed, allow the student to make a “graceful exit” to the corridor to calm themselves for a few minutes.
- Do not expect skills learned in one setting to generalize to another setting. Teach the skill and rehearse it in a variety of settings.
- Because many students with Asperger’s have handwriting deficits, allow extra time for handwritten work.
- If the student engages in perseverative questioning that interferes with classroom instruction, you can try instructing the student to write the question down and that you will meet with him after class to answer his question.
- When presenting multi-step directions, pause between instructions on multi-step tasks and check for comprehension.
- TalkAbout - Develops Social Skills
- Social Stories - Strategies for specific situations
- Comic Strip Conversations - Visual representations of conversation