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Teaching Strategies

Children whose needs are not at the severe end of the spectrum have been and can be successfully included within mainstream schools. This has been most successful where schools have been given opportunities to understand the implications of Asperger syndrome or autism for the child and have had the opportunity to explore strategies and interventions. There will need to be flexibility and a recognition that the child may need some approaches different to those used for the other children. Close working with parents is also essential, to ensure consistency and mutual support.

Classroom practice for children with autism or Asperger syndrome in mainstream school will need to take into account the following:

General Behaviours

  •        This syndrome is characterized by a sort of "swiss cheese" type of development: that is, so me things are learned age-appropriately, while other things may lag behind or be absent. Furthermore, children may have skills years ahead of normal development (for example, a child may understand complex mathematics principles, yet not be able to remember to bring their homework home).

  •         It is important to remember that just because the child learns something in one situation this doesn't automatically mean that they remember or are able to generalize the learning to new situations.

  •         Our child reacts well to positive and patient styles of teaching.

  •         Generally speaking an adult speaking in a calm voice will reap many benefits

  •         Observed behaviours which might be seen as simple naughtiness or non-compliance may in fact have a range of other meanings for the child with autism or Asperger syndrome (i.e. the observed 'naughty' or 'non-compliant' behaviour may in fact be the child's only way ... of indicating the need for help or attention, or the need to escape from stressful situations,... of obtaining desired objects, ... of demonstrating his/her lack of understanding, ... of protesting against unwanted events, ... of gaining stimulation).

  •         At times, our child may experience "meltdowns" when nothing may help behavior. At times like this, please allow a "safe and quiet spot" where our child will be allowed to "cool off" Try to take note of what occurred before the meltdown (was it an unexpected change in routine, for example) and it's best to talk "after" the situation has calmed down.

  •         When it reaches a point that things in the classroom are going well, it means that we've gotten it RIGHT. It doesn't mean that our child is "cured", "never had a problem" or that "it's time to remove support". Increase demands gradually.

  •         Our child may have vocal outbursts or shriek. Be prepared for them, especially when having a difficult time. Also, please let the other children know that this is a way of dealing with stress or fear.

  •         When you see anger or other outbursts, our child is not being deliberately difficult. Instead, this is in a "fight/fright/flight" reaction. Think of this as an "electrical circuit overload" (Prevention can sometimes head off situations if you see the warning signs coming).

  •         Our child may need help with problem-solving situations. Please be willing to take the time to help with this.

  •        When dividing up assignments, please ASSIGN teams rather than have the other children "choose members", because this increases the chances that our child will be left out or teased.

  •         Note strengths often and visually. This will give our child the courage to keep on plugging.

  •         Foster a classroom atmosphere that supports the acceptance of differences and diversity.

  •       Ensuring consistency of expectation among all staff... and avoiding any 'backing-down' once a reasonable and manageable target has been set.

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Perseverations

  • Our child may repeat the same thing over and over again, and you may find this increases as stress increases.
  • It is more helpful if you avoid being pulled into this by answering the same thing over and over or raising your voice or pointing out that the question is being repeated. Instead, try to redirect our child's attention or find an alternative way so he/she can save face.
  • Allowing our child to write down the question or thought and providing a response in writing may break the stresses/cycle.
  • Addressing the pupil individually at all times (for example, the pupil may not realise that an instruction given to the whole class also includes him/her. Calling the pupil's name and saying "I need you to listen to this as this is something for you to do" can sometimes work; other times the pupil will need to be addressed individually)
  • Ensuring consistency of expectation among all staff... and avoiding any 'backing-down' once a reasonable and manageable target has been set

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Transitions

  • Our child may have a great deal of difficulty with transitions. Having a picture or word schedule may be helpful.
  • Please try to give as much advance notice as possible if there is going to be a change or distruption in the schedule.
  • Giving one or two warnings before a change of activity or schedule may be helpful
  • Ask your child's teacher to seat your child next to classmates who are sensitive to your child's special needs. These classmates might also serve as "buddies" during recess, at lunch, and at other times
  • Be aware of and try to protect your child from bullying and teasing. Talk to your child's teacher or school counsellor about educating classmates about Asperger's syndrome

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Sensory Motor Skills/Auditory Processing

  • Our child has difficulty understanding a string of directions or too many words at one time
  • Breaking directions down into simple steps is quite helpful
  • Using picture cures or directions my also help
  • Speaking slower and in smaller phrases can help.
  • Directions are more easily understood if they are repeated clearly, simply and in a variety of ways.
  • Our child may act in a very clumsy way; she may also react very strongly to certain tastes, textures, smells and sounds.
  • Some children with Asperger's have poor handwriting. Typing school work on a computer may be one way to make homework easier. Using computers can also help children improve fine motor skills and organize information.

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Stimulition

  • He may get overstimulated by loud noises, lights, strong tastes or textures, because of the hightened sensitivity to these things.
  • With lots of other kids, chaos and noise, please try to help him find a quiet spot to which he can go for some "solace".
  • Unstructured times (such as lunch, break and PE) may prove to be the most difficult for him. Please try to help provide some guidance and extra adults help during these more difficult times.
  • Allow him to "move about" as sitting still for long periods of time can be very difficult (even a 5 minute walk around, with a friend or aide can help a lot).

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Visual Cues

  • Some AS children learn best with visual aides, such as picture schedules, written directions or drawings (other children may do better with verbal instruction)
  • Hand signals may be helpful, especially to reinforce certain messages, such as "wait your turn", "stop talking" (out of turn), or "speak more slowly or softly".

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Interrruptions

  • At times, it may take more than few seconds for my child to repond to questions. He needs to stop what he's thinking, put that somewhere, forumulate an answer and then respond. Please wait patiently for the answer and encourage others to do the same. Otherwise, he will will have to start over again.
  • When someone tries to help by finishing his sentences or interrupting, he often has to go back and start over to get the train of thought back.

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Eye Contact

  • At times, it looks as if my child is not listening to you when he really is. Don't assume that because he is not looking at you that he is not hearing you.
  • Unlike most of us, sometimes forcing eye contact BREAKS her concentration
  • She may actually hear and understand you better if not forced to look directly at your eyes.

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Social Skills and Friendships

  • Herein lies one of the biggest challenges for AS children. They may want to make friends very badly, yet not have a clue as to how to go about it.
  • Identifying 1 or 2 empathetic students who can serve as "buddies" will help the child feel as though the world is a friendlier place
  • Talking with the other members of the class may help, if done in a positive way and with the permission of the family. For example, talking about the fact tha many or most of us have challenges and that the AS childs challenge is that he cannot read social situations well, just as others may need glasses or hearing aides.
  • Students with Asperger's Syndrome may be at greater risk for becoming "victims" of bullying behavior by other students. This is caused by a couple of factors:

1.   There is a great likelihood that the reponse or "rise" that the "bully" gets
       from the Asperger child reinforces this kind of behavior
2.   Asperger kids want to be included and/or liked so badly that they are reluctant
       to "tell" on the bully, fearing rejection from the perpetrator or other students.

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Routine

  • This is very important to most AS children, but can be very difficult to attain on a regular basis in our world.
  • Please let our child know of any anticipated changes as soon as you know them, especially with picture or word schedules.
  • Let him know, if possible, when there will be a substitute teacher or a field trip occurring during regular school hours.

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Language

  • Although his vocabulary and use of language may seem high, AS children may not know the meaning of what they are saying even though the words sound correct.
  • Sarcasm and some forums of humor are often not understood by my child. Even explanations of what is meant may not clarify, because the perspectives of AS child can be unique and, at times, immovable.

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Organizational Skills

  • Our child lacks the ability of remember a lot of information or how to retrieve that information for its use.
  • It may be helpful to develop schedules (picture or written) for him.
  • Please post schedules and homework assignments on the board and make a copy for him. Please make sure that these assignments get put into his backpack because he can't always be counted on to get everything home with out some help.

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