Children with Asperger’s syndrome might have above average intelligence and excellent rote memorization skills. Their narrowly defined interests and underdeveloped social skills can often make them the object of unwanted attention from their peers. These characteristics combine to make teaching a child with Asperger’s challenging.
Maintain a Consistent Routine
Children with Asperger's tend to adhere to routines; change is upsetting to them. When teaching these children, it is critical to maintain a routine and to minimize transitions. If a routine needs to change, notify the child ahead of time to prepare him for it. Provide a predictable routine in the classroom, and a predictable routine for homework.
Work With the Child’s Strengths
A preoccupation in a specific area is a hallmark of Asperger's syndrome. If a child has an obsessive area of interest, he might want to talk about it incessantly. In some cases, teachers can use the child’s specific interests as a teaching tool. If a child with Asperger's has an obsession with dinosaurs, for example, using dinosaur manipulatives to teach math will help him focus on the subject. If it is not possible to integrate the interest into the lesson, it might be used as a reward for completing the task. If you cannot capitalize on the obsession, restricting the time at which the child can discuss this topic might help him focus on the day’s learning.
Knowing that children with Asperger's typically have average or above-average intelligence, parents and teachers are often surprised to see them do poorly in school. The reason is not the inability to understand the work, but the lack of organization skills and focus that the work requires. Providing as much structure as possible and breaking the tasks down into smaller parts might help, as may positive reinforcement or a reward for completing an assignment. In the classroom, place the child in the front of the room and have a nonverbal signal that the teacher can use to tell the child that he needs to re-focus his attention.
Be Aware of Social Struggles
Children with Asperger's tend to be socially awkward. They find it difficult to interact with other children, although they might be able to more easily interact with adults. It might help to teach the other children in the class about the disorder, and to employ an empathetic classmate as a "buddy" to watch out for the child with Asperger's. Allowing the child with Asperger's to help his classmates in a subject that is a particular strength might foster his acceptance among his peers.
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