Following the six-step plan, which is detailed below, will help prepare you to support a child with Asperger Syndrome in your classroom and foster an inclusive learning environment. The six steps are simple and highly flexible — think of them as continuing and often concurrent actions.
Note: The steps are outlined first with links to more detailed discussion. To read the most complete version, please view the Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome.
Step 1: Educate Yourself
People with Asperger Syndrome exhibit a variety of behaviors. Learning about Asperger Syndrome and how it specifically affects your student will help you effectively manage these behaviors. Here are some helpful hints for teachers:
- Operate on “Asperger time.” This means, “Twice as much time, half as much done.” Students with Asperger Syndrome often need additional time to complete assignments, gather materials, and orient themselves during transitions.
- Manage the environment. Any change can increase anxiety for a student with Asperger Syndrome. Make an effort to provide schedule consistency and avoid sudden changes.
- Create a balanced agenda. Consider creating a visual schedule that includes daily activities for students with Asperger Syndrome. Monitor and restructure the schedule as needed.
- Share the agenda. Students with Asperger Syndrome have difficulty distinguishing between information that is essential and information that is not. In addition, they often do not remember information that others acquire from past experiences or that come as “common sense.” Thus, it is important to state the obvious and “live out loud.” This will help your student understand the meaning behind your actions.
- Simplify language. Keep your language simple and concise, and speak at a slow, deliberate pace. Students with Asperger Syndrome to have difficulty “reading between the lines,” understanding abstract concepts like sarcasm, or interpreting facial expressions. Be clear and specific when providing instructions.
Step 2: Reach Out to the Parents
The parents of your student with Asperger Syndrome are your first and best source of information about their child; they can provide you with information about their child’s behavior and daily activities. Ideally, this partnership will begin with meetings before the school year. After that, it is critical to establish mutually agreed-upon modes and patterns of communication with the family throughout the school year.
Step 3: Prepare the Classroom
Having learned about the individual sensitivities and characteristics of your student with Asperger Syndrome, you now have the information you need to organize your classroom appropriately. You can manipulate the physical aspects of your classroom, making it more comfortable forchildren with Asperger Syndrome without sacrificing your plans for the entire class. The Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome contains information about specific approaches for structuring the academic and physical environment to address your students’ needs.
Step 4: Educate Peers and Promote Social Goals
Children with Asperger Syndrome have social deficits that make it difficult for them to establish friendships. However, with appropriate assistance, they can engage with peers and establish mutually enjoyable and lasting relationships.
Research shows that typically developing peers have more positive attitudes, increased understanding, and greater acceptance of children with Asperger Syndrome when provided with clear, accurate, and straightforward information about the disorder. Thus, educating students about the common traits and behaviors of children with Asperger Syndrome can lead to more positive social interactions between your student and his or her peers.
Step 5: Collaborate on the Educational Program Development.
You can read about Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) on our Web site.
Step 6: Manage Behavioral Challenges
School is a stressful environment. Common academic and social situations may create extreme stress for students with Asperger Syndrome. These stressors may include: difficulty predicting events because of changing schedules, tuning into teachers’ directions and understanding them, interacting with peers, anticipating change, and structural items such as classroom lighting, sounds, noises, odors, etc.