Classroom accommodations are important for children with Asperger's syndrome (AS). Children with Asperger's are usually very intelligent, but they struggle with being easily distracted or hyper-focused. Bright lights and loud noises tend to be the most common distractions for kids with AS. Intense focus on specific subjects can interfere with learning as well. Social skill deficits need to be considered since many children with this disorder struggle to interact with their peers. Teachers can make special adjustments to make teaching and learning easier in the classroom setting.
In many cases, children with Aspergers have difficulty interacting socially with their peers. They are often seen as odd, and their differences may turn them into victims of harassment and belittling. As an educator, it is your job to maintain a classroom environment that is conducive to learning for every student regardless of his or her differences.
While juggling a room full of students can be challenging, regardless of their abilities and ages, it can be especially challenging if you aren't prepared for the behavior characteristics and needs of a child with Asperger Syndrome. The diagnosis of Aspergers and classroom accommodations must go hand in hand if the child is to be successful in the academic environment.
Aspergers and Classroom Accommodations
In many cases, children with Aspergers have above average intelligence, although this ability is often overlooked at first. Often, they excel in certain subject areas, but their peculiar behavior sometimes supersedes their accomplishments within the classroom. Because the occurrence of autism is seemingly on the rise, educators must be aware of the abilities and limitations of children diagnosed with Aspergers, and classroom accommodations must be considered and provided.
Accommodations may include:
- Try to provide a predictable schedule. Although this is sometimes difficult to do, children with Aspergers thrive on routine.
- Maintain a safe environment. This means controlling other students who would be a distraction or a problem for the child with Aspergers.
- Create fewer transitions throughout the day. For example, try to create a schedule that eliminates unnecessary movement from one location to another.
- Prepare the student in advance for any changes in routine or other unexpected activities.
- In some cases, cooperative learning groups will not only improve social skills but also allow the child to exhibit his abilities in certain subjects. Choose the cooperative groups carefully, and continue to monitor the behavior of the student and his peers.
- Use positive reinforcement of good behavior whenever possible.
- Set firm expectations regardless of the assignment. In many cases, children with Aspergers may not want to do assignments that hold no interest for them. It is important to establish and maintain control within the classroom, and this should include a child with Aspergers Syndrome as well.
- It may be necessary to focus individual lessons around that particular child. If so, continue to work in conjunction with the special education teacher when designing these lessons.
- Break assignments and projects down into small sections that can be completed one at a time so that the child does not feel overwhelmed with the work.
- Place the child at the front of the room, and include him in question and answer sessions within the class.
- Create a unique prompt or signal that you can use with the child to redirect his attention back to the assignment whenever necessary.
- For children with Aspergers, it may be necessary to use more visual instruction, particularly with younger children. Use pictures, images, drawings, and similar aids when discussing vocabulary words, history lessons, scientific subjects, and abstract topics.
- Allow more time to complete assignments, tests, and projects.
- Have a crisis plan in place in the case of emotional outbursts that might occur due to the student's inability to cope or interact with others. This plan should be coordinated with other teachers, specialists, and administration, and may include providing a supervised quiet place for the child to go if needed.
Accommodating Kids in Class
Students with Aspergers are usually very bright and eager children who can be motivated to do well in the classroom. However, lack of social skills and obsessive behavior can make it difficult at times for them to meet the expectations of their teachers. With patience and understanding, the educational experience can be a positive one.