What is the Asperger Syndrome?
When you have a student with Asperger Syndrome in your class it does change the way you teach. I was confronted to this only once but it really had an impact on my teaching on the long term and on my practice awareness. If you have one student with Asperger Syndrome remember that yes he or she is different in certain ways, but as any other students!
However students with Asperger Syndrome will require specific teaching strategies so that they can unlock their potential. We need as teachers to be aware that the Asperger Syndrome will present some important challenges not only for us but also for the student and for the group. If you don’t know what the Asperger Syndrome is you may not even notice it, as students with this syndrome will tend to act and look much like their mates. Don’t blame yourself but ask your colleagues and they will you give tips to handle the situation.
Most students with the Asperger Syndrome tend to perform well academically and they often surpass their peers. Students with Autism on the contrary have a range of intellectual functioning to below to above-normal. Despite their usually good performances we need to keep in mind that students with Asperger have a disorder, which makes it difficult for them to work in a classroom where adapted teaching strategies haven’t been put in place.
Well. What is the Asperger Syndrome? It’s a neurological disorder that affects people. Children and adults suffering from this find it hard to control their behaviors. It is a complex disability that affects communication, ability to socialize, sensation and cognitive skills. What makes it even more complex to diagnose is that it can differ from one person to the other. Some will have an almost obsessive rapport with some topics or objects, others will find it hard to understand social concepts and language styles, some others will have the tendency to repeat movements or words -echolalia- and some will struggle with new things that differ from their routines. The characteristics of the Asperger Syndrome are numerous and the above list is far from being exhaustive.
Students with this syndrome will generally find it hard to organize themselves and decide what is important and what is not. Their social awareness is different from what we know and therefore they may offend people without realizing it, they also find it hard to engage in conversations, they struggle with adapting to social rules. Most of them have difficulties interacting with others and many things can be a source of stress for them. For example some may need a routine to reassure them and any unplanned event can be a source of anxiety. The way these children and adults behave can be seen by some as disobedience or defiance but this is not the case, this is all part of the Asperger Syndrome.
Nowadays more and more children are diagnosed with this syndrome. I personally believe that there is also a huge confusion between students with Asperger, students with Autism, students with ADHD -Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, students with BESD – Behavioural, Emotional, Social Difficulties or students who simply misbehave. If in doubt use your professional judgment but also refer to the Special Education Needs department of your school.