Asperger Syndrome Behavior

Asperger syndrome behavior should be understood by personnel in all schools systems. These high functioning autisitic individuals are often mainstreamed into school systems. Teachers can easily accommodate their learning styles and adapt the classroom in a way that probably benefits a majority of their students.

Following is a summary of the best advice I've seen on accommodating the learning styles of children on the spectrum and explaining asperger syndrome behavior in the classroom setting. The original is written by Jene Aviram of Natural Learning Concepts.

1. Keep it structured - Children with autism thrive in a structured environment. Establish a routine and keep it as consistent as possible. Typically, children with autism do not use free time productively; therefore strive to have as little downtime between activities as possible.

2. Use visuals - Children with autism learn faster and with greater ease when you use visuals. In fact, we all respond better to visuals. When verbal instructions require too much concentration, children with asperger syndrome behavior will tune you out.

3. Schedules - People with autism like order and detail. They feel in control and secure when they know what to expect. Schedules help students know what’s ahead. Picture schedules are even more powerful because they help a student visualize the actions.

4. Reduce distractions - Many people with autism find it difficult to filter out background noise and visual information. Children with autism pay attention to detail. Wall charts and posters can be very distracting. While you or I would stop “seeing the posters” after a while, children on with asperger syndrome behavior will not.

5. Use concrete language - Always keep your language simple and concrete. Get your point across in as few words as possible. Avoid using sarcasm. If a student accidentally knocks all your papers on the floor and you say “Great!” you will be taken literally and this action might be repeated on a regular basis. Avoid using idioms. “Put your thinking caps on”, “Open your ears” and “Zipper your lips” will leave a student completely mystified and wondering how to do that.

6. It’s not personal - Children with autism are not rude. They simply don’t understand social rules or how they’re supposed to behave. As an example, if you enthusiastically greet a child with autism and you get the cold shoulder, create a “Greeting Lesson”. Take two index cards. Draw a stick figure saying “Hi” on the first card. On the second card draw a stick figure smiling and waving. Show each card to the child as you say. “When somebody says Hi, you can either say “Hi” or you can smile and wave. Which one do you want to do?” Then practice it to assist in modifying the asperger syndrome behavior.

7. Transitions - Children on the autism spectrum feel secure when things are constant. While a typical child easily moves from sitting in a circle on the floor to their desk, it can be a very big deal to a child on the spectrum. Reduce the stress of transitions by giving ample warning.

8. Establish independence - Teaching students with autism how to be independent is vital to their well being. While it’s tempting to help someone that’s struggling to close a zipper, it’s a much greater service to calmly teach that person how to do it themselves. Making decisions is equally important and this begins by teaching students to make a choice. Offer two choices. Once students can easily decide between two options introduce a third choice. This method will help children think of various options and make decisions. People with autism may take extra time to process verbal instructions. When giving a directive or asking a question, make sure you allow for extra processing time before offering guidance. Self help skills are essential to learn for children displaying asperger syndrome behavior.

9. Positive reinforcement - We all love being rewarded and people with autism are no different. Rewards and positive reinforcement are a wonderful way to increase desired behavior. Help students clearly understand which behaviors and actions lead to rewards. If possible, let your students pick their own reward so they can anticipate receiving it. Even though people on the spectrum might not respond typically when praised, they enjoy it just as much as you!

10. Teach with lists - Teaching with lists can be used in two ways. One is by setting expectations and the other is by ordering information. Teaching with lists sets clear expectations. It defines a beginning, middle and an end. The second method of teaching with lists is by ordering information. People with asperger syndrome behavior respond well to order and lists are no exception. Almost anything can be taught in a list format. While typical people often think in very abstract format, people on the spectrum have a very organized way of thought. Finding ways to work within these parameters can escalate the learning curve.

11. Creative teaching - It helps to be creative when you’re teaching students with autism. People on the spectrum think out of the box and if you do too, you will get great results. Throw all your old tactics out of the window and get a new perspective. Often, people with autism have very specific interests. Use these interests as motivators. While it might take some imagination and prep time, watching them succeed is definitely well worth the effort.

12. Don’t sweat the small stuff - The final goal is for children to be happy and to function as independently as possible. Always keep this in mind and pick your battles wisely. Don’t demand eye contact if a student has trouble processing visual and auditory information simultaneously. People with autism often have poor attending skills but excellent attendance. Does it really matter if a student does one page of homework instead of two? What about if a student is more comfortable sitting on his knees than flat on the floor? It’s just as important to teach appropriate behavior as it is self esteem. By correcting every action a person does, you’re sending a message that they’re not good enough the way they are. When making a decision about what to correct, always ask yourself first, “Will correcting this action help this person lead a productive and happy life?”

And remember, NEVER speak about a child on the autism spectrum as if they weren’t present. While it might look like the student isn’t listening or doesn’t understand, this probably is not the case. People with autism often have acute hearing. They can be absorbed in a book on the other side of the room and despite the noise level in the class, they will easily be able to tune into what you are saying. Despite the lack of reaction, as is often typical in asperger syndrome behavior, hearing you speak about them in a negative way will crush their self esteem.

Seriously, go to the full text for more information and classroom tips on how to be successful teaching children with asperger syndrome behavior.

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