Asperger’s Syndrome is a developmental disorder characterized by major difficulties in social interactions and unusual patterns of behavior. It was discovered by Hans Asperger in 1944 and was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- IV in 1994. Asperger’s Syndrome is often referred to as “high functioning autism.” Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome have high intellectual and verbal abilities, but appear to be socially awkward.
Characteristics of students with Asperger’s Syndrome
- May have difficulty communicating, including difficulty understanding facial expressions, nonverbal communication, and have poor eye contact in conversational settings.
- May have difficulty asking for help when they need it, or difficulty talking when experiencing stress.
- May lack social awareness and misread social cues; may experience difficulty making friends or working in small groups.
- May have trouble dealing with change; students with Asperger’s Syndrome do best with structured routines and schedules.
- May be very rule-oriented and logical
- May not do well with noisy settings or bright lights.
Tips for Positive Communication
- Stress the importance of good study habits and effective time management.
- Be firm and direct with the student, as a student with Asperger’s may not understand social cues or nonverbal communication.
- Give praise when merited; it builds confidence.
- Give timely feedback to the student; errors need to be corrected as soon as possible.
Possible Classroom Accommodations
- Be open to students tape recording lectures; agreement forms are available from the Learning Commons.
- Point out the organizational items in textbooks, e.g., chapter summaries, sub-headings, graphic design, charts, maps, and indexes.
- Give all assignments and course expectations in written and oral form.
- Incorporate “hands on” and lab experiences when they are appropriate.
- Consult with the student and SDS coordinator when assistance is needed in solving problems.
- Give students a clear syllabus, listing tests and assignments with due dates noted.
- Use demonstrations and hands-on experiences.
- Use overhead projectors or PowerPoint presentations. Break down difficult concepts into steps or parts.
- Outline the day’s lecture on the chalkboard, overhead, or PowerPoint.
- Keep the structure of the class the same everyday, and if it must change giving the student advance notice is helpful.
- Give a brief review of the material presented and emphasize key points.
- Include a time for questions and answers.
- Encourage all students to take advantage of the Learning Commons tutoring and consultation services.
- When group projects are a must, assign the groups and put the student with Asperger’s in a smaller group.
Test Accommodations and Administration
- Allow extra time for test taking (usually time and one half).
- Arrange for exams to be taken in a separate room.
- Explain directions more fully.
- Keep all test formats the same.