Asperger's Part 1
Greetings from the Office of Disability Services.
Over the next several minutes, you will
learn about one of our fast growing populations; a
group that can offer interesting
perspectives in the class and also unique
challenges. This group is on the Autism Spectrum
and is categorized as Asperger’s Syndrome.
This presentation is divided into
two parts. Part one is descriptive and part two is
suggestions on how to assist in
your Asperger’s student’s success.
According to the “Do-IT” organization, “Individuals
with Asperger's have average or
above-average intelligence and normal language
development. Although they often have
exceptionally rich vocabularies, individuals with
Asperger‘s may have an overly
literal understanding of language, and their
speech patterns may be unusual. People
with Asperger‘s also have difficulty interpreting
nonverbal communication, such
as gestures and facial expressions.
Many individuals with Asperger's have a strong
preoccupation with a particular subject matter
and may exhibit considerable knowledge, skill,
and/or talent in a specific area. Some individuals
may have a heightened sensitivity to
sounds, odors, or other sensory input. It is
diagnosed on the basis of a pattern of behaviors
and is more common in boys than girls.”
As with all disabilities, Asperger’s does not
impact all individuals in the same way.
However, most with Asperger’s Syndrome do
display a triad of challenges. This triad involves
issues surrounding patterns of communication,
intense interests and repetitive behaviors.
Because people with Asperger’s are very literal
or concrete thinkers, and have difficulty
reading facial expressions and body language,
they may exhibit what others would consider odd
or different social skills. These behaviors can
range from very stiff to overly expressive.
Another challenge is in regards to unexpected
change. One coping skill for people with
Asperger’s is a reliance on repetition. When
unexpected changes occur, this can cause
great discomfort or confusion. When possible,
try to give this student enough advanced notice
to upcoming changes as to allow for the process
to sink in. This, of course, will not
always be possible, but it is food for thought as
you plan your course activities.
Sensory issues can be very minor or very
significant issues for a student with AS.
Think about the sensory stimulation that is
involved in a classroom setting: the
buzzing of the lights, the ticking of the clock, the
sound of someone eating; the feel of
the tag on the shirt collar, the smell of someone’s
perfume or cologne, people whispering;
people walking by the classroom and finally the
instructor talking. While most people can
selectively filter out extraneous sensory input,
many on the Autism Spectrum have
difficulty doing this. When you think of someone
severely autistic who may be rocking in
the corner and perhaps holding their head and not
speaking a word, you may think they are
eternally silent because nothing, in terms of
sensory input, is getting in. The
reality is, everything is getting in and this person
is not able to filter out the many
sensory stimulants coming at them. Students in
our classrooms will not have this
degree of sensory sensitivity, but be aware that
issues may arise if, for example, someone
is crunching potato chips in the classroom.
Another potential challenge in the classroom is
that this student may have a preoccupation on a
particular subject or topic and may want
to talk only about that topic exclusively.
This is the end of part 1. Please join me for part
two of this presentation to learn how
you can assist in your Asperger’s students’