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Elementary Teacher

Having fun in the classroom and "balancing" life!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Asperger's Syndrome

 Asperger's Syndrome
I have a child in my room that has been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. I have only dealt with one other AS student in my career that has actually been diagnosed. I've had many others that were ADHD, and some that possibly were, but weren't diagnosed. I'm not a special ed teacher, and I have almost no training with students on either ends of the spectrum as far as special needs or  "giftedness". But I'm learning. Like I've said before, I teach in a small, private school and we are blessed to have a reference person (many other Christian schools don't) but she's only there ONE day a week for only a few hours. I'm sure there are many of you in my shoes whether you teach in public or private schools.

Here are some things I've tried this year. 
-at the beginning of the school day, my AS child goes to a quiet place with his book box to read by himself
-I allow him to sit on my lap during whole group discussions when we are at one of the whole group rugs (he is outside the box on this, as he likes physical contact, unlike most AS kids)
-he holds something for me during discussions
-he is my modeler for many modeling sessions
 -I set a timer for his homework and tell him he needs to get a certain amount of work done before the timer goes off
-he has a finger puppet in his desk that he can whisper to when he needs to say something
-I have a rice-filled sock puppet that puts weight on his legs at his desk or at the circle

I have read some great articles that were full of information:
"Teaching and Learning Approaches for Children with Asperger's Syndrome" by Francine Falk-Ross, Mary Iverson and Carol Gilbert from the Council for Exceptional Children

This is from the Council for Exceptional Children website. It has a LOT of good articles on it.

There is also a book that is strictly fiction, but about a teenager with AS that gives insight into the mind of an AS child. It's called "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime." by Mark Haddon.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Today Show Book Club #13) 

I know we don't have time to read. These articles, and even the book, are short and easy to read and make use of their ideas. And I'm reading them over time. 

 Clearly, I am no expert on this subject and am only BEGINNING to learn. But I thought maybe some of you are in the same boat. We need all the tools we can find. If anyone else has ideas, I'd LOVE to hear them! 

 Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]


  1. Sounds like your doing a lot to help this kid. I bet its going to pay off.
    Adventures in Room 5

  2. I had a child last year that was on the mild end of the spectrum. Sitting him near the front, keeping noise levels low, allowing him to have the classroom mascot (Clifford) sit on his desk were things that helped him. Two of his biggest issues were supplies and changing routines. Example, if he needed a red crayon and you tell him to use a color that is close to that, everything came to a halt until he had a red crayon. If we did math before lunch instead of after lunch like normal then he would shut down. I guess it really is just learning what works for your kid. Hope some of this helps. Sounds like you are already on the right track though.

  3. THANK YOU!!!!! Any ideas are helpful. He's pretty high functioning, but the other kids are really bothered by things he does, so helping him helps everyone!

  4. I teach at a small charter school that is full inclusion. I did not have much experience with special education before I started but my goodness, I have learned so much! It sounds like you are on the right track with him. You could try
    -getting a bean bag chair for whole group discussions (I worry about letting him sit on your lap without stigmatizing him for his disability unless you do this for all students)
    -reviewing the schedule everyday so that he knows what to expect and when. If there are going to be changes, make sure you review those and the reasoning before the change
    -the timer is what I was also going to suggest but you got that one already!
    -maybe allow him some brain breaks throughout the day. It could be for all students but help him the most. After a certain number of tasks, a brain break could be incorporated. I know that depending on the task, it may be overwhelming to sit and work for long periods of time or the difficulty of the task may cause a meltdown, agitation or complete frustration.
    I hope this helps!
    Kindergarten Schmindergarten

  5. Hi Ann,
    Thank you so much for checking out my blog and leaving a comment! I love the names Ella and Grace--old fashion -- but modern! If you have any advice for a new blogger, I would love it. Hope you have a great year! Today was my first day and I am exhausted! hahaha


  6. You behave very well with that boy but what I think is you are neglecting other students in indirect way and I know you dont have any intension like this..

  7. Hi Ann!

    I am a special education teacher. Something I have found very helpful for some of my student are transition checklists. Usually transitions are times that have the least amount of structure and can be the most hectic. Having a checklist of things to do during pack up, dismissal, arrival, lunch time, etc. can be helpful by reducing anxiety throughout the school day.

    You mentioned having your student read quietly in the morning in a separate space within the classroom. Not sure if you already do this, but definitely keep a "safe space" in your classroom where the child can go if a break is necessary. This is something you can suggest or something he can suggest, but a sandtimer is used at the "safe space" to add some accountability and provide an "end time", so it isn't just used as task avoidance. This space could also be in a buddy teacher's classroom. This option should hopefully cut down on meltdowns.

    Something else I like to do for students who need something tactile is attach a one-sided piece of velcro under their chair or desk. The student can run his fingers across the velcro when he needs some tactile stimulation during independent work. I find that "widgets" and other play stress balls can end up flying across the classroom or used as toys by other students, so I like to try out options that are quiet and discrete.

    Hope this helps! -Kate

  8. I found your post very interesting! My oldest son who is now 19 and in college, has Aspergers and struggled socially and behaviorally all through elementary and middle school. He was finally diagnosed when he was 13. We both read the book Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison. A fascinating glimpse at the internal struggles of an AS child and adult. For my son, he needed alternatives to group work and did well with independent study. Unstructured times such as lunch and recess made him feel anxious and he was always getting into trouble. Thank you for sharing the resources and your insight! Lauren
    Teacher Mom of 3


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