Monday, August 17, 2009

Academic Implications for a Child with Asperger's Syndrome

If you've ever worked with a child with Asperger's Syndrome, you'll have probably noticed that they see things somewhat differently. The child exhibits minimal empathy, one sided conversations, difficulty socially, struggles to form friendships, absorption in specific areas of interest and will be somewhat clumsy. More on the definition of Asperger's

For the educator, there are 3 areas of focus that will help maximize learning opportunities for the child with Asperger's Syndrome:

  • Social
  • Language and Academic Functioning
  • Sensory


  • Teach the child how to join in play situations, otherwise the child will interrupt the ongoing play and won't be welcome.
  • Encourage other children to play with the child with Asperger's.
  • Always point out to the child with Asperger's what they should have done in an inappropriately handled situation and how they should handle it next time.
  • Never take for granted that the child knows how to act socially, always be prepared to teach appropriate social behaviors in a variety of settings.
  • You will want to teach about the various emotions (happy, sad, angry etc.)and how to support them.
  • Use storybooks to model acceptable behaviors and teach about emotions.
  • Use role play to talk about inappropriate social behaviors and how to encourage positive behaviors.
  • Maximize opportunities for cooperative learning.
  • Encourage and support positive interactions regularly.
Although it may seem time consuming to teach social behaviors, the child with Asperger's will learn them with ongoing support, in fact they will learn them surprisingly well.

Language and Academic Functioning
Many children with Asperger's will display delays in language development, use pedantic language, display a weakness in comprehension and have great difficulty with literal vs figuative speech. They'll have difficulty understanding points of views from others, however, they'll often have normal intelligence although sometimes it won't show on intelligence testing. They will often exhibit surprisingly good memory skills.

  • These children will usually need to be taught how to ask for help or assistance.
  • They'll need to be taught not to interrupt in a variety of settings
  • They will usually take everything literally, so be aware of how you can be misinterpreted. (Find out how to teach the difference between literal and figurative speech) .
  • Avoid certain sounds, children with Asperger's can be very sensitive to specific sounds.
  • Try to keep background noise to a minimal
  • Avoid bright or intense lighting situations
  • It should be noted that the most common sensitivities for these students are sound and touch, it's important to be aware of this.

A Word of Caution

Asperger's Syndrome is a label. Students with Asperger's have some difficulty with communication, transitions, they will often have an intense area of interest, they will have difficulty socially and have sensory sensitivity. A label is never helpful unless it helps you better support the student. Knowing what works and how to program is key. You now have a glimpse of what these children need and how you can support them.