How To Help A Child With Asperger's Syndrome Succeed In School
Children who have Asperger’s Syndrome experience different levels of social challenges and communication barriers.
They have a considerably difficult time relating to people and adapting to social situations. Children and adults with this syndrome do not readily understand personal boundaries and have an extremely hard time picking up on social cues.
These skills need to be taught much like the average child needs to be taught to ride a bicycle.
When a Child has Asperger’s Syndrome it makes school time more challenging for them for numerous reasons.
School is filled with wonderfully unpredictable kids, loud noises, schedule changes, assemblies, fire drills, different smells and visual stimulation.
All of this can be distracting at times for all children but for kids with Asperger’s, it is a nearly impossible learning environment.
Many kids with this syndrome have a very hard time processing sensory stimuli.
These difficulties may include a slight or severe sensitivity to loud noises, crowded spaces, certain fabrics on their skin or a dramatic response to being touched.
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ADHD and Asperger's
The symptoms that are most noticeable are very similar to ADHD.
Attempting to stay on topic and focus are two of the biggest obstacles these kids face in an academic setting.
A large number of people with Asperger’s Syndrome also have ADHD which makes those traits even more debilitating when it comes to learning new information.
The Importance of Routine
Kids with Asperger’s Syndrome thrive on predictability and routine. Much of the time they feel out of control of their own brain and body responses. They find it extremely comforting when their environment is stable and controllable. Those are two things that are impossible to attain when dealing with peers and other peoples schedules.
The Importance Of School
School is as important for kids with Asperger’s as it is for any child but for different reasons.
During typical school day, a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is working really hard at learning to process all of the stimuli around them, follow directions, respect boundaries, appropriately handle all of the triggers that could easily send them into a melt down and behave as expected for an average child.
All of the daily interactions and activities that average people take for granted require conscious thought and intention for these kids. It is easy to see why the academics seem to fall to the waste side sometimes. While other kids are working hard at learning math or history, these kids are working twice as hard just trying to make it through their day without an incident.
Children who struggle with Asperger’s are going to grow up just like everyone else and it is important that they learn what to expect and how to navigate their world so they too can be happy, well-adjusted adults.
Don't Underestimate Their Capabilities
All of the social challenges that are present with Asperger’s Syndrome lead some to believe that these kids aren’t capable of excelling academically. That is far from true!
Most children with Asperger’s have average or above average IQ’s. The ability to learn and excel is there it just gets over shadowed by their need to learn so many social lessons.
School Work From Home
Even with all of the social challenges that children with Asperger’s face, it is important that they are given the opportunity to live up to their full academic potential.
One way to ensure they excel to the best of their ability is to integrate school work into their routine at home.
Tips For Success
When they have a quiet space that is largely free from distraction and a calm adult to guide them, they can absorb much more than they are given credit for. A few tips that will make this process go smoothly and more effectively are:
- Schedule a daily work time and strictly adhere to it. (if there are no lessons sent home that day, play a math or word game for 15 minutes)
- Create a designated work space that is free from clutter and visual distractions
- Schedule 5 minute breaks for every 20-25 minutes of learning
- Use verbal instruction and visual examples
- Break up the work into small sections to increase focus
- For reading assignments, require everything to be read twice and read it once together with time allowed for questions to clarify the material. This will increase comprehension over time.
- For writing assignments, see if the teacher will allow the child to incorporate their specific interest subject into the assignment. Many educators will accommodate this as much as possible because the point of the assignment is usually to learn a particular writing style or structured system and has little to do with the actual content.
- During school breaks or holiday’s change the work schedule to every other day but don’t quit the routine completely.
- When no school assignments are sent home, print out some free worksheets from various academic websites or create your own spelling game or puzzles.
- Find lessons in interesting places. For example: Cooking can teach measurements and how to follow written directions
- Try to integrate their specific interest into a learning opportunity whenever possible
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Asperger’s Syndrome is a high functioning form of Autism. Children with Asperger’s have many social challenges including difficulty communicating, relating to others, and empathizing.
When kids with Asperger’s Syndrome learn many of the academic basics at home, it allows them to follow along in class with their peers.
They will continue to have difficulty learning new information there but when the class is discussing an assignment they have learned at home, they will feel accomplished and less isolated.
The confidence that comes with mastering new skills and feeling like they belong will increase their ability to conquer the social piece tremendously.