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How To Help A Child With Asperger's Syndrome Succeed In School

Updated on February 8, 2013
Notebooks and Pencils
Notebooks and Pencils | Source

Asperger's

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.

School Challenges

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.

Sensory Integration

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.

Books and Notepad
Books and Notepad | Source

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.

Mathbook with Worksheets
Mathbook with Worksheets | Source

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

The Benefits

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.

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    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      really good to see some constructive ideas for making life easier in school for students with aspergers. We are lucky at the college where I work to have an aspergers specialist teacher who works on a one to one basis with students in addition to their attending regular classes. She is able to make a big difference to their chance of success and being settled in the college environment too. Ideally all the other teachers would follow these tips too!

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Nettlemere, that is so great to hear! It's really encouraging to know that these kids will have continued support if they choose to go to college. :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Very good article on dealing with Asperger's in children. My daughter-in-law works with special needs children and loves seeing how they thrive under guided instruction and care. I learned it is important to discuss any change before implementing into the classroom.

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Your daughter-in-law is providing a great gift to those kids and their families! I can tell you from experience that if there wasn't wonderful people like her out there helping our children succeed they would be lost. Autism and Asperger's is a challenge and a blessing. The old saying that it takes a village to raise a child is especially true with these amazing kids! You are exactaly right, transitions are very difficult for them and any disruption to their schedule or change of any kind needs to be communicated ahead of time. Once I learned that, my life was considerably easier. :)

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      You hit the nail squarely on the head. Our son, now 16, was diagnosed ADHD / Asberger's when he was about 2 or 3. He has seen the same Dr. ever since. It was devastating to watch him struggle along in school, and the side effects of the diagnosis, such as the obsessive mannerisms, not saying or doing seemingly normal things. Once I even asked him to count the number of red cars he saw on the way home from the store, due to his outburst of behavior for us returning home by a different route than normal. He fell quiet, and shocked me to the core when we arrived at home. He simply said "67". I had forgotten what I had asked him to do, but he hadn't. Now, with proper diagnosis, and a prescritption to assist, he has flourished. When in grade school, the school plays were always a trial. He would stand and stare at those around him, never taking an interest or participating. But sometime during his middle school years, something happened. He began to take an interest in plays, and musicals! Now a junior in high school, he has had the lead in a musical; been in 4 musicals and plays; is a State Honor Choir member; is on the school choir and show choir; sings chorale; is on the Debate team; runs track and cross country; and has plans to teach similarly affected students music when he graduates college! I cannot tell you what it meant to us when we learned, (the night we attended! He had kept it hidden from us to surprise us!) that he was the lead in a quirky retelling of Faust and his Deal With The Devil called Disco Inferno! His mother and I sat in the crowd literally weeping with joy as we watched our one time non-participant son leading everyone on stage in song! It shows that just because a person is tagged as something, they can still amaze you and rise above. He still struggles with some of the social situations, but it never slows him down. The other kids in school love him, and he has a very bright future ahead. Good luck to all of those parents and children out there: never give up! You can do it!

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      That is an amazing and inspirational story that I will refer to often! My eldest son has Asperger's and he will be entering the 6th grade in the fall. We have had a lifetime of adventures already and I know the rollercoaster has just begun. I can only do my best to help my son find his way through the social maze and hope he finds the joy and success that your son has. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful piece of your life to give everyone else hope! :)

    • culinary traveler profile image

      culinary traveler 4 years ago

      Great article. I like the way you present the challenges these kids (and adults!) face with the focus being on understanding and then giving ideas for what parents and families can do at home. It is so true that they spend quite a bit of their time trying to figure out how to stay on task and out of other kid's personal space. One of my students does exceptionally well when he knows what to expect and if I keep my responses to his behavior calm, clear, and short. Truly the more parents and educators know, the better. Good to see this great information getting out there!

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      It sounds like you have a very lucky student there. Thank you for everything you do!

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 4 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      What an informative hub! I will definitely be sharing this one!

      Great work!

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Thank you Mmargie1966! :)

    • profile image

      SandCastles 4 years ago

      I have Asperger's Syndrome and learning as an adult isn't easy either. I am looking for a sewing teacher and the two I found were very abrupt. They didn't understand my learning challenges (hands-eye). I told them exactly what I wanted in a teacher and thought that was all I needed to do as if my words could make them patient. I'm not giving up. I don't give up but I learned that I can't make people into what I want them to be. I have to find a teacher who is patient.

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      Good for you! Sometimes it may be hard to find a perfect fit, but I'm so inspired by your self awareness and determination. My 12 year old son has asperger's and he gets very frustrated tying to conform himself instead of seeking a better fit for what he needs. I've been working on it but, im going to let him read your words in the hopes that he will see it differently. Thank you!

    • profile image

      SandCastles 4 years ago

      You are welcome. We can cope with some teachers even if they aren't an ideal fit but if the teacher is negative and impatient, it impairs our learning.

      I finished University and became a teacher. I loved the students but didn't care for many of the teachers. I've been on both sides of the fence and some teachers just don't listen. It doesn't matter how many times you tell them to be patient they don't listen because they think they know better. Some teachers look down on children with Asperger's Syndrome. Let's face it, some teachers are cruel. If a child feels sick about going to school and has panic attacks about being in someone's class, it is best to move them to a different class or a different school. My success was directly linked to leaving negative situations. Some teachers are soul destroyers and the damage they inflict lasts a lifetime. They can make a student feel insecure about learning. I've heard teachers call kids losers. I've heard them make fun of students in the staff room. It was very painful and I spoke up and that didn't make me very popular. There were some very good teachers too. I noticed that very few people speak up to the cruel teachers though. I was one of those people who spoke up because when I went into teaching it was about the kids and not about my career. I didn't care if I got into trouble for asking questions. Asperger people don't know how to play the political games.

      When it comes to finding the right teacher, listen to your gut. A teacher may seem gracious and they may smile easily and will tell you everything you want to hear. They may sound professional but if you get a feeling in your gut that it's too good to be true, it probably is and the most important indicator that something is wrong is how your child feels about being around that teacher. If they get sick thinking about going to school, it's best to find a different school or move the child to a different homeroom. For Asperger kids, the sink or swim method doesn't make them tougher, it just wounds them.

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 4 years ago

      When I was younger I never liked school that much (because I did not like to be away from the family for too long) but as I got into Junior High and High School I enjoyed it more especially High School I loved it. My best subject was reading, english, and writing (although most of my work was typed on a computer my hand writing was not very good and I was very slow) I would get an A almost all the time and when I typed I was often the one who finished first I did it so quick and neat. My worst subject was math I have never been good with numbers then I started taking economics and I thought I would do horrible in it because it involves numbers but suprisingly I did quite well :).

    • roxanne459 profile image
      Author

      Roxanne Lewis 4 years ago from Washington

      It sounds like school was a good experience for you over all, which is great! I know many kids who have a hard time focusing with all the activity that can go on in a class room and they eventually fall behind. They have the mental ability to excel beyond grade level but the circumstances inhibit them at times. Your experience can be inspirational to them!

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