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fran76
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23 Oct 2006, 7:39 pm

Hi there!! I'm hoping that I can get some good suggestions…..'m a teacher in a school where mainstreaming seems to be happening more and more. We have several students in my school who are autistic primarily Aspergers. I'm wondering if anyone can suggest some good books and/or web sites in dealing with Aspergers children. I teach in a K-5 school and I absolutely want to make sure that I'm giving all students the best possible education. I really have not had a lot of expereince working with autistic kids and feel like I'm doing them a disservice if I don't research this as much as possible! Thanks for your help!



DrowningMedusa
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23 Oct 2006, 7:47 pm

Let them research their obsessive interests to their hearts' content?

That's about the only useful thing I can think of to say.

Oh, and watch out for bullies / cliques - in my experience, the worst part of school, the part I dreaded, was recess.



briangwin33
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23 Oct 2006, 9:54 pm

fran76 wrote:
Hi there!! I'm hoping that I can get some good suggestions…..'m a teacher in a school where mainstreaming seems to be happening more and more. We have several students in my school who are autistic primarily Aspergers. I'm wondering if anyone can suggest some good books and/or web sites in dealing with Aspergers children. I teach in a K-5 school and I absolutely want to make sure that I'm giving all students the best possible education. I really have not had a lot of expereince working with autistic kids and feel like I'm doing them a disservice if I don't research this as much as possible! Thanks for your help!


I have a better idea. You see, most of us used to be children. Yep, it's a fact. We don't all die or go live in Atlantis when we reach age 18. Those resources you're asking about, the ones describing how to "deal with" AS children? Are they written by people with AS? Or are they written by "experts" and "advocates" who extrapolate "methods" and "procedures" from data and observation? (I mean really, why go to the bother of actually talking to AS persons or utilizing mediums wherein autistics have no communication disadvantages?) I say, good for you for doing research. However, stop your search. This is the largest collection of AS persons on the web. If you have specific questions and aren't looking for "rules" to follow so that you can simply apply them and feel that you've done your level best no matter the outcome, please ask away. If you are in the early stages and haven't yet thought of any specific concerns, think things over and develop some. This will yield much better results than open-ended queries.



Cade
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23 Oct 2006, 10:02 pm

Hello. I'm an inclusion spec ed teacher myself, and I also have AS. I'd recommend for starters any literature by Tony Attwood. He is by far the best in terms of an insightful expert who's also sympathetic toward seeing AS kids succeed without forcing them to be something they are not.

I honestly don't think this should be as a big a challenge as you may be making it out to be. AS kids are geared to succeed - they have a very high native curiosity and desire to learn. The problem is when the "system" and the people working that system assume they are not succeeding and try to discourage the kids simply because they are different or force them into a mold that they'll never fit in. The first step to to realize this kids will and do learn, and can excell very well in an academic environment, but like any other child, if that environment is hostile to them, in particular their own sense of self, they will shut down - just like any other child.

If you are NT, than it is likely you may find an AS child confusing, even irritating at first. They can be very strong-willed and indifferent to you as an authority figure. You have to realize that AS kids usually don't "assume" someone has authority simply because they're the adult or "because I say so." They need reason, they need cause and effect, they need a logic that they can follow through to the conclusion that you're the teacher. That means you need to be clear in what your own role in the classroom is, making your expectations for behavior and performance clear and consistant. They will not want a mother/caretaker figure from you - if you're a teacher, then that's exactly what they'll expect from you. This goes for discipline too - you must be very level-headed, fair and consistant in regards to discipline in the classroom with all your students, or they will see your inconstancies and lose trust in you as a teacher. However, since this is really how a teacher should be doing re: discipline anyhow, this shouldn't be a big adjustment. Just let the presencee of your AS students give you extrra incentive to do your job as a teacher as best as you can.

Beyond that, really what an AS kids need from you is the same as any other kid: they need your patience and support, your belief in them that they can succeed, your respect for their individuality and sense of self, and your sensitivity to their self-esteem and emotional needs. Just because AS kids don't express emotion in the same way as NT doesn't mean they don't feel discouraged, insecure, inadequate, or unsure like other kids their age. And just becasue they don't socialize with you the way other kids do doesn't mean they aren't looking to you for that reassurence and affirmation that any child needs.

A few things you can expect from an AS child, at the K-5 level:

- awkward social behavior and needs a lot of guidance in learning how to interact with peers; may even seem rude or harsh, i.e., "lacking manners" - just don't take it personally and gently remind them of appropraite behavior

- disinterested in social play, may even seem to not know how to play or work with other kids; try not to put too much pressure on the child if they appear to be struggling in this area; rather give the child some opportunities to play or work on their own, alternating with group activities

- monotone voice, a verbose, pedantic manner of speaking and/or a "mature" or "serious" demeanor

- odd emotional reactions; child may not laugh or seem to express joyful feeling even when playing; or may frown or look angry when they are simply thinking or concentrating; or may smile or laugh when they are actually nervous, fearful or embarassed (a common misunderstanding occurs when adults are mad at an AS child and the child appears to be laughing or smirking at them - however this is not case. The AS child is likely reacting to his or her own nervousness towards the adult's anger)

- not likely to make friends easily; times AS kids have one friend and may also be overly controlling of that friend; if your AS students do "pair" up with someone, use this as an opportunity to teach social skills and to encourage the AS child to participate in larger groups, allowing his/her friend to model appropriate social skills

- may be a target for bullying due to lack of strong social skills and friends; when bullied, AS children often don't know how to stand up for themselves or seek out protection from their peers or from adults. You'll need to intervene if you notice any kind of bullying, as AS children really don't know how to cope with bullying and the stress can be much more profound than you realize

- may express frustration in disruptive ways or may even have "meltdowns" - you should consult with your school counselor if your students is vulnerable to serious difficulties with managing his negative emotions. Mostly, it's boys with AS that do this, but girls can be like this too. Either way, such a child will likely need additional support through your counselor. I personally rarely deal with this kind of behavior wiht my AS students, but it's good to know it can happen and be prepared in case

- like with ADHD or other LDs, AS kids tend to "hyperfocus" and will need some give and take when transistioning from one task to another. Keeping a regular schedule and clear classroom structure will helps with this - AS kids, like other autistics, often find change difficult, but if they know to expect it, i.e., a routine, they handle it better

- will likely exhibit Executive Functioningdifficulties, i.e., difficulty planning and following process/steps, easily discouraged by small errors or mistakes (difficulty keeping things in prespective), and doesn't follow through/complete tasks well. In such cases, you'll need to make a effort to teach the child skills like rechecking their work, how to read/follow/understand directions carefully, planning/goal-setting skills, and so forth. This is something your counselor may be able to help with, if the child seems very challenged in these areas.

- will most likely have an "special interest," possibly something narrow or offbeat. They willl want to focus predominantly on that interest, learning tons of rote info relating to it. They may also try to tell you everything they know ont eh topic in precise detail. Just be patient, give them a little slack, and gently refocus their attention. Many AS kids at that age levels have interests in transportation (trains, airplanes), communciation devices (radios, computers), mechanics, maps or animals, or they may have an interest in something quite odd and unusual (although obsessions about violence, blood, sex, anything graphic like that is not typical of AS, and if a child demonstrates such an interest, you should consult your counselor, because that could be indicative of another problem)

Anyhow, I hope that helps for starters. I think you'll find that AS kids are really very enjoyable, and that being open to their differences can really expand your abilities as a teacher. Good luck!



briangwin33
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23 Oct 2006, 10:23 pm

Cade wrote:
If you are NT, than it is likely you may find an AS child confusing, even irritating at first. They can be very strong-willed and indifferent to you as an authority figure. You have to realize that AS kids usually don't "assume" someone has authority simply because they're the adult or "because I say so." They need reason, they need cause and effect, they need a logic that they can follow through to the conclusion that you're the teacher. That means you need to be clear in what your own role in the classroom is, making your expectations for behavior and performance clear and consistant. They will not want a mother/caretaker figure from you - if you're a teacher, then that's exactly what they'll expect from you. This goes for discipline too - you must be very level-headed, fair and consistant in regards to discipline in the classroom with all your students, or they will see your inconstancies and lose trust in you as a teacher. However, since this is really how a teacher should be doing re: discipline anyhow, this shouldn't be a big adjustment. Just let the presencee of your AS students give you extrra incentive to do your job as a teacher as best as you can.


About the irritating part: When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher once mentioned to me that she couldn't find some assignment that we were supposed to have turned in. She brought me over to the desk and spoke so that no one else could hear, the intent apparently being that I would confess to not having turned it in. I, however, said, "Well, then you lost it," as I knew I had turned in the assignment. The more I think about this, the more I am surprised that I didn't get in trouble for that (In later years I would frequently receive detention for my supposed "insolence") and that she dropped the matter immediately and let me return to my seat. It was a couple of days later that she pulled me aside and informed me that she had found my work. Would that more of my teachers had been this way!



Dewclaw
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23 Oct 2006, 10:50 pm

When I first attended college, I was on the honor roll and the Dean's list. I'm not a straight A person, but I believe a bit smarter than average. Except for statisics or economics, which I fail miserably. Ended up not completing college. In grade school, though, I was put in the resource room for challenged kids for a while. The other kids teased me for being in the "duh room". I hated it. Fortunately it only lasted for a few months before they realized that I wasn't challenged in the way they originally thought.

I have yet to find someone (outside of WrongPlanet) that has a real grasp and strong empathy for my skills and abilities. It would have been nice to have had more support for who I was and what my skills were when I was a kid. That alone would have dramatically increased my academics, instead of constantly being frustrated while I muddled through situations at school.



Pippen
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24 Oct 2006, 2:53 am

I have a son with AS traits who is doing wonderfully, thanks to what has happened in our school district prior to his entering. Some years back parents and the district worked cooperatively to bring about positive changes in the district for children with ASDs and the results have been win-win for everyone involved. Inclusion in regular classrooms for higher funtioning kids such as those with AS is the norm. There is year staff training in ASD's with priority given to staff members who will have children scheduled into their classes, including speakers who are parents and an adult with Autism. They've developed a booklet teachers fill out about the child to pass on to the next teacher to help make the transition go more smoothly. Kids aren't pushed off the supports the moment they no longer legally qualified--we saw this last year when there wasn't a diagnostic test in the world that would have qualified my child for more social speech sessions but they offered to continue them simply because they had seen how beneficial those had been to him. All of these sorts of things have added up to mean kids are far more likely to encounter teachers who feel more prepared and are more understanding...and obviously far more successful school experiences for the kids. I think it's great you're taking the time to ask this question but the advantages to having districtwide approach should be obvious.

Specifically some things that have helped my child:

My child has Hyperlexia (precocious reading) and while he wasn't highly reliant on written language by the time he started school, he did benefit from written supports and instructions, especially things like schedules, written notices of changes like assemblies, etc.

What might seem like a small thing to a teacher or another student can become a huge hurdle for my child. He saves his vents on those for me 8O and I've been grateful 1) that the teachers have believed me! and 2) that they've been flexible on those occasions. Those little things become HUGE obstacles that need to be cleared away or he stays stuck there.

My kiddo has had sensory challenges and school anxiety (resolved, at least for now!) and something as simple as having a classroom break to take a walk around the school, swing on the playground, or have a juice made a huge difference for him in the early years. He was given alternatives to attending assemblies but never took them and they try to remember to tell me so I can be prepared to handle a kid on sensory overload which is a big help.



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24 Oct 2006, 11:01 pm

Treat him the same way that you treat the rest of the students. Don't give him any special treatment, because he might resent you for it.



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26 Oct 2006, 9:26 pm

Fran,

I haven't been "professionally" diagnosed, but I HAVE taken tests that say I have aspergers, etc.... When I see the symptoms of autism about not wanting to be touched, perception of sight/sound, etc...., certain lack of interest, or obsessive interest, peer problems, sports, etc.... I think WOW, that's ME! One problem, I am certainly not stupid. When I heard about Aspergers, it explained a LOT! WOW, it EVEN explained my skewed perception. People laugh when I miss things figuring they are obvious, and laugh when I SEE things figuring I am imagining things!(only to later be proven right)! I have even been described as having encyclopedic knowledge.

I would say CockneyRebel's advice is good but:

1. understand that they are different.
2. DON'T underestimate them. This was MY bggest problem.
3. If you can give them "programmed instruction" where they go at their OWN pace, GREAT!

BTW, if you are serious...... THANK YOU! There are all too few REAL teachers in the world. Rush Limbaugh described grade inflation. TODAY, it has even become I/Q inflation! I swear, I don't think I want to deal with ANYONE with an IQ under 130! It is like employers that ONCE required a highschool diploma that now want a bachelors! Let's get the average inteligence back up.

Steve



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26 Oct 2006, 9:36 pm

Don't tolerate bullying of them, for any reason. To someone with Asperger's, at least in my experience as someone with Asperger's. Bullies are seen as sub-human. That they should have to put up with a bully, be abused by them, with no recourse isn't..I guess what you'd call an insult to someone with Asperger's, but it makes them feel more like "Well fine, if nobody will help me, I'll have to take things into my own hands." Which can lead to agression, and then usually the faculty will blame the Asperger's student for defending themselves against the bully.

I think what is somewhat offensive, is telling the Asperger's student how the bully has problems, and that they're going through tough times. As far as I was concerned, if they behaved monsterously, they didn't deserve to be understood. Alot of trouble was the Special Education in my school had Special Needs students, druggie students, and behavioural difficulty students. I really felt that it was rediculous that I should be punished, for not understanding the sob story of the student who had just bullied me. I think it should be policy that there is a real no tolerance bullying policy. If not that, then at least punish the bullies who attack those who have Asperger's Syndrome. Although, then there's a risk that they'll find out the person has Asperger's Syndrome, and bully them more specifically about that. Like giving them a new weapon to fight with.

Really I think the idea that Special Education, at least in my school. Functioned as a Special Needs class, a rehab, and a place for delinquents, was beyond rediculous. I was very resentful about how I obeyed the rules and tried to do right, where the poor druggie or the poor bully would get help and I'd have to wait for them. You can see where this sends a strong message, that you need to be a poor student to get the help you need. It's beyond conterproductive.

I hope this has been of some help, I tend to sometimes rant and rave about what happened to me, more than focus on the issue.


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27 Oct 2006, 2:00 am

I also found Tony Attwood's work very helpful.

I found Michelle Garcia Winner's books and workshops a big help. Her work focuses on social cognitive learning.

I think they both have web sites.



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27 Oct 2006, 11:51 am

Tony Atwood does have a site. It is located here. I have not actually read any of his books, but I have looked around the site and read much of what is written on there.

For kids with AS, the worst times at school are often those that are unstructured. Most people with AS do fine with the structured part of school or work. They know what they need to do and have specific instructions. Recesses and lunch breaks are what cause the problem because they are no longer in such a controlled environment. Sometimes scripting what the child can say if they want to play with other kids beforehand can help with this. Or they might be content to play on their own.

Understand that a child with AS is different, but never treat them like less of a person because of it. They will have their own interests and oftentimes, these interests can get in the way of doing schoolwork. If you can find a way to help them incorporate these interests into what they have to do, it will make schoolwork more enjoyable for them. For example, if you have an older elementary school child who is interested in sea animals, encourage them to read about their favourite sea animal and do a report on it or give a five-minute presentation to the class. For younger kids who may just be learning how to read, if they read books that are interesting to them, they will generally enjoy reading more than if they read "boring" books.

Don't underestimate them. That is probably one of the most important to remember. Although kids with AS may not appear to be smart (ie, they may not test high in areas that schools are concerned about), many have a plethora of outside knowledge about some special interest(s). Also, since kids with AS do not have very good social skills, this may lead to other teachers and students seeing them as "dumb". This is not true.

Monitor the bullying situation carefully. At many schools, if physical bullying is not allowed, then exclusion and other forms of bullying will be used. Kids who are introverted or quiet are often excluded from outside activities and those who have AS are usually excluded more often. Some schools have a rule that kids are not allowed to pass out invitations to birthday parties during school hours. Oftentimes, a student with AS would not be invited and feel left out. If physical bullying is not strictly against the rules, then it should be the job of the teacher to step in when he/she feels that a student is being bullied for any reason.

Sensory overload can present a problem for people with AS. If this happens, oftentimes a quick walk around the school building or sitting outside of the classroom for a few minutes will help. I have had teachers who will let me sit just outside the classroom door to work on assignments because it gets too distracting in the classroom for me. I have also had teachers take slight accomodations by simple tasks of turning on the exhaust fan during a chemistry test (for me, it is much easier to concentrate with the louder, static noise of a fan going than short, interrupted noises of people writing and breathing) or making sure I had everything in writing that I would need for a particular assignment.

Lastly, give specific instructions as often as you can. Don't leave too much room for interpretation because you will likely have one of two possible reactions from students with AS. The first reaction will be something along the lines of the "teacher didn't tell us what we needed to do, so I'm going to see how much I can get away with...". The second reaction will be not knowing where to start or how to do the assignment, almost as if the student is lost and doesn't know which way to go. They know where they want to end up, but aren't sure of the steps needed to get there.

That about does it for me with this post. Let me know if you have any questions, okay? :)


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