Children with Aspergers Syndrome lack understanding of the rules of social convention and how human relationships work. Most children with Aspergers Syndrome want friends but simply do not know how to interact. They can have a problem expressing empathy and cannot understand the social graces that keep society functioning. These children tend to take all things very literally, meaning that sarcasm, playful teasing and figures of speech are not understood.
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome express their feelings in unpredictable ways. Sometimes they may seem emotionless and other times they may display extreme emotion that is not appropriate to the situation.
Asperger's kids often have a very specific area of great interest, such as dinosaurs, trains, or computers. They will often seek out other people to talk to about their interests. The conversation is usually one-sided – more like a lecture where they talk about their knowledge and aren't interested in feedback.
Many lack flexibility and the ability to cope with change. They need a great deal of structure and routine and they may react negatively to changes in schedules. Rules are also very important and a child may become angry if a game is not played fairly or his peers break the rules.
Most people with Asperger’s Syndrome are of average or above average intelligence and are often gifted in areas. Typically viewed as eccentric and peculiar by classmates, their lack of social skills often cause them to be made victims of bullying. They may also have sensory issues that make them sensitive to loud noises or to smells or textures.
It is easy to see how a typical school environment can wreak havoc with Aspergers kids. The chaotic and unsupervised times between classes or at lunch easily stress these emotionally vulnerable students. Teachers of classrooms of 30 students may not notice when a student withdraws or is a victim of bullying, or may become frustrated with emotional outbursts that they do not understand.
Why Great Lakes Academy is a good school for Aspergers students:
At GLA no student is lost in the crowd. Our teachers understand the struggles of the Aspergers kid, and know how to build self-awareness and social skills in their students. They are prepared and even eager to offer the kind of patience needed to help these students develop. GLA classrooms are also community environments where students are expected to be kind and friendly to one another. Parents of Aspergers students at GLA often say that this is the first time their child has ever had real friends.
While Asperger's students are often bright, they may need accommodations or changes in their curriculum or classroom. Here are some of the ways that GLA teachers help them succeed:
- Using positive reinforcement selectively directed to shape a desired behavior
- Teaching and reinforcing daily social skills lessons
- Providing a challenging curriculum that can be tailored to include students’ interests
- Providing a predictable and safe environment
- Minimizing transitions
- Keeping to a consistent daily routine
- Preparing the child thoroughly and in advance for special activities, altered schedules, or any other change in routine, regardless of how minimal
- Protecting all children from bullying and teasing
- Praising students when they treat others with compassion
- Encouraging active socialization and limiting time spent in isolated pursuit of interests.
- Giving assignments that link their interest to the subject being studied
- Providing adaptive physical education program if gross motor problems exist
- Teaching fine motor skills
- Working with children on how to cope when stress overwhelms them, to prevent outbursts.
- Teaching organization skills
- Allowing the use of things that some children find helpful, like earplugs or headphones
- Modeling relaxation strategies and diversions to reduce anxiety
At GLA, kids with AS find a place to belong and learn the skills that they need to build relationships and capitalize on their strengths.