These intervention strategies are reprinted from "Children with Asperger’s Syndrome: Characteristics/Learning Styles and Intervention Strategies"by Susan Stokes, Autism Consultant for the Cooperative Educational Service Agency #7, Wisconsin State Department of Special Education, 2001. The references that correspond to her citations are provided at the end of this introduction.
Asperger’s Syndrome was named for a Viennese psychiatrist, Hans Asperger. In 1944 Asperger published a paper in German describing a consistent pattern of abilities and behaviors that occurred primarily in boys. In the early 1980s Asperger’s paper was translated into English, which resulted in international recognition for his work in this area.
In the 1990s, specific diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome were included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV, 1994) as well as the International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition (ICD10) (3) & (15). In general, DSM-IV and ICD10 base their diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s Syndrome on the following:
- Impairment of social interaction
- Impairment of social communication
- Impairment of social imagination, flexible thinking and imaginative play
- Absence of a significant delay in cognitive development
- Absence of general delay in language development (in Wisconsin, the child may still have an impairment under the state eligibility criteria for speech & language)
Recent research establishes the prevalence of Asperger’s Syndrome as approximately 1 in 300, affecting boys to girls with a ratio of 10:1 (6). Children with clinical (medical) diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and who have been identified by schools as “children with disability” are typically found by the IEP team conducting the evaluation to have an impairment in such areas as Autism, Other Health Impaired or Speech/Language. Depending on the unique characteristics of the child, other impairment area listed under state law for special education may also be considered.
The general features and characteristics exhibited by children diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are similar to the general features and characteristics exhibited by children who have been clinically diagnosed with Autism and are described as having “high functioning autism.”
It is critical that a team approach be used in addressing the unique and challenging needs of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, with parents being vital members of this team. Each person who comes in contact with a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (either school staff or peers) should receive training on the unique characteristics and educational needs of such children. Due to confidentiality issues this should always be discussed first with the parents of the child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Their written consent should be obtained prior to providing peer training.
Educational Staff Training should include the following two components:
General training of the entire school staff: Prior to working with children with Asperger’s Syndrome, it is critical to understand the unique features and characteristics associated with this developmental disability. Staff should be informed that children with Asperger’s Syndrome have a developmental disability, which causes them to respond and behave in a way which is different from other students. Most importantly, the responses/behaviors exhibited by these children should not be misinterpreted as purposeful and manipulative behaviors (4).
Child specific training for educational staff who will be working directly with the child: Educational staff who will be working directly with a child with Asperger’s Syndrome should understand his individual strengths and needs prior to actually working with the child. A team of persons familiar with the child and his disability should provide this training. The team may include previous teacher(s), speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, teacher aide and most importantly, the child’s parents.
The peers/classmates of the child with Asperger’s Syndrome should be told about the unique learning and behavioral mannerisms associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. It is important to note that parent permission must always be given prior to such peer training. A successful protocol for training peers at the kindergarten to approximately second grade level was developed by Division TEACCH, and is available at their web site http://www.unc.edu/depts/teacch/ Another peer training protocol designed for children between the ages of 8-18 is Carol Gray’s “Sixth Sense” (10).
The characteristics and learning styles associated with Asperger’s Syndrome are important to consider, particularly their impact on learning, and in planning an appropriate educational program for the child (7). Children with Asperger’s Syndrome exhibit difficulty in appropriately processing in-coming information. Their brain’s ability to take in, store, and use information is significantly different than neuro-typically developing children. This results in a somewhat unusual perspective of the world (7). Therefore teaching strategies for children with Asperger’s Syndrome will be different than strategies used for neuro-typically developing children.
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome typically exhibit strengths in their visual processing skills, with significant weaknesses in their ability to process information auditorilly. Therefore use of visual methods of teaching, as well as visual support strategies, should always be incorporated to help the child with Asperger’s Syndrome better understand his environment.
- Attwood, Tony. Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley, 1998.
- Attwood, Tony. “Asperger’s Syndrome/High Functioning Autism.” Autism Society of the Fox Valley, Autism Society of Northeastern Wisconsin, and the Autism Society of Wisconsin. Liberty Hall, Kimberly, Wisconsin. October 18, 1999.
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association (1994).
- Bauer, Stephen. “Asperger Syndrome.” Online Asperger’s Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS). 1996. 19 December 1999 http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/
- Campbell, Danielle. “Autism and Asperger’s: Strategies for Diagnosis and Treatment.” Advance for Speech-Language Pathologist and Audiologists 27 Sept. 1999: 6-9.
- Cumine, Val, Julia Leach, Gill Stevenson. Asperger Syndrome: A Practical Guide for Teachers. London: David Fulton, 1998.
- Fullerton, Ann, et al. Higher Functioning Adolescents and Young Adults with Autism: A Teacher’s Guide. Texas: Pro-ed, 1996.
- Gray, Carol. Comic Strip Conversations. Arlington: Future Horizons, 1994.
- Gray, Carol. The Social Story Kit and Sample Social Stories. Arlington: Future Horizons, 1993.
- Gray, Carol. Taming the Recess Jungle. Arlington: Future Horizons, 1993. Revised 9/94.
- Howlin, Patricia, et al. Teaching Children with Autism to Mind-Read: A Practical Guide. West Sussex, England: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., 1999.
- Myles, Brenda Smith and Richard L. Simpson. Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for Educators and Parents. Texas: Pro-ed, 1998.
- Williams, Karen. “Understanding the Student With Asperger Syndrome: Guidelines for Teachers.” Focus on Autistic Behavior. 10.2, (1995): 9-16.
- Woodard, Austin. "Lecture on “Autism.” Van Brunt Elementary School, Horicon, Wisconsin. November 4, 1999.
- World Health Organization. Tenth Revision of the International Classification of Disease. Geneva: World Health Organization (1989).