This is a question that teachers and parents often ask themselves: How to help a child with Asperger’s syndrome, both in his social life and at school?
To answer this question, we will provide a short and clear explanation of what Asperger is and how we can help affected children, both in the classroom and at home and in their personal lives.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome is a neurobiological disorder that is one of a group of conditions called autism spectrum disorders.
The term “spectrum disorders” refers to the fact that the symptoms of each of them can appear in different combinations and to different degrees of severity: two children with the same diagnosis, although they have certain behavioral patterns in common. , they can exhibit a wide range of skills and abilities.
More information: “Asperger’s syndrome: 10 signs of this disorder”
Difficulties and limitations caused by this neurobiological disorder
Men are generally the most common with this disorder and are usually diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 9. The main characteristics can be mentioned in four main areas, each with weaknesses, but also strengths. Let’s see:
1. Social relations
Difficulty understanding the rules of social interaction, not generally sharing feelings and concerns, and having difficulty developing empathy. His strength: They tend to be sincere, objective, noble, faithful and loyal.
2. Communication and language
Difficulty starting and maintaining a conversation, the sentences are short and literal, sometimes seemingly rude, and they find it too difficult to communicate with the other person. His strength: They have a large technical vocabulary, like word games and sometimes have great memory capacities.
3. Mental flexibility and imagination
Difficulty being flexible or relaxed, worrying about unusual things that are about to become obsessed, being repetitive about a topic often, and being a perfectionist. Obligate: They become experts in what they like, are researchers par excellence and are very faithful to their centers of interest.
4. Coordination and fine motor skills
Motor retardation and awkwardness occur.
5. Other areas that may present particularities
Unusual sensitivity to sensory stimuli (light, sounds, textures).
Tips for helping a child with Asperger’s
Below we will find out a series of recommendations to help children with Asperger’s syndrome in the areas which most often present difficulties within the school: social relations and work in the classroom.
1. Children with Asperger’s syndrome and social relationships
All those aspects that most people learn intuitively must be explicitly taught. Social relationships are essential because these children can develop their capacities and their community life.
here you are various recommendations, observations and supporting advice in this area.
- greet: How to use the right tone? What should you watch out for? What gestural expression to use? These types of skills can be taught through dramatizations where the codes you need to learn are emphasized.
- Start a conversation: How to give the turn to the other person, when it’s their turn to speak, to end a conversation, how to know if the other person is interested. Which topics may be related to the conversation and which are not conducive. An object or a signal can be used which allows them to guide the interventions in the conversation, as well as the television programs.
- To have a conversation: They should be taught to determine when someone is joking, to use metaphors and what to say at that time, to detect how the other person feels about a certain expression or reaction, and what to do about it, how to differentiate if someone is doing something on purpose (not by accident) and how they should react. These types of skills can be developed more easily through role plays that allow them to think from the other person’s point of view. It is important to know how these experiences can help them in their daily lives.
- Oral language and comprehension: They may also have difficulty understanding everyday language as they tend to understand communication literally. Therefore, more “exact” sentences should be used (example: “I’m hot” and not “I’m dying of heat”). Additionally, we need to emphasize our messages so that they are understood, using positive rather than negative forms (“we need to be seated” better than “we don’t have to get up from the chair”) .
- Create a “circle of pairs” which helps them feel more secure in integrating into the group. This requires, first of all, the collaboration and understanding of the limits of these people, the delegation of activities or professions that allow them to feel more relaxed and willing to interact and, at the same time, to encourage couples. to serve as models in specific learning. skills such as: how to say hello to friends, how they can use their hands, how to place their feet and body; as well as the use of facial expressions depending on the conversation or environment / activity.
- Gradually, the degree of relationship and cooperation may increaseThis is why we have to work on aspects such as: physical proximity, tolerance, patience. Respect for “retirement” spaces is important. In other words, don’t force him to stay in a group.
- They learn their communication skills by imitation (intonation, posture, attitude) without having the intuition necessary to attach it to a given environment. For example, they can talk to children as if they were adults, because they have been taught to talk to communicate with their parents. In these cases, they can use recordings in which, little by little, they are shown what their language should be according to the variables. And, in addition, the provision of spaces to practice them, can be accompanied by the “circle of pairs” to support them, ensuring that they themselves can observe the areas for improvement. We can illustrate cases where we speak too loud, low, very fast, slow, monotonous …
- Explicit rules are essential to guide the activities of the group, It should be clarified what is the objective of the group work.
- Conversations should be clear, Transparent, without double meaning, without irony or any kind of confusion in the meaning of the sentence. Ideas must be conveyed without leaving anything “between the lines” so that they can understand us. The purpose for which you want to communicate should be very clear.
- Explanations or instructions must be simple, short, Concrete, and transmitted little by little. We should try to get attention before we start the conversation, making sure the child is near and mentions their name, thus decreasing the chances that they will be distracted and not understand the explanations. Care must be taken to systematize the instructions so that the steps or points to be transmitted are clearly defined. We can help each other with visual clues, drawings or signs.
- Teach them to spot when they are angry or frustrated define prohibited behaviors and strategies to control them. Have an “emergency protocol” with the steps to follow in the event of explosive and disruptive situations.
- If we need to report them for inappropriate behavior, let’s do so in a neutral manner. and always explaining to them the right path and the consequences. We check if he understood the explanation. We don’t insist on making eye contact.
2. Help a child with Asperger’s at school
At school level, children with Asperger’s syndrome can present several specific difficulties and limitations. This is why teachers need to know about this disorder so that they can adapt certain criteria to help children with Asperger’s, always in the hands of educational psychologists and other professionals.
The mission is that these children integrate in the best possible way in the dynamics of the classroom., And that they can follow the courses with the minimum of obstacles possible, by developing some of their virtues and intellectual potentialities. Here are some tips for doing this.
- We try to integrate into your academic course the interests that the person has expressed and we use his fixation for this subject in different fields and subjects (for example, in Spanish we can let him write about spaceships, in math he takes measurements of the spaceship, etc.). When he finishes his daily work, he can devote himself to his personal project.
- Let’s put it somewhere free from distractions, That you can feel that you are working individually. Let him guide him in terms of the materials he needs for each lesson, preferably by making a list and placing it in a fixed and accessible place. Preferably, it should be a fixed location.
- We set short-term goals, Clearly defining the quality of work we expect from the child. We also inform him of the time he needs to devote to each activity, helping him with a watch designed especially for him. We can use the incentives as a reward.
- Remember to always use attractive visual material (Pictograms, maps, diagrams, computer use, timetables, lists …). When the child starts working, we put a signal (for example, a green circle on the desk and a red circle when he has to finish).
- When making material, we introduce keywords, Specific symbols or clues that will help the child to remember information. When we evaluate their work, we do not use open-ended questions. Whenever possible, we ask closed-ended questions that allow the child to remember specific information and provide the previously mentioned keywords or symbols. Using oral assessments can make it easier. We also give you extra time to complete your homework or exams.
- Work equipment needs to be expanded, And it is necessary to clearly indicate where to place the answers or the working area.
- We make sure you have the necessary and organized work materials. Sometimes it is practical to define materials with colors that represent a certain material.
- We offer child support with Asperger’s with a partner who encourages them to finish the job, But trying to help him do it on his own. It is important to showcase your skills and accomplishments.
- We pay attention to emotional indicators, Try to avoid possible alterations in their mood. We avoid criticism and punishment as much as possible and replace them with positive reinforcement, flattery and rewards.
- Daurat Moreno, M. (2005). Another way to look at it: the memories of a young man with Asperger’s syndrome.
- Peeters, T. (2008). Autism: from theoretical understanding to educational intervention.