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Some Useful Educational Interventions for Students with Asperger Syndrome

by Dania Jekel, MSW, AANE Executive Director

Based on what we hear from families, the majority of children with Asperger Syndrome can succeed in school provided they receive sufficient, appropriate support. However, it is important that not only the teachers, aides, and specialists working directly with the child, but also everyone in the school and special education hierarchies is willing to take on the challenge of learning about a whole new kind of student—one for whom familiar educational techniques may not work at all. This requires a certain humility—and a lot of time and hard work.

Once the challenge is accepted, the whole team must work closely together to create an environment where the student can succeed. The team must also be proactive rather than reactive. That is, everyone must work together in advance to develop an educational plan that wil prevent crises from occurring—and then dependably carry out the plan in all its details. They must also be willing to learn from direct experience what does and does not work with this particular student, and refine the original plan accordingly. They must find ways to capitalize the student's strengths and to offset his/her weaker areas.

Below is a list of some interventions that have proven effective. You may want to think about getting some of these measures written into your child's Individualized Education Plan.

Basic Requirements:

  1. Training about AS, including appropriate educational supports, interventions, and modifications, for all educators involved with the student
  2. Effective and regular communication between school and home, and among all educators working with the student
  3. Parents must be regarded and treated as an integral part of the educational team

Continuum of options for placement:

  1. Inclusion in regular classroom with appropriate supports and modifications
  2. Integrated classroom setting where there are 5 or 6 children with special needs within a regular classroom setting
  3. Smaller, separate classroom for bright children with social or non-verbal learning needs (Inappropriate placements include classrooms for students with behavior problems or cognitive disabilities.)
  4. Placement into another school in the home community, a multi-district collaborative, or another community
  5. Out of district placement into a private 766 day school
  6. Out of district placement private 766 residential school

Note: Some families have found homeschooling a viable option.

Who may deliver the needed support, modifications, and interventions within a school setting:

  1. Regular classroom teacher with additional training in AS, or special educator
  2. Dedicated aide, teaching assistant, or paraprofessional (i.e. devoted just to this student); training desirable
  3. Classroom aide for two or more children
  4. Occupational Therapy to address sensory issues
  5. Tutor or educational specialist to address special academic needs related to subject content or learning skills
  6. Speech therapist for pragmatic speech, social skills, and communication intervention
  7. Inclusion facilitator or adjustment counselor for social and emotional issues

School Interventions that can be put in an IEP
(Individualized Education Plan)

To help with Social Skills

  1. Social skills groups (e.g. 3 x week for 20 minutes)
  2. Social stories (Carol Grey)
  3. Comic strip conversations
  4. Scripts
  5. Lunch buddies or other friendship group
  6. One on one speech therapy (pragmatic social language)
  7. Drama class/activities
  8. Structured social opportunities during recess
  9. Structured activity during lunch (e.g. help in library or office)
  10. Social “autopsies”
  11. School-wide or system-wide training in prevention of bullying and teasing
  12. Disclosure: teaching classmates about AS (elementary school)
  13. On-going teaching of unwritten school rules
  14. Buddy of the week (peer mentors)
  15. Social communication coaching during classroom time

To help with Academics

  1. Modification of length or focus of some assignments
  2. Tutoring
  3. Help taking notes (aide/peer recorder, computer, teacher-provided, etc.)
  4. Priming (previewing work)
  5. Structured and regular communication between parents and teachers about assignments, expectations, skills, progress, and problems
  6. Projects and papers related to student’s area of intense interest
  7. Assistance in gym
  8. Present subject matter using visual aids
  9. Present work and homework broken down into small steps

To help with lowering anxiety:

  1. Transition preparation
  2. Home base for beginning and end of school day
  3. Proactive intervention if child shows signs of stress
  4. Sensory breaks
  5. Flexible teachers who can tolerate different ways of doing things
  6. Classroom with routine
  7. Advance warning of changes in schedule
  8. Priming (preview of lesson content)
  9. Preparation for new things, places, students or teachers
  10. Training teacher in AS
  11. Assistance or alternative activity during less structured school time such as recess, lunch, gym, music, or art
  12. Modification, assistance, or preparation for projects done in groups
  13. Environmental manipulation of classroom to prevent sudden loud sounds, movement, distraction, lights
  14. Preferential seating away from distractions

To help with executive functions (organizational issues):

  1. Classroom aide can help student attend to the essential task, prioritize tasks, break assignments down into steps, understand teacher expectations, record homework, remember essential papers, etc.
  2. Graphic organizers can help students grasp concepts
  3. Provide two sets of text books, one in classrooms and one at home
  4. Communicate homework to parents
  5. Post assignments on a web page
  6. Homework buddy
  7. Provide a map of the school
  8. Post the student’s schedule in a few places (e.g. notebook, desk, fridge)

To better understand some of these recommendations, you might wish to consult the following books:

  • Bolick, Teresa - Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Helping Preteens and Teens Get Ready for the Real World · 2001, Fair Winds Press
  • Goldstein, Arnold P. and McGinnis, Ellen - Skillstreaming the Elementary School Child: New strategies and Perspectives for Teaching Prosocial Skills and others in series · Research Press, Champaign, IL
  • Gray, Carol - The New Social Stories: Illustrated Edition
    2nd ill edition (September 2000), Future Horizons; ISBN: 188547766X
    (One reviewer preferred the earlier edition)
  • Myles, Brenda Smith and Simpson, Richard L. - Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for Educators and Parents · 1998 (Pro-Ed)
  • Sainsbury, Clare - Martian in the Playground: Understanding the Schoolchild with Asperger Syndrome · 2000, The Book Factory, London
  • Tanguay, Pamela B. and Thompson, Sue - Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at School: Educating Students with NLD, Asperger Syndrome and Related Conditions · Jessica Kingsley Publishers; ISBN: 1853029416, 2002
  • Twachtman-Cullen, Diane and DeLorenzo, David - How to Be a Para Pro: A Comprehensive Training Manual for Paraprofessionals · March 2000, Starfish Specialty Press

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