What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's syndrome (AS) is a disorder that falls within the Autism Spectrum, which characterizes with difficulties in communication, social relationships, and imaginative thought & flexible thinking. The severity of communication and behavioral deficits, and the degree of disability, varies in those with AS. AS is considered by many to be the mildest within the Autism Spectrum and is synonymous with the most highly functioning individuals. Students with AS may have difficulties with group settings, interpersonal interactions, and motivation with course work.
What Asperger's is NOT?
Many ordinary people have little eccentricities, certain obsessions, or a tendency to be shy in large social gatherings. AS is not normal eccentricity, people with AS usually do not want to be different, but do not know how to fit-in with those around them. For people with AS, patterns of difficulties start early in life causing them to have persistent social and communication problems from early childhood onwards.
How Common is Asperger's?
Despite AS now only being recognized within the last few years, estimates suggest that as many as 3 to 7 out of 1,000 people have AS. With that being said, it is more than likely that there are many people not clinically diagnosed with AS.
Tips for Professionals Who Work with Students with Asperger's:
- During group work, the student may need to be monitored by professor in order to avoid being off task or taking over group activity.
- Avoid having students self-select into groups.
- Instead try to place the student with others who you believe will be understanding and tolerant.
- Whenever possible, it may be helpful to offer an alternative approach where the student can select to work on an individual basis.
- Be clear about times and reasons for office visits
- It would be helpful to set up regular appointments if needed.
- Be detailed when introducing information or when clarifying to the individual.
- Be willing to re-explain information as concrete as possible
- It is helpful if you explain justification/reason when the student gets "stuck" on a topic.
- May need to set limits on participation in classroom lectures due to affinity of the subject matter.
- Example: Only allowing student to answer 3 questions per class period
- Find ways to relate assignments, task, or coursework to interests of the individual.
- They may find it hard to be motivated by the future (e.g. 'if I write the essays required I will get my certificate next year'), and they may need additional supervision and motivation that makes goals more concrete (e.g. 'if you want to become an engineer, you need to complete all parts of the course - including the essays').
- Loud noises, such as a fire alarm, can increase confusion or anxiety. It may be helpful to review evacuation procedures ahead of time (this may also be helpful to all students).
Helping Students with Asperger's Syndrom Navigate the College Experience - NACADA
Asperger Syndrome Fact Sheet - NIH
Guidelines for Teaching Students with Asperger Syndrome in Further Education Colleges - The National Autistic Society