Understanding Students with Asperger’s Syndrome

Understand that:
Asperger’s Syndrome and other related social disabilities are neurologically based. People with AS are not willfully inappropriate or obnoxious. They have trouble figuring out what the social rules of communication and behavior are. They do not easily use or understand the body language and expressions that many of us take for granted. Dr. Tony Attwood likened this to driving a car without being able to see the colors of the traffic lights.

Those with social disabilities often have a history of failure and rejection with other people, have been repeatedly traumatized by other’s reactions to them (bullying, rejecting, teasing, ostracizing, mocking, anger, etc.) and if they think it’s coming again, they may become anxious, angry, defensive, and so agitated that they lose control.

Students with Asperger’s Syndrome need:

  • To feel welcomed and appreciated.
  • To experience successful social interaction.
  • Direct, not subtle, verbal communication (they find it difficult to read body language).

When relating to students with Asperger’s Syndrome:

  • Befriend and welcome them – make them feel as though they belong.
  • Give them opportunities to talk about their interests – they often excel in these areas and feel more confident when others know about their strengths.
  • Speak in a calm, even, friendly, respectful tone, even when delivering a difficult message.
  • Be direct.
      “Please lower your voice so other people can hear the movie.”
      (instead of “The movie is starting…..”)

      “I have to stop talking now so I can do my job.”
      (instead of “gee, it’s getting late.”)

      “I’d like some time alone with Tom so we are going to sit at another table.”
      (instead of “Tom and I haven’t seen each other in a long time.”)

  • Do not ever touch them without their permission. They may have sensory differences that make light touch feel like aggression.
  • If they seem agitated or upset, give them gentle feedback and wait for them to calm down before attempting to resolve any conflict.
  • Whenever possible, offer genuine praise and appreciation. Positive feedback helps to counter all of the negative messages they face on a daily basis.

(source:  L. Baker, Keene State College, 2004)