Considerations and Instructional Strategies

Autism or Asperger's Syndrome;
Some Considerations

  • Autism is considered a spectrum disorder which means that although people in this group share a common diagnosis, there are many significant differences between each individual.
  • Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome are on the high end of the autistic spectrum and these people generally exhibit less severe symptoms than those with Autism.
  • Students with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are highly intelligent, capable, and proficient in knowledge of facts.
  • Many people on the spectrum often have poor social skills and difficulty understanding social cues. It is important to take this into consideration and to not take behaviors personally.
  • Use a calm, even tone of voice as to avoid exciting or startling the student 
  • It may be useful to lessen direct eye contact with students with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome to avoid making them feel uncomfortable.
  • Students with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome may experience learning differences and difficulties in the following areas: language comprehension, social interaction, organizational skills, distractibility, dealing with change, problem solving, making inferences and judgments.
  • Information processing and sensory issues are more difficult when the student is stressed. Some signs to look for that the student may be feeling anxiety at a particular time include pacing, hand-wringing, cussing, laughing or having a flushed-face.
  • When students with Autism are startled, it can be difficult for them to regain calmness. It is important to approach the students quietly to avoid startling him/her and talk with them outside of class to discuss strategies for calling on him/her during class

Autism or Asperger's Syndrome; Instructional Strategies

  • Always use a calm, even tone of voice as to avoid exciting or startling the student.
  • Use non-verbal communication (gestures) when possible.
  • Use direct, literal instructions. Students with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome may not always understand conversational language, sarcasm, humor, puns or double meanings.
  • It may be useful to lessen direct eye contact with students with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome to avoid making them feel uncomfortable.
  • Provide extra clarification on complex directions or assignments. Provide step by step written instructions when possible.
  • Structure and scheduling are important and useful tools. Students with Autism may find it difficult to engage in the appropriate activities if what is expected of them is not clear. Many people with Autism have difficulty with flexibility and tend to resist change. They may also be quick to develop a routine and have a tough time deviating from it.
  • A student with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome may need more time to answer a question due to delays in information processing.  When possible, after you ask a question, you should allow about six seconds for a response before repeating or restating the question.
  • Because students with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome may have a vague sense of time, alert the student when an activity is nearing the end.
  • Assign groups for group activities instead of letting students pick their own groups. Also, other students working in a group with a student with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome may need some additional support.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students (i.e. avoid pointing out the student or the alternative arrangements to the rest of the class).
  • Common academic accommodations for students with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome include extended time for testing in a distraction reduced environment. ODS may ask you to assist with finding a volunteer note taker from the class.
  • Some things to consider minimizing in the classroom environment include excessive light, sounds, or smells as these can cause stress to the student and even physical pain in some cases.
  • In the classroom the student may appear uninterested and bored.