ASPERGER’S SYNDROME What is Asperger’s Syndrome? • There is a debate as to whether Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of autism or whether it is a separate condition. However, there is no doubt that a number of the traits of autism are common to Asperger’s Syndrome including: Triad of Autistic Impairment Impairment of social interaction Impairment of language and communication Impairment of flexibility of thought Where Asperger’s Syndrome Differs from Autism Autism Severe problems with language Significant learning difficulties Asperger’s Syndrome No significant language delay or problems with structure Learning difficulties less severe In fact….. People with Asperger’s Syndrome usually have average or above average intelligence…. A diagnostic label of Asperger’s Syndrome alerts us to the fact that a person has a different way of thinking and interacting with their environment Is there a cure? No, it is a lifelong disorder, a development disability affecting the brain and there is, therefore no cure. Much however can be achieved with the appropriate education and support. Difficulties with Communication may include: • • • • • poor quality eye-contact pedantic speech odd intonation inappropriate communication to social context literalism – little understanding of jokes etc. Asperger’s Syndrome, like autism, affects the understanding of common phrases and idioms ‘Shake a leg’ ‘Has the cat got your tongue?’ ‘You can say that again!’ ‘You’re pulling my leg’ ‘You must be joking’ ‘Toast the bride’ Other possible features of communication impairment • • • • attention problems poor auditory skills difficulty in interpreting instructions hiatus between hearing and processing information How can we help in class? • understand that apparent lack of attention/understanding is probably not deliberate • provide visual cues • be ready to repeat or explain instructions • simplify language and reduce sentence size Difficulties with Social Interaction • a lack of attention to people • not responding when addressed in a group • needing personal space, nut not understanding that others need personal space • problems with understanding emotions • reluctance to engage interactively with other people Other Possible Features of Social Impairment • Prefers to find a secluded place rather than be with others • Can make personal comments without understanding why this may cause offence • Expects other people to know their thoughts and feelings • Sometimes indifferent to peer pressure • May not understand peer pressure but will submit to try and ‘fit in’ – can be suggestible and inadvertently ‘get into trouble’ at the instigation of someone else • Expressions of emotion often inappropriately extreme Lack of Flexibility of Thought • theory of mind – finds difficulty in empathising • difficulty with generalisation • rigidity – difficulties with change/having to get to the end • lack of central coherence – is likely to see the individual tree rather than the wood • may refuse to undertake a task if its purpose is not understood • underlying fears and coping mechanisms Difficulties With The Abstract • Whilst they often excel at learning facts and figures, people with Asperger’s Syndrome find it hard to think in abstract ways. • This can cause problems with certain subjects as literature or religious studies. Dependence on Routine • Another coping mechanism to make life more predictable • ‘Simon had learned to manage well in his secondary school, but had great problems if there had to be any alterations or adjustments to the timetable. These times he became distressed, could not concentrate and disrupted the rest of the class.’ How Can We Help in Class? • ensure that a timetable is available and visible • it may help the student to carry a copy of the timetable – possibly on a key-ring or laminated sheet • give advance notice of changes in routine if at all possible • if distress occurs as a result of unexpected change, acknowledge the reason for the distress and explain why it occurred . Social stories may help. • At a conference which was attended by adults with Autism, an adult stood up and contributed the following: “You people who do not have autism are like cars. You are free to drive wherever you want to go, and take whichever route you want. We who have autism are like trains. We can go forward, but we cannot leave our tracks; we can only go in one direction. However, you people who do not have autism want us to be like you. You come and try to pull us of our tracks so that we can be free like you – and in doing so you pull up our sleepers and destroy our lines so that we cannot go forward at all.” What Does The Future Hold? Not an easy way ahead: • • ASD students are often very unpopular with staff because of difficulties they present. Their behaviour is usually construed deliberately challenging. Most spend a great deal of their school lives being ‘told off’, being sent out the room, being sent to the head, being suspended and/or excluded. Selfesteem is at rock bottom as they do not have the inward controls to improve their situation Because their disability is less obvious than that of someone with autism, a person with Asperger’s Syndrome is, in a sense, more vulnerable. They can, sadly, be an easy target for teasing or bullying at school. • We want all pupils to feel comfortable in an inclusive environment where ……………….. ………..differences are valued. The future does not have to be bleak. Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome can offer a great deal – punctuality, reliability and dedication – though informed and understanding teachers are essential to their success.
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