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Life Journey Through Autism: An Educator's Guide to Asperger Syndrome

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As a teacher, you are responsible for helping to shape the lives of young people and preparing them to be successful adults. Your students may come from different family backgrounds and leave your classroom for different futures, but they spend a significant portion of their young lives with you right now. Next to their parents and immediate family, you have the greatest opportunity and the power to positively influence their lives. To do this successfully, you need to understand and be able to meet their needs. You already know that, in addition to intelligence, passion, and enthusiasm, teaching requires patience, sensitivity, and creativity. Having a child with Asperger Syndrome in your classroom will present unique challenges for you as a teacher, but it also gives you the opportunity to learn new ways to teach young people the academic and social skills that will last them a lifetime.
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Life Journey Through Autism:
An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome






by






8737 Colesville Road, Suite 1100
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 565-2142
www.danya.com

and






Organization for Autism Research
2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 351-5031
www.researchautism.org

Principal Authors
Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D.
Kristen Hagen, M.S. , University of Kansas
Jeanne Holverstott, M.S. , University of Kansas
Anastasia Hubbard, M.S., University of Kansas
Diane Adreon, M.A., University of Miami, Center for Autism and Related Disabilities
Melissa Trautman, M.S., Blue Valley Public Schools, Overland Park, Kansas



















Production and distribution of the

Educator’s Guide to Asperger

Syndrome was made possible through

the generous support of the American

Legion Child Welfare Foundation.








This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information concerning the
subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the Organization for Autism
Research, Inc., is not engaged in the rendering of legal, medical, or other professional services.
If legal, medical, or other expert advice or assistance is required, the services of a competent
professional should be sought.

Copyright © 2005 Organization for Autism Research, Inc. All rights reserved.

No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval
system without the prior written consent of the Organization for Autism Research, Inc., unless
such copying is expressly permitted by Federal copyright law. Address all inquiries to the
Organization for Autism Research, Inc., 2000 North 14 Street, Suite 480, Arlington, VA 22201.

www.researchautism.org

ii

ORGANIZATION FOR AUTISM RESEARCH
Research and resources that help families today!











August 1, 2005
Dear Educators,


The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) was founded in 2001 with the intent to raise money,
fund research, and change lives. OAR funds research that holds practical value for today’s families,
answering questions they face daily. As part of this mission, we strive to put information into the hands of
those who need it most – parents, teachers, and other professionals. The first two publications in our Life
Journey through Autism
series address issues relating to autism research and education for elementary-
aged children with autism. This guide, An Educator’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome, addresses the
specific needs of students with Asperger Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


Education is an important issue to every parent, and it becomes even more critical when the child
has an ASD. As we developed the first Educator’s Guide to Autism, it became clear that the issues
children with classic autism face in school differ significantly from those experienced by children with
Asperger Syndrome. So we decided to separate the two disorders and focus an entire book on each.
The Educator’s Guide to Autism has been distributed to more than 4,000 teachers and families, and we
have received positive feedback on its utility in the classroom. It is my hope that this guide will be
similarly informative and useful.


Asperger Syndrome presents myriad challenges in the classroom setting. It affects the way a
child thinks, feels, and behaves. Children with this disorder display significant impairments in cognitive
and social skills, which can negatively impact their relationships with peers. This guide is designed to
give teachers and other professionals an introduction to Asperger Syndrome, some of its characteristics,
and several teaching strategies that can be employed in the classroom. It is meant to serve as a starting
point for further learning; it is not meant to have all the answers. Each child with Asperger Syndrome is
different; this book will help you recognize the specific challenges faced by the child(ren) with Asperger
Syndrome in your class, and how to prepare your classroom appropriately.


We are extremely fortunate to work with Dr. Brenda Myles, one of the Nation’s top experts on
Asperger Syndrome and would like to thank her team of graduate students at the University of Kansas,
her professional colleagues, and her for volunteering their time to write this guide. In addition to Dr.
Myles and her team, we have again collaborated with Danya International for the design and layout of the
guide, and thank them for their many contributions. Special thanks go to the OAR staff and Serge
Visaggio, a parent volunteer whose insight and experience proved invaluable during the editing and
revision of the guide. I would also like to thank the parents, teachers, and others who reviewed the initial
drafts of this book and provided feedback to make it better. Your comments helped us round out the
content, making it more personal, practical, and targeted. Thank you for your efforts.


As the father of four children, two of whom have autism, I know firsthand the impact that a
teacher can have on the lives of his or her students. It is my hope that this guide helps you make a
difference in the life of a child with Asperger Syndrome.


Sincerely,




James M. Sack
President

iii


iv

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS



Special thanks to Brenda Myles, Ph.D. and her team of graduate students at the University of
Kansas and colleagues for their lead role in writing this publication. Teams from the Organization for
Autism Research (OAR) and Danya International, Inc. (Danya), joined Dr. Myles in overseeing the
publication of this guidebook. OAR is dedicated to providing practical information to those living with the
challenges of autism – individuals, families, educators, and other professionals. Danya is a health
communications company committed to shaping healthier futures for children, families, and communities
around the globe through the creative use of technology and research.







Kristen D. Holtz, Ph.D.
Amanda K. Ziegert
Cynthia D. Baker, Ph.D.
Emily Glaeser
Yen-Wen Chau
Suzanne Willis
Kathleen Cooke






Staff
Michael V. Maloney, Executive Director
Sarah C. Snow, Project Coordinator



A very special thank you to Serge Visaggio, who served as the volunteer coordinator of parent
input for this project and helped shape the content of this publication.

In addition to the members of the Board of Directors, Scientific Council, and staff, special thanks
go to the following people for their contribution to the content and editing of the Educator’s Guide to
Asperger Syndrome
: Ellen Chambers, Kristine Fagler, Kori Gaddis, Wayne and Peggy Harvey, Doreen
Hathaway, Beth Kimlick, Steve and Betty Moss, Rosy McGuinness, Anne Quigley, Marie Roake, Kirsten
Sneid, Tom and Kathleen Stanek, Tracy Talley, Alisa Varga, Amy Vincent, Kathy Welty, and Polly Zagone.



v

THE ORGANIZATION FOR AUTISM RESEARCH

Board of Directors
James M. Sack, President
James Jacobsohn
Great Falls, VA
Chicago, IL
Madeline Millman, Vice President
Lori Lapin Jones
Englewood, NJ
Great Neck, NY
Dean Koocher, Treasurer
Thomas Schirmer
White Plains, NY
Castle Rock, CO
William Donlon
Edward Schwallie
Hicksville, NY
Manasquan, NJ
Anthony Ferrera
Robert S. Segal
Hillsborough, NJ
Dublin, OH
Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D.
Gregory Smith
Baltimore, MD
Lorton, VA

Scientific Council
Peter F. Gerhardt, EdD, Chairman
Brenda Smith Myles, PhD
Gerhardt Autism/Asperger Consultation Group
Associate Professor, Special Education
University of Kansas
Glen Dunlap, PhD
Mental Health Institute
Michael Powers, PsyD
University of South Florida
Center for Children with Special Needs
Tolland, CT
Michael Fabrizio, MA, BCBA
Fabrizio/Moors Consulting
Shahla Ala’i-Rosales, PhD, BCBA
Seattle, WA
Department of Behavior Analysis
University of North Texas
Joanne Gerenser, PhD
Executive Director, Eden II Programs
Robert Sprague, PhD
Staten Island, NY
Professor Emeritus, Community Health,
Kinesiology
Suzanne Letso, MA, BCBA
University of Illinois
Chief Executive
Connecticut Center for Child Development
Luke Tsai, MD
Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics
Michael Londner, MD, MPH, MBA
University of Michigan
Director of Clinical Operations
Johns Hopkins University
Ann Wagner, PhD
Program Director, Autism and Pervasive
James A. Mulick, PhD
Developmental Disorder Intervention Research
College of Social Behavioral Sciences
Program
Ohio State University
National Institute of Mental Health

Staff
Michael V. Maloney
Caitlin A. McBrair
Executive Director
Development Associate
Allison F. Chance
Sarah C. Snow
Development Associate
Development Associate


vi

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................ 1
BACKGROUND..................................................................................................
5

What is Asperger Syndrome? ......................................................................... 5

What Does Asperger Syndrome Look Like? ................................................... 6

What are the Classroom Challenges?............................................................. 7

How Does Asperger Syndrome Affect a Child?............................................... 8
SIX-STEP PLAN................................................................................................. 13

Step 1: Educate Yourself ................................................................................ 13

Step 2: Reach Out to the Parents ................................................................... 16

Step 3: Prepare the Classroom ......................................................................
17

Step 4: Educate Peers and Promote Social Goals .........................................
17

Step 5: Collaborate on the Implementation of an Education Program............. 18

Step 6: Manage Behavioral Challenges .........................................................
20

Pulling It All Together ...................................................................................... 21
APPENDICES ..................................................................................................... 23
A:
Addressing
Sensory Needs.......................................................................
25
B:
Academic
and
Environmental Supports .................................................... 29

C: Tips for Talking with Parents ..................................................................... 45
D:
Social
Supports ......................................................................................... 51

E: IEP and Transition Planning...................................................................... 61
RESOURCES...................................................................................................... 77
Resources
by
Topic Area................................................................................ 79
General
Resources ......................................................................................... 81
REFERENCES.................................................................................................... 85

vii


viii

INTRODUCTION

As a teacher, you are responsible for helping to shape the lives of young people
and preparing them to be successful adults. Your students may come from different family
backgrounds and leave your classroom for different futures, but they spend a significant
portion of their young lives with you right now. Next to their parents and immediate family,
you have the greatest opportunity and the power to positively influence their lives. To do
this successfully, you need to understand and be able to meet their needs. You already
know that, in addition to intelligence, passion, and enthusiasm, teaching requires patience,
sensitivity, and creativity. Having a child with Asperger Syndrome in your classroom will
present unique challenges for you as a teacher, but it also gives you the opportunity to
learn new ways to teach young people the academic and social skills that will last them a
lifetime.

Asperger Syndrome was first identified in the 1940s by Viennese physician Hans
Asperger. He noticed that four boys with normal
intelligence and language development were
Asperger Syndrome is one of five
exhibiting behaviors similar to those of children
developmental disorders on the autism
with autism, such as social impairments,
spectrum. The main differences
communication difficulties, and insistence on
between Asperger Syndrome and
sameness. In 1944 he published a paper
autism exist in the language and
describing his observations, and people initially
cognitive arenas. Children with
thought the disorder was a type of high-
Asperger Syndrome do not have
functioning autism. We now know that Asperger
delayed language development, unlike
children with autism. Also, children
Syndrome is different from autism, even though
with Asperger Syndrome display
the two disorders exist on the same spectrum
average to above-average intelligence.
and share similar characteristics. In 1994 the
Like autism, there is no known cause or
term “Asperger Syndrome” was added to the
cure for Asperger Syndrome.
American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic
Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition
(DSM-IV) under the heading “Pervasive
Developmental Disorders,” and currently exists in the DSM-IV Text Revision (DSM-IV TR)
published in 2000.

The diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome among children is increasing. It is unclear
whether this is due to more children actually having Asperger Syndrome or better
awareness of the disorder among health care professionals. Estimates on the number of
children with Asperger Syndrome are widely debated. For example, the DSM-IV TR
reports that definitive prevalence data do not exist. Other sources have estimated that as
many as 48 per 10,000 children may have Asperger Syndrome.

With the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975
and subsequent legislation, all children with disabilities are entitled to a free and
appropriate public education. Inclusive classrooms, where children with all types of

INTRODUCTION
1

disabilities are included in the general education classroom for part or all of the day, are
now the norm in public schools. Given the increasing numbers of children diagnosed with
Asperger Syndrome, chances are good you will have a child with the disorder in your
school and at some point in your classroom.

Having a child with Asperger Syndrome in your class will have an impact on the
educational and social environment of the classroom. Children with Asperger Syndrome
have academic strengths and weaknesses like all children, but the effects of the disorder
require different teaching strategies to discover and capitalize on their strengths and
facilitate successful learning. Children with Asperger Syndrome also face many obstacles
to successful social interactions and relationship building, which are essential elements of
the school experience for young people. As a teacher, you can help ensure that children
with Asperger Syndrome are fully integrated into the classroom and are able to participate
socially with their peers in the day-to-day activities of school life.

The first challenge for you in teaching a child with Asperger Syndrome is to
recognize it as a serious mutual challenge for the student and you. It can be very
deceptive, almost invisible to the untrained eye at first. Children with Asperger Syndrome
can look and act like their typical peers and often perform as well or better academically,
thus masking the potential effects of Asperger Syndrome.

The purpose of this guide is to help you understand and be able to respond
effectively to the needs of children with Asperger Syndrome in an inclusive classroom
setting. Of course, each child with Asperger Syndrome will be different?like all
children?and you will need to find your own style for supporting each child’s classroom
experience. This guide is meant to orient you to the challenges and skills of students with
Asperger Syndrome and outline strategies that can be easily implemented to meet their
needs. More specifically, the goals of this guide are to:
Educate you and help you prepare for having a student with Asperger
Syndrome in your classroom. The guide begins with background information on
the characteristics of Asperger Syndrome, a description of the range of behaviors a
child with the disorder might display, and a brief overview of helpful educational
approaches.
Describe the use of appropriate academic and environmental strategies to
promote classroom success for a student with Asperger Syndrome. A variety
of approaches are included in the guide to help teachers and other school
personnel meet the academic and environmental needs of a student with Asperger
Syndrome in the classroom.
Promote the development and use of strategies that foster successful peer
relations and social interactions for a student with Asperger Syndrome. The
guide describes several approaches that can be used to address the social
challenges Asperger Syndrome presents. The importance of peer education is also

INTRODUCTION
2

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