Having asked all the questions to professionals of the mind in numerous Emotional Literacy training courses, as an ESL teacher in Adult Education I would now like to share with my colleagues this very wise statement that was made by one of them at one point:
As teachers we can be great «mediators» when it comes to students
with special educational needs [SEN]
As it happens, we were not taught how to deal with diversity and inclusion in the classroom when we were first getting trained at college. We learnt about functional language, phonetics, poetry and literature, history and culture, and so on and so forth. However, once IN the classroom we teachers can find ourselves rather lost when other than «the subject» itself needs to be dealt with. What is interesting is that although we are not specialists we can certainly be mediators. So in this SEN field that is new to us the best thing we can do may be to show an open and respectful attitude to the person we have in front of us and do some basic research to find out how to help these students in their learning processes.
Within the Autism Spectre, an Asperger student comes up as a student with High Capacities and social skills limitations. Their «view of the world» is simply different. They will understand words literally thus not understanding sarcasm or irony, for instance, and will lack the ability to emphatize or to anticipate things happening. Being detail thinkers the difficulty lies in seeing «the big picture». They might feel anxious at someone’s reaction or unexpected behaviour, being totally unpredictable to them. Attention and/or concentration may occasionally be deficient. In the event of an Asperger student coming across as an absent person or sometimes hazy and even challenging, they may as a matter of fact, just be only showing their difficulty to interpret and integrate social codes.
There are educational contexts not being flexible in making allowances for their Asperger syndrome students with sad outcomes such as brilliant students dropping out. For instance, some students with Asperger syndrome whose learning style is more suited to private study (textbooks, journal articles available via electronic libraries on the web) are required to attend lessons and lectures not designed for people with Asperger syndrome because large social noisy groups are involved.
These educational formats typically expect the student to edit what the teacher/lecturer is saying into the short-hand notes, switch topics after 55 minutes, do two things at once (listening and writing), sit in any available place or concentrate even with whispering from other students.
In contrast, many students with Asperger syndrome may prefer to work in silence, go slowly and methodically, not to have to edit for fear of losing important detail, «error-check» to be sure that a fact is a fact, conditions to remain unchanged (same seat, same lighting), lack of distractions, see all of the logical steps or evidence for each statement rather than accepting assertions in the absence of explanations and stay on one topic once started even ignoring basic needs. They may become anxious if other people talk to them unexpectedly and irritated by whispering students behind or other people intruding into their space, or by human errors in handouts and chatty styles of lecturing.
In exam performance the student with Asperger syndrome may require a quiet room away from other students.
Many people with Asperger syndrome dream of a planet where they are the only human being, where there are no interruptions, where events happen with regularity and predictability.
ASSESSMENT: Allow presentations in spoken language format which can be revisited by the teacher. Allow computer based tests when handwriting is illegible or almost impossible to read due to poor motor functions.
ASSIGNMENT: Break down large and complicated assignments into smaller sets of tasks as executive functions may be blocking full performance.
BEHAVIOUR: Be prepared for them probably not being the ones to initiate social interaction with other classmates and showing a quiet and withdrawn attitude.
DIARY: Provide help with noting down important dates for delivering tasks or assessments.
EXPLICITNESS: Give clear and exact messages during tasks, assignment or assessment as instructions are understood literally.
FACIAL EXPRESSION: Do not rely on signals for them to understand instructions. For example, just looking at the door to show that «it is time to leave the room» will not be understood.
LESSON PLAN: Help them clarify work by describing exactly what to do, how to deliver, materials to use, and timing.
SPEECH: Do not raise your voice back. Stay calm. Their tone of voice may be loud as a sign of anxiety shown as well in a stiffened body and sharp movements.
TEAM WORK: Offer help in group work (perhaps one other student willing to cooperate) so they can manage to display their brilliant intellectual skills.
TIMING: Reset deadlines for them as Time management may be a handicap causing delays when delivering tasks.
UNWRITTEN RULES: Be specific with Rules and regulations. They actually feel safer near the teacher where rules are clear than in social contexts with unexpected patterns.
GENDER: Asperger students are normally male.
How to make pictograms tutorial (in Spanish) here:
Baron-Cohen, S. (2008) Autism and Asperger Syndrome
Autism Empowerment Kit by Karen Streeby [Microsoft]
Guía Necesidades específicas de apoyo educativo CREENA NAVARRA, 2013.
AAC Symbols and shared resources Gobierno de Aragón