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Aspergers Syndrome Support   

A common trait for children and adults with Aspergers Syndrome is that they tend to get caught up and lost in the details of tasks or situations and the environments around them. This affects all cognitive ability such as reading ability - words are reduced to letters or sounds in isolation - and maths ability - equations become single numbers or number patterns. They don't see the "larger" or whole picture, so often they're not even aware of other people within a scenario; consequently the other persons emotions and feelings don't register with the Aspergers Syndrome child.

Neurotypicals process information from both internal and external sources, but because of the Aspergers Syndrome child's focus on detail they see things very differently and process information from that singularly alternate point of view. This means that not only is emotional information coming from someone else invisible, but also should it happen to be noticed at all it is usually incorrectly interpreted. Therefore social situations are usually solved by intellect and not intuition.

Children with Aspergers Syndrome have a distinctive, albeit uneven, profile of cognitive abilities - they understand the logical and physical world and easily grasp facts arranged systematically. IQ is formally measured across four areas:- verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed. Children with Asperger's Syndrome usually have a higher verbal IQ than performance IQ, however this discrepancy usually diminishes with age.

Asperger's Syndrome children have a tendency toward fragmented perception and are known to have an atypical visual perspective. This means they are often good at copying abstract patterns or reproducing Lego models accurately after briefly looking at a picture. They are usually also good at finding embedded figures in complex geometric patterns. Unfortunately this can mean that children with Asperger's can have poor categorisation abilities, because instead of recognising similarities they see differences. They can also have great difficulty distinguishing foreground from background.

A practical solution that works in helping increase Asperger children's cognitive acuity is using visual prompts such as flash cards and times tables where the background is black and the text is white. This strategy can also be utilised for art lessons, where students can use white chalk on black paper - you'll be amazed at the increased artistic ability of children with AS using this medium.

For reading support, try "framing" where a piece of cardboard with a small hole cut out is used to "frame" each word as the child reads, or try covering all text on the page except the sentence being read. Also, try turning the page upside down - you'll be impressed with the readers' improvement! AS children will naturally love 'compound' words - two words joined together to make a new word, such as blackboard. When working on spelling point out any words within words as a memory aid e.g. 'together' is to + get + her.

Children with Aspergers Syndrome have a unique perspective that needs to be accommodated and understood in all aspects of school life.

©Nelle Frances
Nelle Frances is the mother of a 16 year old with Asperger's Syndrome, a Special Needs Educator and Author of the Ben and His Helmet series of books for Asperger children. Her site offers resources, strategies, and articles on Aspergers Syndrome for parents and teachers.

Helpful Links for support and information

The Autism Society of America (they have all their local chapters listed)

O.A.S.I.S. (online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support)

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