More students with Asperger Syndrome (AS) are entering college than ever before (VanBergeijk, Klin & Volkmar, 2008). Students with AS are typically high functioning and intelligent, while severe impairments in social functioning limit students' ability to do well in college.
It is vital for faculty to understand typical characteristics of students with AS and what is helpful for their successful functioning in the classroom setting.
Common Characteristics of Students with Asperger Syndrome in a Classroom:
· Intellectually average or gifted
· Poor organization
· Desire for peer interaction and relationships but inability to initiate a relationship
· Poor eye contact
· Monotone voice
· Repeated conversations, which may be irrelevant to course content
· Interruptions at inappropriate times
· Fixation on a particular subject or topic
· Lack of flexibility with routines or procedure
· Lack of connection to social aspects of class such as discussion and/or group work
· Difficulty with abstract thoughts
· Difficulty with abstract thoughts
· May not understand rhetorical questions or abstract ideas
· Unusual sensitivity to touch, sound, visual details and therefore experience sensory overload
· May seem anxious or distracted
· Poor fine motor skills
· Avoid seeking assistance
· May stop attending class because they do not know how to cope with stress and anxiety of the unknown
Strategies to Use for Students with AS
· Provide structure and consistency with assignments, lecture, and class expectations.
· Warn students about impending changes such as with classroom location, group work, or other dynamics that is irregular from a typical class.
· Offer a variety of methods to communicate information.
· Provide students with clear directions.
· Limit rhetorical comments, innuendos or analogies.
· Be clear with class expectations and establish individual "rules" if necessary (consult with DRC)
· Correct papers using simple comments and directives. Use a numbering system and state exactly what you want the student to do.
On-campus Living and Academics
Because social interaction and integration is part of the college experience, many students with AS choose to live on campus. Again, students with AS want to be socially connected enjoy intimate relationships and are active in the community. However, typical students with AS do not recognize social cues and typical interactions. Therefore the transition to college may be extremely difficult for students with AS. Many students with AS may begin their college career performing poorly due to the stress, anxiety of this new transition... By no means does this mean the student is not capable. If you see any of these characteristics in students, contact the DRC for consultation and support. Furthermore, refer the student to the Disability Resource Center Tower 2126 to ensure they obtain the support they need to be successful.
Adreon, D. & Durocher, J. (2007). Evaluating the college transition needs of individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic. 42(5):271 - 279.
Taylor, M.J. (2005). Teaching students with autistic spectrum disorder in higher education. Education and Training. 47(7): 484- 495.
VanBergeijk, E, Kiln, A., Volkmar, F. (2008). Supporting more able students on the autism spectrum: college and beyond. Journal of Autism Development Disorders 38: 1359 - 1370.
Wolf, L., Brown, J. & Bork, R. (2009). Students with Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel. Autism Asperger Publishing Co. Kansas: Shawnee Mission.